JERUSALEM, Israel — In yet another indication that the new Palestinian government hasn’t altered facts on the ground, Gaza-based jihadists fired a rocket at Israel Wednesday morning.
The attack was the second to hit southern Israel since P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas installed the Fatah-Hamas unity government on June 2, which now makes him accountable for attacks from Gaza.
“The agreement with Hamas makes Abbas directly responsible for any terrorist activity from Gaza,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the official swearing-in ceremony in Ramallah.
State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said the Obama administration would work with the new government.
“Based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government, but we’ll be watching closely to ensure it upholds the principles that President Abbas reiterated today,” Psaki said.
Notwithstanding, Wednesday’s rocket exploded on the outskirts of a kibbutz (agricultural community) in the Eshkol Regional Council, damaging a main highway used by area residents. This area has been a frequent target of rocket and mortar shell attacks. No one was injured by the explosion, but a local business also sustained damage.
“We are still a little shaky,” Hezi, the owner of the business, told YNet. “There is no fortification here so it’s scary.”
“We heard it whistle as it flew by and then heard a massive boom some 300 meters [yards] from us and then a mushroom of smoke,” he recalled. “Now it [rocket fire] continues. I return to my caravan [mobile home], which even a bullet could penetrate, but still we will not leave.”
A senior Israeli security official told YNet the rocket “proves the Palestinians have a pseudo-government, not something real.”
“The proof is that [Abbas] doesn’t control the Gaza Strip,” he said. “When the unity government was announced, Hamas said it would not lay down its arms and would continue its struggle against Israel,” he said, adding that Abbas now has the opportunity to show he can control Gaza and “he should prove it.”
But Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the unity government does not alter the purpose or goals of the Islamist group. Both Hamas and Fatah believe a Palestinian state will replace the Jewish nation-state sooner or later.
For Israel, it’s business as usual.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says Israeli deterrence is what keeps Islamist groups from escalating their terror war against Israel.
“Hamas is preparing for a confrontation against Israel, training forces and storing missiles and rockets,” Ya’alon said Tuesday. “It already has thousands of missiles and rockets pointed toward Israel.”
The defense minister said Israel’s policy is clear: “Quiet is being answered by quiet, and firing is being answered by a harsh response on our part.”