Ramallah – The Israeli army has significantly raised its level of alert on the northern front after joint talks between the army and Shin Bet (general security agency) estimated that there is a possibility of an upcoming escalation in the Gaza Strip.
The army enhanced its level of readiness through frequent surprise exercises in preparation for a possible war that Hamas could be after, reported Yediot Ahronot newspaper.
Internal discussions, between the army and Shin Bet, tend toward the possibility of an upcoming escalation in the strip. This is supported by intelligence reports stating that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is deteriorating because of infrastructure problems which affect the water and electricity supply, in addition to the financial and political pressure exerted by the Palestinian Authority on Hamas.
Furthermore, Qatar, which hosts several Hamas leaders, is dealing with a diplomatic boycott and international pressure, which could affect its financial support for the militant movement.
A general assumption is that Hamas will take aggressive measures and start a new war to improve the economic situation and its position in the Arab world. Hamas wants to improve its status in the Arab world as many countries began referring to it as a terrorist entity.
Hamas believes that difficult images from a conflict with Israel could definitely help the organization achieve that goal, according to Shin Bet officials.
Yediot Ahronot stated that the potential for escalation is high and Hamas will likely use the first opportunity it has to allow factions to launch missiles from Gaza at the underground barrier project in an attempt to disrupt it.
According to a security source, Hamas is willing to apply any means to achieve its goal.
Other sources reported that Israel has relayed messages that it will not allow the project be stopped, even at the cost of another escalation.
Most military and political analysts in Israel believe the next war with Israel will be led by Hamas’ leader in Gaza Yahya Sanwar, who is known in Israel for his extreme and violent stances.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated that Israel is not concerned with the escalation. He warned however that any new war would mean the destruction of Gaza’s military infrastructure.
“I have no interest in retaking the Gaza Strip,” Lieberman said. “[Israel] cannot get involved in a military conflict every two years and if we need to fight, then we can’t leave any military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.”
“My challenge as Defense Minister, and the Israeli Defense Forces’ challenge as an army, is to prevent the next war,” Lieberman said, adding, “with determination and deterrence, we can make the other side see that we’re serious.”
Still, Hamas is not revealing any of its new plans. Observers believe that the organization would rather not head towards direct confrontation amid the deteriorated situation in Gaza, but it may be forced to resort to it if Arab, Israeli and Palestinian pressure increased.