Hamas seen unleashing attacks on Israel to divert attention from internal unrest

Friday, March 25, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

TEL AVIV Israel's intelligence community has determined that the Hamas regime is acting to offset the growing unrest in the Gaza Strip.

Officials said Hamas has lifted restrictions from its military as well as Palestinian militias in attacks on Israel. They said Hamas was operating both missile, mortar and rocket gunners in the Gaza Strip as well as bomb cells in the West Bank.

"Hamas is under tremendous pressure to impose democratic reforms and an escalation with Israel is seen as the way out," an official said.

On March 23, Hamas conducted a series of attacks on Israel. They were said to have included the launch of enhanced BM-21 Grad rockets into such Israeli cities as Ashdod and Beersheba as well as a bombing in Jerusalem.

The attacks were the worst since the Hamas war with Israel in 2008. In Jerusalem, a British woman was killed and 39 were injured in the bombing.

"It's only a matter of time until we clash with Hamas again," Homeland Security Minister Matan Vilna'i said.

The intelligence community has raised the prospect that the Jerusalem bombing was the work of the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad. Officials said Jihad was believed to have activated its cell in the West Bank city of Hebron to plan and conduct the attack.

Later, the Palestinian Authority arrested two suspected Jihad members in the northern West Bank town of Jenin. The detainees were said to have been connected to the attack in Jerusalem.

Officials said the Hamas escalation has eased tension with Palestinian militias, particularly Jihad. They said after nearly two years of restrictions, Hamas was allowing Jihad to conduct missile, mortar and long-range rocket fire into Israel, which continued on March 24.

"We may have to consider a return to that operation [war against Hamas]," Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said. "I say this despite the fact that I know such a thing would, of course, bring the region to a far more explosive situation."

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