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IAF Strikes Gaza; Hamas and Jihad Members in Hiding

Thirty-nine people were injured and one killed in yesterday’s bombing at a bus stop in Jerusalem, credit for which was taken by the Al-Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad. The dead woman has been identified as a British tourist. Two officials of Islamic Jihad, Khaled Jaradat and Tarek Kaadan, were arrested in Jenin by Palestinian Authority policemen on suspicion of involvement in the bombing. The suspects have not, as far as I am aware, been turned over to the Israelis. The Israeli police, who are on high alert, have said that they do not believe the Jerusalem bombing to be directly connected to the escalation in rocket fire from Gaza.

Hamas praised the Jerusalem bombing as a “natural response to Israeli crimes” and at the same time declared a state of emergency in Gaza in anticipation of IDF retaliation for the increased rocket fire. Palestinian journalists, speaking to the Jerusalem Post, said members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have turned off their cell phones and gone into hiding.

Hamas officials are quoted as saying they have reached out to Egypt — not for military reinforcement, but to prevent open war between Hamas and Israel. Hamas, which continues to claim that it does not want a confrontation with us just yet (presumably until sufficient hardware arrives from Iran), appears to be either divided upon itself or unable to control either its own more extreme members or the other violent factions in Gaza. Hamas remains the de facto leadership, however, and is being held directly accountable by the Israeli government for all violence emanating from Gaza. Gazan Palestinians, Hamas or otherwise, are continuing to fire at Israel; five mortars and two rockets were shot into Israeli territory last night and another rocket at Ashkelon this morning.

The IAF conducted four strikes in the Gaza Strip at dawn today (Thursday). The targets were smuggling tunnels, a Hamas training camp and a power transformer. No injuries were reported. IDF Home Front Command has instructed residents of Beersheva, Ashkelon and Ashdod to stay close to home and near bomb shelters today. Schools remain closed in all three cities. Yesterday, the IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration transfered an 8-year-old Palestinian child from the Gaza Strip to Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot after he was injured by an Israeli mortar during the clashes on Tuesday.