Israel’s strike on Hamas targets inside the Gaza strip are no doubt part of a well-timed show of force in the region.Three weeks ago, in the days leading up to the U.S. presidential election, it appears that Israel conducted a nighttime strike on an arms factory in Khartoum, Sudan reportedly owned by Iran and used to supply arms to Hamas in Gaza.
Since then the entire American internal intelligence and security apparatus has gone into damage control as CIA director David Petraeus resigned over admissions of adultery.
Tel Aviv knows that American input during this time is likely to remain as clipped statements about general support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
Which is what newly re-elected Barrack Obama did when he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington supports Israel while also cautioning against civilian casualties.
The strike also came just days after a well publicized joint exercise between Israeli and American military forces — dubbed “Austere Challenge.” The day after U.S. forces left Israel, bombs dropped in Gaza — sending a message to the American military (what that message is exactly, is open for interpretation).
For months Israel has been determined to take steps to show that it would defend its interests.
The U.S. very publicly demanded restraint from Israel in terms of the Iranian nuclear program and would not commit to providing the backing several analysts say that Israel would need to make the operation successful. So Israel backed off from its loud threats to Iran, for now.
Chaos in Syria spilling over into Lebanon in the form of a devastating car bombing has forced Iranian proxy Hezbollah to focus on keeping Assad in power and taking out targets within Lebanon, rather than striking Israel.
So Gaza is the only obvious target remaining, and direct conflict in the form of Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli strikes have grown increasingly intense and frequent as the year has progressed.
And then there are the January 22 elections in Israel. Netanyahu recently formed a right-wing coalition with the ultra nationalist Israel Beiteinu party.
“Israeli escalation of air strikes on the densely populated and already ailing Gaza Strip is a move by the sitting ultra right wing government to unite the right at the ballot box,” Mostafa Minawi, assistant professor of history at Cornell University, told Newswise.
Minawi added that the strike echoes 2008, when Israel’s Operation Cast Lead began with a week of air attacks and shelling, followed by a land invasion of the blockaded coastal strip—some 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 13 Israelis died.
With the U.S. election over and his re-election bid upcoming, Netanyahu wants to continue holding on to power and international sway. It appears he has taken recently favourable circumstances to destroy some threats with the military.
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