By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
After three Jewish teens in seminary who were slain by suspected radical Islamic militants of Hamas, Tel Aviv launched airstrikes on 34 sites. The search for teenagers had been going on for days last month and the bodies were found in Hebron under a pile of rocks.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) named Marwan Kawasme and Omar Abu Aysha as chief suspects of the murder and their houses in the West Bank were destroyed last night.
Hamas has not taken responsibility for the abduction and murder of the three teenage seminary students but the increase in attacks is evident. Tensions had been rising since the collapse of the peace talks. Some 18 Palestinian rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel, as usual, targeting Israeli civilians. At the same time, on June 22, Israeli security forces shot and killed two Palestinians that threw rocks at them in a crowd. The IDF claims that explosives were thrown and not rocks.
Over a hundred buildings have been stormed in the search and dozens of suspected Palestinians have been arrested. Palestine claims at least 12 dead.
The politics behind the violence comes at a time when a powerful emerging regional jihadist threat (ISIL) is taking large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq and threatening Lebanon and Jordan. A war between Hamas and Israel might be long overdue but these battles and skirmishes solve nothing. Most importantly, such a more serious offensive against Hamas, for example, to replace leadership, neutralize, or disarm, would drag the most extreme elements closer to Israel and may accelerate regional instability. This scenario may be inevitable.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed retribution against Hamas. But what does this mean? How far that will go after the airstrikes pounded Hamas sites remains uncertain.
Israeli security officials are not sure what else they can do or should do. Clearly more action against the group is considered but the more heavy-handed conventional options continue to make Israel appear as the bully. In situations like this, Israel has historically lacked any image consciousness in military operations and shown itself to be extremely vulnerable to the larger information war against them.
A rally for Hamas by ISIL is to be expected but there resources are believed to be stretched too thin and South Syria, South Lebanon and Jordan remain solid buffers, for the moment, separating Israel from the majority of terrorists in the al-Qaida splinter.
Any longer campaigns could draw ISIL into Israel and ignite a worst case scenario for them. Meanwhile the international community continues to shun the unsavory practices of West Bank colonization and ethno-nationalist ambitions.
This is a potentially massive hot-button issue that could be the flashpoint of a much larger regionwide war across multiple actors and multiple interests. The tie between Hamas and Fatah is expected by Israel and many outsiders to be condemned and severed if Hamas is determined responsible. But such determination will be difficult without independent arbitration needed in this situation.
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