Special Report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts
by Saud Abu Ramadan
GAZA, March 7 (Xinhua) -- Since the end of the "Cast Lead" operation, a 22-day Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip, violence between Israel and minor Gaza militant groups, mainly radical Islamic Jihad (Holy War), has escalated.
With the increase of violence, in which dozens of rockets have been fired from Gaza at southern Israeli, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had threatened to carry out another quick large-scale operation against Gaza rockets fire.
Gaza observers and ordinary residents expressed deep concerns and fear. They began to ask the question "Under such crucial circumstances, will Israel this time carry out another large-scale operation against the Gaza Strip and what will be the goals of this war?"
Ahmed Odwan, a political observer based in Gaza, said he does not believe that Israel would take the risk again, unless "Hamas movement, which hasn't fired rockets at Israel since Jan. 18, gets involved and more intensive rockets attacks are carried out against Israel."
The recent offensive with the claimed aim of stopping Gaza rocket fire against southern Israel killed over 1,300 Palestinians and 11 Israelis. Israeli warplanes, naval vessels and tanks destroyed thousands of houses, governmental and security buildings as well as infrastructure in the Hamas-controlled Gaza.
"Most of those killed were not militants. They were civilians. Israel's image was badly damaged before the international community after it waged the war against Gaza, and I don't think Israel would do it again," said Odwan.
Hamas spokesman in Gaza Fawzi Barhoum has described the Israeli offensive in Gaza as "a great failure," adding that his movement warned Israel of carrying out another war against the Palestinians saying "this time Israeli would be faced by tougher resistance."
The offensive was put to an end on Jan. 18 as both Israel and Hamas declared unilateral ceasefires. Hamas' move to declare a ceasefire was aimed to pave the way for the Egyptian efforts to reach a long-term truce with Israel.
However, Israel warned if rocket attacks continued, it would hit back toughly.
The Israeli security cabinet, headed by Olmert, has officially decided that there will be no truce with Hamas, until the radical movement frees Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in the summer of 2006 by Hamas-led Palestinian groups.
Since the end of the Israeli military onslaught, a minor group called the Brigades of Hezbollah in Palestine continued firing rockets at Israel. The group has been affiliated to pro-Iran Islamic Jihad, but it decided to act independently in the wake of the offensive.
After the large-scale offensive, the Israeli army carried out a series of airstrikes targeting militants. Israel has not only targeted the members of this small group, but also senior Islamic Jihad militants and killed four of them.
Saraya al-Quds, Islamic Jihad's armed wing, fired around 20 rockets in revenge for the killing of five of its militants.
A senior Israeli army official also revealed that Israel would carry out a quick military operation against rockets firing from Gaza.
The Israeli threat came as there are only 10 days left for right-wing Likud chairman, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government.
"The aim of carrying out another war if it happens soon will be like throwing a ball of fire by the current government of Olmert at the new government of Netanyahu," said Khader Abu Ghalioun, a Palestinian academic from Gaza.
He expected that the Israeli army would carry out a military operation in Gaza a day or two before Netanyahu takes office and hand over a boiling situation to the government of Netanyahu.
"There is another reason for carrying out another war on Gaza. That is to thwart any success of the internal Palestinian reconciliation talks that will resume in Cairo on March 10," said Abu Ghalioun.
He said "the best thing is to wait and see what will happen during the coming crucial three weeks," adding "all depends on what the Israeli cabinet decides in its meeting on Sunday."