Middle East

Israel-Gaza violence puts pressure on sides to respond

Israel man looks at building in Kibbutz Beeri damaged by rocket-fire from Gaza (24/10/12)
Image caption Ceasefires between Israel and militants in Gaza have never lasted for long

Last Thursday's ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza did not last long.

It is often difficult to pinpoint when a specific escalation in violence started. Both sides will always remember what they see as a previous act of aggression by the other which enables them to justify their attacks as retaliation.

On this latest occasion it is believed that small extremist Salafi groups in Gaza, that were not party to the unofficial truce, were the first to restart firing rockets into Israel on Thursday and Friday.

Such groups say Hamas is too moderate in its resistance of Israel's occupation. Hamas, which governs in Gaza, has sometimes tried to stop Salafis from firing but has not always been able to do so.

Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire from Gaza.

Over the weekend the Israeli military carried out air attacks. On Sunday, it targeted and killed a militant travelling on the back of a motorbike in Southern Gaza. He was a member of Hamas's military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades.

It is widely believed Hamas does not want a major escalation in violence with Israel or another war in Gaza. The movement is more interested in consolidating its power and strengthening the economy.

Image caption Rocket-fire from Gaza has drawn air strikes, which draw more rocket-fire

But when its own members are killed or Palestinian civilians are caught up in the violence, Hamas is under pressure to respond in order to assert its credentials as a resistance movement.

As the governing power in Gaza, it needs to be seen to protect the population.

As such Hamas launched a barrage of rockets and mortars into Israel on Monday saying it was a response to the killing of one its men.

The Israeli government is also under pressure from the public to be seen to be responding to Palestinian rocket fire which impacts on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living in southern Israel.

This is especially the case in the run-up to Israeli elections which will take place in January next year.

Egypt will likely once again have to step in to mediate another "ceasefire." Few will be hopeful it will hold for long.