When I heard that Hamas had fired an antitank missile across the border directly at an Israeli school bus, wounding the driver and critically injuring a child — only the fact that the bus was otherwise empty prevented an even more horrendous outcome — I thought: they want a war. The fact that the attack was accompanied by a barrage of at least 50 rockets and mortars fired at Israeli towns and cities reinforced that assumption.
You can easily imagine their thinking: if a bus full of Jewish children goes up in flames, Israel will have to take the bait. But the last war was painful for Hamas. Why would they want another go-around?
I wasn’t surprised to see that Barry Rubin agrees with me that Hamas is looking for trouble. But here is his analysis of why:
The recent upheavals in the Arab world have emboldened revolutionary Islamists and Hamas most of all. Its close ally, the Muslim Brotherhood, can operate freely in Egypt. There is much support for Islamism in the Egyptian army. And even the “moderate” presidential candidate Muhammad ElBaradei said that Egypt would go to war if Israel attacked the Gaza Strip.
Does Egypt want war with Israel? Of course not. But Hamas calculates–and, of course, it often miscalculates–that crisis with Israel will increase its support from Egypt and perhaps even create a situation where Cairo intervenes on its side on some level.
At a minimum, thousands of Egyptian volunteers, mobilized by the Brotherhood, might fight on its side, money would be raised in Egypt on its behalf, and large amounts of arms would flow across the border. Then, too, international public opinion could be mobilized against Israel with tales–often phony–of atrocities as happened last time. And the Palestinian Authority (PA), ruling the West Bank, could be shamed and subverted. While the PA can claim to be delivering some prosperity–which the West thinks is all people care about–Hamas can deliver heroism and jihad.
Rubin also points out that since the fall of the Mubarak regime, the border between Egypt and Gaza has been wide open, with weapons — like the antitank missile used in today’s attack or the Iranian Grad missiles fired at Ashkelon, etc. — freely flowing into Gaza.
Hamas thinks it can’t lose: either (1) the IDF will smash back into Gaza, and Hamas — with Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood help — will be able to put up a vicious fight, perhaps even drawing the Egyptian army into it, perhaps triggering a two-front war with Hizballah in the north. Or (2), Israel will content itself with limited retaliation, and Hamas can continue gaining points in the Arab world for its effectiveness at killing Jewish children with impunity.
Today’s attack was not random: it was a bright yellow school bus, and a laser-guided missile. The creature that pulled the trigger knew exactly what he was doing.
Hamas has already taken credit for the attack with the following statement:
Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza targeted with number of mortar shells the nearby Israeli settlements, bus driver and other Israeli settler were injured after a shell targeted their bus driving in the southern Israeli kibbutz of Sa’ad April 7, 2011.
Not that it matters, but the ‘settlements’ in question are inside the 1949 armistice lines, and ‘the other Israeli settler’ is 16 (some reports say 13) years old.
But you say, doesn’t it look bad to kill children?
Not to many Palestinian Arabs:
Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their children – Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and three-month old baby Hadas – were murdered in the Israeli town of Itamar on March 11.
“63% of the Palestinians oppose and 32% support the attack in the Itamar settlement in the West Bank in which a family of five was murdered.” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA newspaper, April 7, 2011] — PMW
Just one out of three! Imagine my relief.