Despite its self-declared January 20 ceasefire in the conflict with Israel, Hamas fired ten rockets and a barrage of mortar rounds into southern Israel on Sunday. Most of the mortar rounds and short-range home-made al-Qassam rockets impacted in Nahal Oz, a small kibbutz just inside Israel near the Gaza Strip.
One al-Qassam rocket landed near a kindergarten on a school day, but no one was hurt in that attack. However, two soldiers and a civilian were wounded by the mortar fire. A longer-range rocket, probably an Iranian-supplied Grad, landed in Ashkelon. Israeli aircraft later struck tunnels near Rafah on the Egyptian border and targets in the northern Gaza Strip.
At about the same time as Hamas militants were firing rockets at Israel, Hamas representatives were telling the Egyptians that they would agree to a 12-month ceasefire to begin later this week. Significant in the ceasefire proposal is a Hamas agreement that Mahmud 'Abbas's Palestinian Authority will control the Gaza border crossings with Egypt. This meets a key Israeli demand that Hamas not be in control of the crossings, and flies in the face of Hamas's ridiculous claims of victory in the conflict with Israel.
Also on Sunday, Khalid Mish'al, the Damascus-based political leader of Hamas, made a trip to Iran. Most of the money, weapons and training used by the fundamentalist group is provided by the Islamic Republic. During Mish'al's meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian leader congratulated Hamas on its "victory" in Gaza.
Hamas, as well as Iran, is fully aware that Israeli elections are scheduled for February 10. When I was in Israel just ten days ago, the common belief was that the Likud party would win the election and Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu would emerge as the next prime minister.
The Kadima party, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and the Labor party, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, do not have the votes to win the election. Labor has gained some support since the war in Gaza, but not enough to challenge either Likud or Kadima.
Netanyahu is regarded as the most hard line of the three. Every time Hamas violates the ceasefire and reinforces the belief among the Israeli electorate that Hamas has no interest in peace, it strengthens Netanyuahu's position - he has vowed to destroy Hamas. He also has gone on record stating that Iran will not be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon. "Iran will not be armed with a nuclear weapon," he said, "that is a fact."
Hamas (and Iran), if you want to ensure that the next prime minister is Bibi Netanyahu, keep on firing rockets into southern Israel. The Israelis will support his goal to eliminate you.