Palestinian terror groups led by Hamas launched a barrage of rockets at Israeli civilians Saturday and Sunday, part of an escalation that began when Palestinians fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep traveling along Israel's border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
The subsequent Hamas-led rocket barrage against Israeli civilians, which is ongoing, has forced more than one million Israeli civilians into bomb shelters. Schools for tens of thousands of children were closed, and residents close to Gaza have been ordered to remain within 15 seconds of shelters – the maximum amount of time they have to run for cover when radar detects incoming rockets and triggers air-raid sirens.
The initial anti-tank missile attack injured four Israeli soldiers, including two seriously, and triggered Israeli tank fire in response against the source of the missile and against pre-set military targets inside the Gaza Strip. Four Palestinians were killed and another 25 wounded, and Hamas has reportedly ordered its forces away from Hamas facilities in anticipation of further direct Israeli responses.
Hamas propaganda outlets, including Hamas's TV stations, tried to downplay the role of the anti-tank missile attack in triggering this weekend's violence and attempted to push for media coverage focusing on Israel's response. The move is raising speculation that the Iran-backed terror group understands that the use of an anti-tank missile against a jeep will be treated as a destabilizing escalation.
U.S.-based military analysts took to social media to emphasize that the missile's availability raises disturbing questions about Iranian sponsorship of Palestinian terrorism, while Israeli officials highlighted the increasing Palestinian use of advanced weaponry against Israeli civilians and soldiers.
An analysis by The Israel Project at the beginning of October, available online here, outlined multiple parallels between Hamas's strategy in 2008 and its strategy in recent months, raising concerns that the group is trying to drag Jerusalem into a diplomatically costly ground war in the Gaza Strip. Hamas's endorsement and leadership of escalatory violence by other Palestinian groups was specifically cited as one of four specific dynamics.
The anti-tank missile attack was claimed by Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which boasted they fired two Kornet missiles at the Israeli military jeep, according to Israeli and Arabic sources and a post on Hamas's webpage. The Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella name for several Palestinian terror groups including Hamas, claimed responsibility for four of the subsequent rockets fired at Israeli civilians. The rocket escalation comes in the aftermath of another attack on Israeli troops on Friday, in which Palestinians detonated a tunnel which had been dug into Israel, creating an explosion that blew a tank sideways with its force.
TIP has made available an updated fact sheet chronicling Hamas's rocket war against Israel. It is available online: 20121110_GAZA_FACTSHEET