The fact that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired some 300 rockets at Israel even as their senior leadership convenes in Cairo, Egypt for talks indicates that this latest escalation was premeditated.
Senior Hamas military leader Yahya Sinwar, unlike Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh, knows how to read Israeli society, having spent decades in an Israeli prison. He knows Israel will shy away from a full-fledged confrontation in the Gaza Strip just before Independence Day and the Eurovision song contest. That is why Sinwar took a calculated risk and ordered his operatives to launch rockets at Israel even while he was away in Cairo.
The escalation began with a “trickle” of rockets early last week, followed by incendiary airborne devices, provocations along the Gaza fence and then the latest barrage.
As Hamas prepares for the month of Ramadan, which begins this week, it would like to extract concessions from Israel that it can present to Gazans as a victory. Its chief goal, however, is to force Israel to transfer more cash from Qatar so that it can pay its members.
The fact that the Qatari intermediary has not shown up in the region proves that funds have already been transferred. But Hamas wants more funds, and Israel has so far vehemently refused.
It is still unclear how this latest escalation will end, but what is clear is that Israel’s killing of two Hamas operatives on Friday after two Israeli troops were shot near the Gaza fence was not the trigger for the massive rocket barrage.