For the past several years, Jerusalem’s approach to Hamas—as well as to Islamic State and other jihadist groups—can be summed up in the phrase “quiet will be met with quiet.” In other words, the IDF will retaliate swiftly after any attacks, but refrain from action so long as its enemies do the same. Israel seems to have changed its tune, however, in responding to Monday’s rocket attacks by continuing to strike targets in Gaza even after Hamas declared a ceasefire and de-escalated. Ron Ben-Yishai writes:
[It] appears that the IDF has a new strategy: attrition will be met with attrition; escalation will be met with escalation. . . . Hamas thought that by limiting its response, it would—as with previous rounds of fighting—be able to turn to Egypt for a ceasefire, and that Israel, even if it did not explicitly say so, would follow the “quiet will be met with quiet” formula. This did not happen. . . . Israel for the first time in a year refused to play the game, and IDF aircraft, as well as tanks and naval ships, continued to hit targets within the Strip even after the Hamas-declared ceasefire went into effect.
Hamas then tried to return again to the formula of quiet for quiet and at 3 a.m. [Tuesday morning] halted fire. By that point it had fired about 60 rockets at Israel, a relatively small number compared to previous rounds. But even though Hamas had stopped firing, the IDF attacked again three hours later. Hamas could see that the IDF’s pattern had changed, and despite [Israel’s] 6 a.m. strikes, it has since refrained from launching any rockets at all.
As part of this new modus operandi, the IDF is in no hurry. It is attacking targets slowly and systematically in the Gaza Strip with two main goals in mind: hurting Hamas’s military capabilities and infrastructure, and making the terrorist group aware that Israel will not hesitate to harm its regime and its political power bases.
The message is that if Hamas escalates the provocations against Israel, it will endanger the survival of its regime in the Gaza Strip—not only because of what the IDF will do to it with the assistance of the Shin Bet security service, but also because the population of the Gaza Strip will understand that Hamas is not achieving [its aims].