by Adam Gonn
JERUSALEM, March 13 (Xinhua) -- More than sixty rockets and mortars have been fired from the Gaza Strip to southern Israel since Wednesday night, which was seen as the first major escalation since Israel launched Operation Pillars of Defense in November 2012. Analysts here say the attack is more about showing the Islamic Jihad's military capabilities than seeking confrontation with Israel.
The rockets attack came after Israel intercepted an Iranian ship last week that carried advanced missiles heading for the Gaza Strip.
The Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for the rocket barrage, has strong ties to Iran. Analysts say the attack can be seen as a way for the group to show both Israel and Hamas that its military capabilities have not been diminished.
Despite the heavy exchange of fire, only limited material damage has been reported. According to Itamar Ya'ar, former Israeli security official, Israel has several reasons for doing so.
"Israel doesn't want to give any excuse for any difficulties leading up to the meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas," Ya'ar said.
"Meantime, the Islamic Jihad and Hamas doesn't want this to develop to a big Israeli operation against themselves because they understand what will be the results of a huge Israeli operation," he added.
In addition Ya'ar noted that neither group is totally convinced that the threats from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman about re-occupying parts of or the entire Gaza Strip is not just a political propaganda, but there might be an operational plan.
It should also be noticed that since Israel first deployed the Iron Dome missile defense system two years ago, it has been able to intercept more rockets, therefore reducing both casualties and the pressure on the government to retaliate in such a way that would risk escalating the conflict beyond its current limited scope.
For Hamas, who is in control of Gaza, analyst say the attack is a hot potato to deal with.
"Hamas are usually against it (the rockets attack), because they want to stabilize the state that they have. But they can't be the border police and show to be a collaborator with the Zionists, " said Dr. Mordechai Kedar of the Bar-Ilan University, using the term Zionists to refer to what Hamas calls the Israelis.
Kedar added that "on one hand Hamas is trying to lower the flame, but on the other hand, they might take part in the fight because they can't stand by the side and do nothing when the Israelis are killing Palestinians."
Analysts believe that the current round of attacks and retaliations would not continue for an extended time period. The basis of the Palestinian-Israeli agreement was that the Islamic Jihad would halt its fire if Israel would do the same.