As Gaza wars go, this one ended quickly.
After more than a month of violent confrontations along the Gaza-Israel border, during which hundreds of Palestinian protesters were wounded and scores killed, this week saw a major — albeit brief — escalation.
In 24 hours, Hamas and Islamic Jihad together launched some 180 rockets and mortar shells into Israel. Iron Dome intercepted some; many more landed randomly, with one hitting a kindergarten.
Five Israelis were injured, with no deaths reported. But the barrage was a reminder of how vulnerable a vast swath of southern Israel remains to Hamas missiles. And that territory contains towns, cities and kibbutzim — it’s not empty desert.
In retaliation, Israeli jet fighters bombed as many as 65 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets, taking out drone facilities, armament depots, rocket factories and terror tunnels. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the air raids “the harshest blow we have dealt [Gaza-based terror organizations] in years.”
Multiple reports in the Israeli press suggested the flare-up ended quickly because neither side had much appetite for an all-out war, after the devastation from Operation Protective Edge in 2014. That’s good news.
But no one should rest easy. The 120 mm mortars and 107 mm rockets used to bombard Israeli had “Made in Iran” stamps on them, each one smuggled into Gaza over the last four years.
And this was not the first such Iranian attack on Israel. Only weeks ago, forces from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard fired more than two dozen rockets from Syria into the Golan Heights.
These attacks mark an ominous development in the region’s terror equation. Hamas now boasts of its ties to Iran and to Lebanon’s Iranian-backed terror organization Hezbollah. Iranian forces have staked a claim across Syria, as the ayatollahs flex their hegemonic muscles. And with the recent fraying of the Iranian nuclear deal, who knows how far Iran is prepared to go in its monomaniacal hatred of Israel?
On a more hopeful note, many of the region’s players understand all too well the Iranian threat, which is why we are seeing closer ties between Israel and Arab neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Given the agonizing complexities of Middle East politics, no one should predict with confidence the endgame of these new developments. We can be sure only of a few things: Israel will protect its people, and the United States will be there to back them up.