The Eilat attacks were the only latest in an escalation of rocket fire in recent days that has been worrying Israelis yet has seemed to be of little interest to the international media — far less so than the follow-up to the flotilla incident.
On Friday morning, a Grad rocket, fired from Gaza, landed in a residential section of Ashkelon, shattering windows of buildings and cars. Residents were treated for shock, but luckily there were no physical injuries.
Then on Saturday, an upgraded Kassam rocket, again launched from Gaza, hit a rehabilitation center for the disabled in the Sderot area. It was closed for the weekend, but the facilities were severely damaged, with most of the second floor destroyed.
In retaliation for these attacks, the Israeli Air Force struck smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza.
Few believe that the timing of this escalation is coincidental. In an editorial, the Jerusalem Post theorized that Hamas is sending a violent message — not only to Israel, but more emphatically to its Fatah rivals ruling the Palestinian Authority and participating in the U.S.-led indirect peace talks:
Apparently, Hamas, with adamant Iranian backing, now feels it is ready for another round of confrontation with Israel. Despite the destruction wreaked on the Hamas’s rocket production facilities during Cast Lead, and despite the blockade — which has been relaxed under international pressure in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident — Hamas has managed to manufacture rockets as well as smuggle in thousands more through underground tunnels.
It is blatantly clear that the Hamas leadership and its Iranian patron do not want stability. They do not want the PA and Israel to revive hopes among Palestinians that a readiness for reconciliation and a renewed commitment to negotiations might pay off. Rather, they are advancing the position that the only path to Palestinian self-determination is through armed struggle.
The Palestinian Authority is now under increasing pressure from the U.S. to take the fragile peace process to the next level and sit directly across the negotiating table from the Israelis. Presumably, the attacks are an attempt to throw cold water on any potential hope for progress.
Whether or not the renewed violence affects the negotiating posture of the Palestinian Authority or the Israeli government remains to be seen. But there is one group that clearly remains unaffected and openly defiant in the face of the violence: Israelis determined to have their summer vacation. Israeli television on Monday showed crowded beaches and hotel pools in Eilat. Stretched on their deck chairs, the resort-goers said that they had waited all year for their summer vacation. And it would take more than a few missiles to convince them to give it up and head home.