By Barry Rubin
Responding to a major upsurge of Hamas cross-border attacks from the Gaza Strip, Israel has launched its biggest military offensive since the 2008-2009 Gaza war. Of the 768 rockets striking Israel since the beginning of the year, 120 came this week alone, one of them destroying a house in the town of Sderot. Forty-four Israeli civilians have been killed by such attacks in the last decade. During the recent rocket offensive, schools and other facilities were closed and around one million residents of southern Israel were instructed to stay home or go to air-raid shelters.
The offensive, called Pillar of Defense, follows large numbers of rockets being fired by Hamas and its smaller allies over the last four days along with several cross-border raids, most notably the destruction of an Israeli jeep by an anti-tank rocket wounding four Israeli soldiers.
Israeli officials said other Hamas leaders involved in terrorism will also be targeted. The other top priority is to destroy up to 20 launching sites for Hamas’s Iranian-built longer-range missiles, with a 25 mile range, that can reach cities in southern Israel. Seventeen rockets were shot down by the Israeli Iron Dome system.
Neither side takes U.S. policy very seriously. The Egyptians and Hamas know that President Barack Obama will not take Israel's side to the same extent as previous presidents while Israel knows it cannot depend on an energetic U.S. pressure on Egypt to tamp down on the terrorists.