The drastic decrease in rocket fire from the Gaza Strip has been caused by Hamas’ policy of restraint, the result of its desire to gain time to restore its military-terrorist capabilities, which were severely damaged in Operation Protective Edge.
The ITIC examined the activities of the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip during the year since Operation Protective Edge, especially Hamas. Most notable have been the small number of rockets fired into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, and the relative quiet along the Israeli-Gazan border.
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The number of rocket attacks (12 identified rocket hits, three of them from the Sinai Peninsula) was the lowest since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. It was the lowest number both in absolute terms and in comparison with rocket hits identified during the first year after Operation Cast Lead and Operation Pillar of Defense. There were also fewer clashes along the Gaza Strip border compared with the first year after previous major IDF operations.
The drastic decrease in rocket fire from the Gaza Strip has been caused by Hamas’ policy of restraint, enforced more strictly and rigidly than in the past. It is primarily a result of the deterrence Israel gained in Operation Protective Edge. That deterrence is an asset but it is expected to erode as time passes. The ongoing sporadic rocket attacks of the past year have been carried out by rogue organizations and networks as a way of challenging Hamas or to resolve internal struggles. During the past month ISIS-affiliated Salafist-jihadi networks in the Gaza Strip and rogue elements of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have used the rocket fire to send messages of violence by firing rockets into Israel. The sporadic rocket fire continues.
Hamas’ policy of restraint is the result of its desire to gain time to restore its military-terrorist capabilities, which were severely damaged in Operation Protective Edge. It also wants to rebuild the civilian infrastructure and increase external support for the Gaza Strip (with donations of funds and the lifting of the so-called siege). However, during the past year the time gained was not exploited for significant civilian reconstruction, but instead invested in restoring Hamas’ military capabilities (and those of the other terrorist organizations).
The year since Operation Protective Edge has been notable for the establishment of the Supporters of Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis), ISIS’s branch in the Sinai Peninsula. So far the activities of the Supporters of Jerusalem have been directed against the Egyptian security forces, but their cooperation with Hamas’ military wing increases the terrorist threat to Israel along the Egyptian border. On the other hand, inside the Gaza Strip Hamas’ security forces have been suppressing the ISIS-affiliated Salafist-jihadi networks trying to challenge its control. So far, however, suppressing the networks in the Gaza Strip has not prevented Hamas from cooperating with the Supporters of Jerusalem outside the Gaza Strip.
Politically and internally, Hamas is forced to deal with a series of problems and constraints that make it difficult to operate as movement and challenge its governance of the Gaza Strip, causing delays in reconstructing the civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Only a small portion of the international promised funds were actually transferred to the Gaza Strip.