Jerusalem hasn’t been hit with rocket fire since 1970, when two Katyushas were fired from the Palestinian village of Batir.
The M-75s (or Fajr-5 missiles, depending on the report) that landed in an open space south of Jerusalem on Friday, in Gush Etzion, were labeled by Hamas as “surprises.”
This is Hezbollah terminology. In Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s hands, the psychological potency of his threats have often been enormous.
During the first days of the 2006 Second Lebanon War he, too, promised surprises, and shortly thereafter on July 14 Hezbollah fired a C-802 surface-to-sea missile, striking and nearly sinking an Israeli Navy missile ship.
Hamas, however, stripped of most of its long-range weapons and of its supreme commander, appears to be flailing (though not cowed, by any means). The “surprises” landed in open space approximately 8 miles shy of Jerusalem, the very extreme limit of Hamas’s rocket range.
The rockets proved that Hamas is willing to fire at a city holy to Islam and at an area where many Muslims live but, as opposed to Hezbollah, it was unable to inflict damage.
More encouragingly, it is increasingly fabricating achievements. Three hours before the rockets were fired, the organization claimed to have hit the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Thursday witnessed a flurry of false claims, including the killing of several soldiers on a jeep.
“This is a positive sign,” said Lt. Col Avital Leibovich of the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, noting that it spoke to a sense of desperation and a dearth of true achievements.
That said, Friday’s fire is also a show of defiance and an escalation.
Terror organizations, when facing the IDF, have a comparatively infinitesimal weapons supply. Their strategic goal, therefore, in terms of their ability to deter the IDF, is to use those weapons wisely, ratcheting up the pressure with each increase in range.
This is why Nasrallah promised to hit targets “ba’ad, ba’ad Haifa” (beyond, beyond Haifa) toward the end of the Second Lebanon War. This enabled him to respond to each massive Israeli increase in pressure by snaking his fire ever-further south, toward Tel Aviv.
Hamas seeks a similar achievement — to be able to continue firing rockets throughout the conflict — and in that way to deny Israel a tangible success, and to remain armed with at least one more escalation at all times.
Its fire on Jerusalem Friday, as Jews around the country prepared to light Shabbat candles, was an unsuccessful expression of that desire.