Israeli air force hits Hamas-Gaza hard amid Lebanon border tensions
In response to twin Qassam missile attack on Sderot from Gaza Tuesday, May 19, the Israeli Air Force went into action early Wednesday against a range of Hamas positions in Rafah, Khan Younes, Zeitun and Tufah suburbs of Gaza city and, Deir Balakh. debkafile‘s military sources report that several Sinai-Gaza smuggling tunnels, missile foundries and three Hamas command posts in Gaza City were struck in Israel’s most extensive Gaza raid since its major offensive ended in January. The Palestinians reported casualties.
Tuesday night, the Palestinians fired a twin Qassam volley at Sderot. One missile injured a man and damaged his home. That morning, Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin told the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee that Hamas needed a respite for rearming and regrouping after the Israeli offensive. Hamas launched Qassams against Sderot to prove him wrong and show US president Barack Obama and the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu in Washington who really called the shots in the Gaza Strip.
After Sderot was hit, defense minister Ehud Barak hurriedly consulted with Netanyahu at the tail end of his Washington visit. They decided on powerful aerial retaliation. This was all the more necessary as Hamas was deemed to be testing the new Israeli government’s military reflexes and resolve.
Another factor was the Hizballah leader’s decision of May 18 to raise border tension with Israel to boost its campaign to sweep Lebanon’s election on June 7.
Also Tuesday, the Obama administration urgently consigned vice president Joseph Biden to Beirut. He arrives May 22 to openly back the pro-Western government parties’ bid for re-election against Iran’s Hizballah and pro-Syrian factions, led by Gen. Michel Aoun. Lebanon’s fall into Iranian-Syrian hands would drastically set back Washington’s Middle East positions and plans.
Biden will be coming from the Balkans, another touch-and-go region for the US. Tuesday, he warned Muslim members of the Bosnian-Herzegovinan parliament to stop provoking a revival of tensions among Bosnians, Serbs and Croatians.