Over the Sukkot holiday (in Israel, September 20-28), the IDF and Shin Bet conducted a series of operations against Hamas cells in the West Bank, including violent clashes that left four terrorists dead and two Israeli soldiers wounded. The last round of raids resulted in the capture of some twenty Hamas operatives and the recovery of a large cache of explosives—and foiled an imminent attack on Jerusalem. All this comes on the heels of the capture of the last of the six Palestinian prisoners who had escaped on September 6. Kobi Michael takes stock:
For Hamas, this is a severe blow to its ongoing effort to build military infrastructure and to launch terrorist attacks from the West Bank into Israeli territory. The Hamas leadership has tried to soften the stinging insult with belligerent statements, threats, and the renewal of incendiary and explosive balloons dispatched from the Gaza Strip. The organization’s leadership [also] will invest efforts in implementing [other] response measures. These include an effort to launch a significant attack in the West Bank or from there into Israel, in order to embarrass Israel and to diminish its significant achievements.
In the broad Israeli interest, it is important to emphasize that Hamas in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip are one entity, and therefore Israel does not limit itself to responses according to geographical area. [In other words, Jerusalem should be willing to respond to attacks from Hamas operatives in the West Bank by striking Hamas targets in Gaza.] Moreover, the resumption of the incendiary balloons, as well as the ongoing effort to activate the military infrastructure in the West Bank, bring Israel closer to a decisive moment regarding the response to Hamas.
The operations by Israeli security forces during Sukkot returned the initiative to the Israeli side and should not be neglected, leaving Hamas to dictate the rules of the game.