The three Israeli teenagers kidnapped several weeks ago by Hamas have been found dead in the Palestinian area of Hebron, where Israeli forces are currently raiding Palestinian homes, according to Israeli military sources.
The Israeli Defense Forces confirmed late Monday during a press briefing that the bodies had been discovered. Hamas operatives near Jerusalem were identified by Israeli intelligence sources as being responsible for the kidnapping.
The kidnapping and ongoing barrage of terrorist rocket attacks on Israel by the terror group Hamas have called into question the Obama administration’s support for a recently inked unity deal that brought Hamas into the Palestinian governing fold, according to regional exerts, who indicated that the unity coalition may already be collapsing.
Hamas bombarded Israeli citizens over the weekend with some 20 rockets, bringing the total number of rockets fired since June 15 to more than 50. This is the first time Hamas has publicly claimed responsibility for the attacks since 2012.
The attacks are meant to send a clear message to the Israelis as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party that Hamas will not back down from violence or be controlled by government bureaucrats, according to experts.
The attacks have also called into question the Obama administration State Department’s decision to financially support and work with the unity government and Hamas, which vowed to continue its violent campaign to destroy the Jewish state.
The increased rocket attacks constitute "a rejection of the calm and also appear to be a rejection of the unity government," Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S Treasury Department, told the Washington Free Beacon.
"In recognizing the unity government, the U.S. helped establish in Gaza the Hezbollah model, which is a unified weak central government that allows a terrorist organization to operate with impunity inside," Schanzer said. "That’s exactly what we're seeing right now. In the same way the Lebanese can’t stop Hezbollah, the Palestinians can’t stop Hamas."
Hamas called on Gaza-based officials of the unity government to resign over the weekend and threatened to retake control of the Gaza Strip by force.
Schanzer said these developments indicate that Hamas has been central in the unity government, a claim that Obama administration has repeatedly denied and attempted to quash.
"This undermines the notion that Hamas had nothing to do with the unity government," Schanzer said. "The fact they can call on the Gaza ministers to quit undermines the message we’ve been hearing—that the unity deal has nothing to do with Hamas."
Top State Department officials were warned in advance that its backing for the unity government could prove ill advised and embolden Hamas, according to one senior official with a pro-Israel organization who requested anonymity to discuss the situation.
"Everybody in the Middle East not aligned with Iran—the Israelis, the Egyptians, the Gulf States—told the State Department to steer clear of Hamas," the official said. "But instead the administration's envoy Martin Indyk worked with the Palestinians to bring Hamas into the Palestinian government."
"Less than a month later, Hamas has conducted spectacular attacks in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and we're on the brink of a mass war," said the source. "That's what comes from putting reckless, hostile partisans in charge of America's Middle East policy."
The increased attacks also signal that Hamas is attempting to reassert its military strength after a long period of relative calm.
"We’re going back to a very familiar scenario for Hamas," Schanzer said. "They are no longer abiding by the supposed rules of this unity government. In this way, it is very much an internal domestic message."
"Hamas," Schanzer said, "is trying to send a message without triggering a full Israeli incursion."
The Israelis and Palestinians could once again be on the brink of a full-scale war, one that comes as the wider Middle East experiences great upheaval from Iraq to Syria and beyond.
"I assume it’s a matter of days for us to know if we succeeded [together with other parties] to create the required calm, or if not we will certainly be prepared to carry out a larger process than the [current] spontaneous responses," Giora Eiland, an Israeli Defense Forces major general and former Israeli national security adviser, stated on Israeli radio Monday, according to a translation of her remarks provided to reporters by the Israel Project.
Tough "Israeli action against Gaza would be accepted, maybe not with encouragement, but with great understanding in Washington and most places in the world," Eiland said.
"I estimate that there will be an Israeli action, or at least there will be a call for an Israeli action that is much more massive—like Operation Pillar of Defense maybe even bigger than it, in order to achieve a renewed deterrence for another period of a year or two," she said.
Published under: Israel