Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman Photo FB screenshot 03After a mortar fired from Gaza hit the Israeli community of Sderot three days ago, Israel carried out two days of carefully targeted but intense bombing attacks. No one was killed. Still, why such a strong response?


One day after the Israel Defense Forces finished its bombing campaign against a number of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman explained the intense response.

"Israel can't be expected to allow Hamas to arm itself," he said.

The bombing campaign was prompted by a rocket attack from Gaza last Sunday, 21 August. A mortar from Gaza landed on the southern Israeli town of Sderot, a community of about 24,000.

"We can't be expected to allow them to rob the residents of Gaza," Lieberman explained. "They charge taxes and instead of building buildings, they built tunnels."

Speaking during a tour of Israel's northern border, Lieberman said, "You know my opinions. I don't need to add anything new.

"What we need to understand is that my approach is rehabilitation for demilitarization. That is the formula.

Terror groups in Gaza "know that whenever they go into crisis, Israel solves the problem, or the U.N. solves it, or the EU. They are not interested in solving their own crisis; they just want to build up military power.

"Seventy percent of their tax revenue goes to building up military power and re-arming. They don't want to take care of the citizens, they only want rockets and tunnels."

Following Israel's unusually forceful response -- striking dozens of targets across Gaza Monday -- to the single rocket that landed in Sderot, calm has now been restored. Senior Israeli military officials insisted following the retaliation that Israel was not planning on escalating the tension.

Assuming that Hamas decides to maintain restraint, the latest clash appears to be over. But a top military official declared that the "equation with Gaza has changed."

The timing of the forceful Israeli response appears to suggest that the IDF seized an opportunity to target key Hamas assets.

The rocket that struck Sderot on Sunday was the second projectile fired from Gaza into Israel since Lieberman assumed the post of defense minister in May. The retaliation for the first strike was considered standard, with the bombing of four Hamas targets in Gaza. But Lieberman, who has declared in the past that Hamas attacks should be met with a forceful response, was reportedly unhappy with the standard retaliation and decided to change the policy.

The political echelon stressed that Sunday's forceful retaliation was designed to send a clear message that Israel would no longer be as forgiving as it has been in the past. A source said Monday that "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy is to prevent a drizzle of rocket fire."

Meanwhile, Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar confirmed that the organization "remains committed to the truce agreement with the Israeli occupation, as long as they halt the strikes in Gaza."

Al-Zahar stressed that if the Israeli strikes continue, "Hamas' response will be decisive and forceful."

"The Israeli occupation has openly signaled that it is not interested in escalation and concluded the confrontation," he said.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri echoed al-Zahar's remarks, but added that "the Zionist occupation will not succeed in imposing new policies on the resistance."

The Salafi organization Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis‎, affiliated with the Islamic State group in Gaza, issued a statement saying, "Just as the children of Gaza are suffering, so will the children of Sderot suffer." The group warned that the rocket fire into Israel's south will continue and declared that it was not a "Hamas' puppet."

Israel's response to Sunday's rocket strike appears to indicate that future rocket attacks will not be tolerated, even if they are not perpetrated by Hamas.

One clear message from the bombing campaign is that Israel will not fall back into the standard pattern of small-scale retaliations. In all likelihood, the new Defense Minister will demand harsher, stronger retaliations, particularly if the next rocket causes damage or loss of life.


This is a lightly edited version of this article published by Israel Hayom at http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=35875

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