Hamas’s military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, moved to restart rocket attacks against Israel over the weekend, but a dispute with the political leadership of the organization prevented the plan from being carried out, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Tuesday.
After last Friday’s Israeli airstrikes on Hamas compounds in the Gaza Strip, the military wing came to the conclusion that it needed to retaliate, according to the newspaper, but the political echelon demanded that it stand down.
Last Saturday, The Times of Israel reported that Hamas’s military wing withdrew its forces from the border area where they were engaged in restraining other terror groups from firing missiles at Israel. The move was seen by many in Israel as Hamas giving the green light for smaller organizations in Gaza to fire at Israeli targets.
However, Asharq Al-Awsat cited sources in the IDF’s Southern Command who claimed the Hamas decision to withdraw its prevention units came after the military wing had already decided to begin rocket fire itself.
Without the anti-rocket force in place, it was up to the political leadership to put the brakes on the plan.
In January, government figures show, Gaza-based terror groups fired three times as many rockets at Israel as during an average month in 2013. These included 20 mortar and rocket attacks on Israel’s southern communities, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) set off on the Gaza-Israel border and two incidents where the IDF stopped militants attempting to launch rockets.
Most of the attacks were carried out by fringe groups operating in Gaza who sought to undermine the Hamas regime, the security establishment determined, according to Israeli daily Maariv.
The anti-rocket force was established last July. It numbered 600 men at first, operating round the clock, but was more recently bolstered to 900, underlining Hamas’s desire to avoid an escalation of violence with Israel.
The Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.