The Wednesday morning rocket fire from Gaza was a major escalation, and the first time a rocket was fired at Beersheba since early August. Within hours of two large rockets being fired, Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza had denied firing the rockets, pointing to a desire for continued calm.
This leaves many questions about what happened Wednesday morning and how the Palestinians in Gaza, Israel and the region will respond.
Palestinian riots and clashes along the Gaza border have now entered their seventh month. Thirty weeks of clashes have killed almost two hundred in Gaza and left thousands wounded.
Israeli politicians have also been pushing for a stronger response as the clashes continue. Incendiary balloons have burned half of the forests and green areas around Gaza, according to a report Tuesday. Increasingly Palestinian teams launching the balloons have been targeted by the air force.
Hamas has been attempting to play both sides in recent weeks. It seeks to bolster attempts to reach a deal through Egyptian efforts to broker a ceasefire and it wants to insert itself into West Bank politics. It has been putting out press releases discussing the West Bank, including critiquing the Palestinian Authority. It also talks tough in Gaza.
“The Israeli threats do not deter the Palestinian people, nor do they break their will,” it said in response to Jerusalem’s calls for tougher action on the Gaza border on October 15.
On the morning of October 17, after the rockets had been fired, it took Hamas six hours to put out a statement saying it was not responsible for the rockets. Why did it take six hours for Hamas to understand its own “militant arm” had not fired on Israel? Obviously it knew what had happened hours ago. Journalist and analyst Neri Zilber postulated on Twitter that the rockets were likely fired by the Mujahadeen Shura Council a “breakaway Al Qaeda-tinged Gazan jihadi group. They do have rocket capacity.”
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