Hamas, the rulers of the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian terrorist group ‎Islamic Jihad both were quick to deny launching rockets from Gaza ‎Wednesday, after a Grad rocket fired on Israel scored a direct hit on a Beersheba home and another landed ‎in the sea, off the coast ‎‎‎‎of a major central ‎Israeli city

Six people, including a woman and her three ‎‎‎children, managed to survive the Beersheba rocket attack with only minor ‎‎injuries. In response, ‎Israeli fighter jets struck 20 Hamas positions in ‎‎ ‎‎Gaza, and the flare-up sparked concerns that a rapid ‎escalation may be inevitable. ‎

‎”There is only one element that wants to see a war in ‎the Gaza Strip right now, and that is Iran,” former National Security Adviser Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror noted. “So we have to ask ‎ourselves which of their proxies in Gaza have long-range rockets, then counter them.”

It would be a “very big mistake,” he warned, if Israel were to “fall into the Iranian trap and launch a military operation in Gaza. That would play directly into the Iranians’ hands.”‎

Yoni Ben-Menachem, a research fellow at the ‎Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, disagrees. ‎Ben-Menachem argues that Wednesday’s rocket fire was Hamas’ ‎handiwork, as Gaza’s rulers sought to set facts on ‎the ground vis-à-vis Israel and Egypt. ‎

‎”No other group in Gaza would dare fire two long-range rockets at Israel like this. The attack didn’t target the ‎Gaza-vicinity communities – this was aimed at ‎Beersheba and central Israel,” he said.‎

Had both projectiles resulted in Israeli fatalities, ‎it would surely lead to war, he explained, adding ‎that “no rogue group in Gaza would do something like ‎that without getting the green light from Hamas. ‎This is why, as the sovereign entity in Gaza, Hamas ‎is responsible.”‎

‎”Hamas continues to claim that a rogue group was ‎behind the attack only so it can deflect the claims ‎brought against it, but it’s a lie. Unfortunately, ‎the Israeli defense establishment seems to be ‎willing to believe this lie,” Ben-Menachem said. ‎

As for the timing of the attack, Ben-Menachem pegs ‎it on the arrival of Egyptian intelligence officials ‎in Gaza as part of Cairo’s attempts to broker a ‎long-term cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas.‎

‎”Be very careful in romanticizing the relations between Hamas ‎and Egypt, because Hamas is ‎very displeased with the way Egyptian intelligence ‎is handling the truce talks,” he said.‎

‎”Hamas is actually sending mixed signals: its message to Egypt is that it is dissatisfied with the way ‎the negotiations are being handled, while at the same time, it ‎signals to Israel that any forceful strike in Gaza ‎would risk massive retaliation targeting the Israeli ‎homefront,” he explained.

‎”Hamas maintains an iron grip on Gaza. It controls everything, down ‎to the last firebomb balloon, so even if they say, ‎‎’We didn’t do it’ – they did,” he said. “I can only assume that ‎Israeli intelligence misjudged the situation and was ‎unprepared for long-range rocket fire on Israel. That’s a ‎failure on their part. We can’t trust Hamas, so we ‎have to be prepared for any scenario.”‎

Bar-‎Ilan University Middle Eastern Studies Department’s Dr. Yehuda Balanga, an expert on Syria and Egypt, ‎believes there are other parties in Gaza who wish to capitalize on Israel and Egypt’s obvious interest in a Gaza truce.

‎”Hamas may be the sovereign in Gaza, but there are ‎more radical forces on the ground, and while Hamas ‎tries to rein them in, these organizations have ‎their own agenda and they see every attack on Israel ‎as a great victory,” he said. ‎

These groups, he explained, “understand that given ‎the tensions in [Israel’s] northern sector and the fact ‎that this is an election year, Israel won’t strike ‎back.” ‎

‎”For these groups, any rocket fired from Gaza is an ‎achievement because it does not endanger them. They ‎know Israel will not pursue the end of Hamas’ ‎regime, nor will it pursue ‎their elimination so as ‎far as these groups are concerned, they are the ‎winners here.” ‎

These groups, Balanga explained, “Have their own ‎agenda and part of it is to embarrass Hamas. The ‎fact that the head of Egyptian intelligence was ‎headed to the Strip to try and advance the truce ‎efforts made it the perfect time for them to act.” ‎

‎”Everyone knows that despite the attempts to ‎postpone the inevitable, Israel will eventually ‎launch another military campaign in Gaza. This means ‎that these radicals have nothing to lose. Whatever ‎the scenario – they will survive and will most ‎likely be hailed as heroes by the Gazans. That’s why ‎they fire rockets,” he concluded.

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