Hamas said Monday it believes a truce with Israel and Gaza is likely soon, while the groups firing the rockets – Islamic Jihad and the People’s Resistance Committees (PRC) – opposed such a ceasefire.
A senior IDF intelligence officer told The Jerusalem Post that Monday’s rocket fire escalation is part of Islamic Jihad’s attempt to end the current round of fighting with a success.
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said while a truce is likely soon, the timing depends on Israel.
"I expect matters will calm down," Zahar told Reuters in Cairo. "The statements coming from them (Israel) either in public or via mediators, especially Egypt, say that they do not want escalation."
Asked how long it would take, Zahar said he did not know but it would depend on Israel, which he blamed for setting off the latest round of violence by killing Palestinian leaders on Friday.
"Hamas has not taken any decision now to escalate. It is trying with the Palestinian factions and the rest of the parties to reach a conditional truce, a truce conditioned on the Israeli enemy halting the aggression and pledging that targeting will not happen again," he said, referring to Israel’s killing of the leaders.
Zahar’s comments came as representatives from Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) said Monday that they oppose signing a ceasefire with Israel, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.
"We will not agree on a ceasefire stipulated by Israel, neither do we accept a ceasefire while the lives of our people are taken without restraint," Ma’an quoted Islamic Jihad officials as saying. Ma’an added that the PRC’s armed wing supported Islamic Jihad’s stance on the issue.
A senior IDF intelligence officer said that Islamic Jihad was currently focused on "saving face" and creating a "victory image" with which it will be able to claim that it defeated the IDF.
In reality though, the officer said, Islamic Jihad has suffered heavy losses throughout the four days of fighting including close to 20 dead operatives as well as extensive damage to its terrorist infrastructure.
The violence started on Friday afternoon after Israel assassinated the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip who the IDF said was plotting an attack against Israel along the Egyptian border.
The officer said that it was still unclear if the attack which the PRC leader had been plotting was foiled or if it was still underway.
According to the officer, Hamas was mostly "sitting on the sidelines" and was not actively participating in the rocket attacks against Israel. On the other hand, Hamas, the officer said, was also not working to prevent the rocket fire.
"It is possible for this round to end soon if Hamas and the Egyptians step up their involvement in influencing Islamic Jihad," the officer said.
According to the IDF, over 200 rockets have been fired into Israel since Friday including 50 with ranges of over 29 kilometers. On Monday, a rocket landed near Gedera, the farthest north a projectile was fired since the beginning of hostilities on Friday. The officer said that some of the rockets fired into Israel were manufactured domestically in the Gaza Strip.