Israel army threatens Hamas with large-scale Gaza attack

The Israeli army “sent messages to Hamas through an intermediary this week that it will no longer tolerate incendiary kites and balloons being sent across the border, and will conduct a harsh military response against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip if it continues”, reported Haaretz.

The paper noted recent reports that “the army has a combat plan for Gaza, which includes the entry of large-scale forces at certain stages and the control of large expanses of territory”.

For now, however, the assessment is that the Israeli military “is not interested in embarking on such an operation because it estimates that such a step would be drawn out and the fighting intense”.

According to Haaretz, “the prevailing view” among senior army officers is that the challenge posed by the incendiary kites and balloons “does not justify dragging Israelis into days of fighting, certainly not at a time when the army has turned its attention to its northern border”.

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However, the report added, “if the situation continues to escalate, however, military action in Gaza is possible”, with the army said to believe that “such an operation would need to be sufficiently aggressive against Hamas, but at the same time not enough to seriously escalate the situation”.

Haaretz referred to a report last week by journalist Ben Caspit that defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman is angling for “harsh and extensive action against Hamas that would restore Israeli deterrence in the region”, in defiance of the views of the heads of both the military and Shin Bet.

Another factor, the paper noted, is “pressure on politicians”, and thus “pressure on the military”, if and when “Israeli residents in the Gaza border area lose patience”.