Escalation in Gaza

The Coming War?

11.14.12 7:00 PM ET

Reports continue to come in on Twitter and elsewhere that Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip are continuing throughout the night. Just as things were cooling off in the most recent escalation of violence—constituting an uptick in rocket fire into Israel and retalitatory strikes in the strip—word came down this morning of an attack on Ahmed al-Jabari, the leader of Hamas's military wing. The Israeli Defense Forces released a video, recorded by a drone, of the strike on his vehicle:

"His elimination," Israel's internal sercurity service said in a statement, "is a message to Hamas officials in Gaza that if they continue promoting terrorism against Israel, they will be hurt." After having clamped down on other groups in Gaza firing rockets into Israel, Hamas recently loosened it grip and allowed increased attacks. Over the past few days, Israel hit back.

Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in a pre-emptive counter-coup against its elected government in the Occupied Territories, promised its own retaliation: The group said the attacks would "open the gates of hell." But before anything could happen, news broke of another major strike against another Hamas leader, this time the groups co-founder and member of its political—not military—wing. Haaretz first reported the attack on Mahmoud al-Zahar, but later retracted (the paper instead said Fatah's former security chief in the Strip was targeted). But the BBC's Paul Danahar reported: "My sources tell me the IDF did target Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar's house though unlikely he was there," referring to the attack on a political leader as "a serious escalation."

These reports may yet prove permature, but the IDF seems not in the mood to slow its assassinations of Hamas figures in the immediate future: "We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead." Days? Just this morning things seemed to be cooling off. Now it's getting difficult to see how this could end, let alone when. Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said today, "We're at the beginning of events, not the end."