Documenting the rocket fire in real time (GazaNow YouTube channel, January 15, 2020).
IDF planes attack the Gaza Strip during the night (QudsN Facebook page, January 16, 2020).
The Sons of al-Zawari in Khan Yunis display detonators and fuses (Sons of al-Zawari in Khan Yunis' Facebook page, January 15, 2020).
- In ITIC assessment Hamas has enabled the renewal of the launching of incendiary and IED balloons, accompanied by a propaganda campaign. That was done to exert pressure on Israel to accelerate the lull arrangement, which Hamas claims is being delayed by difficulties caused by Israel (al-Akhbar, January 16 and 18, 2020). Since the return marches began, Hamas has adopted a policy of exerting controlled pressure on Israel at a level that will not lead to an overall military confrontation. The pressure on Israel is also meant to send the message to Egypt that the difficulties in its relations with Hamas (which began with the recent Hamas visit to Iran) are liable to have negative consequences for the security situation in the Gaza Strip.
- As to rocket fire, there has been repeated sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory since November 2019 (the last round of escalation). Between November 25, 2019 and January 15, 2020 (the most recent rocket launches) 14 rockets were fired at Israel. In ITIC assessment, so-called “rogue” terrorist operatives from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and perhaps other minor networks are behind the sporadic rocket fire. While the rocket fire is not carried out by Hamas, in ITIC assessment Hamas apparently does not take sufficiently effective measures to put a stop to it. Hamas has also made no public statements condemning the sporadic rocket fire, but at the same time does publicly condemn Israel for responding to the attacks.
Sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip in the past two months
Rocket Fire into Israeli Territory
- The rocket fire of the past two months indicates the consolidation of a policy of continuous sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel, showing a pattern:
- In each rocket fire attack between one and four rockets are fired, most of them relatively short range, and for the most part they target the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip (although one was fired at the southern coastal city of Ashqelon).
- Hamas does not participate in the rocket fire, which is carried out by rogue organizations or operatives who do not claim responsibility for attacks.
The most recent rocket fire event
- On the afternoon of January 15, 2020, four rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. Two were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system and two fell in open areas. No casualties or damage were reported.
- In response to the rocket fire IDF aircraft attacked a number of Hamas targets in the northern Gaza Strip, among them a site for the manufacture of weapons and a military compound (IDF spokesman, January 15, 2020). According to reports from the Gaza Strip, among the targets attacked by the IDF were a former civil administration facility in northern Jabalia and a post used by Hamas’ naval force (Twitter account of Gazan journalist Hassan Aslih, January 15, 2020)
Right: IDF attack on Hamas’ naval force post (Twitter account of Gazan journalist Hassan Aslih, January 15, 2020). Left: IDF aircraft attack in the Gaza Strip (Palinfo Twitter account, January 16, 2020).
IDF planes attack the Gaza Strip during the night (QudsN Facebook page, January 16, 2020).
- As in the past, senior Hamas figures and activists of the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March condemned the IDF attack, without relating to the rocket fire which prompted it:
- Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the attack in the Gaza Strip was a continuation of Israel’s [so-called] “unending aggression” towards the Gaza Strip, in addition to the “siege” (Palinfo Twitter account, January 15, 2020).
- Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the Supreme National Authority and a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s (DFLP) political bureau, said Israel would be responsible for all the consequences of its attacks. He appealed to Egypt to do something to stop the attacks on the Gaza Strip (al-Ghad TV, January 15, 2020).
Rocket fire since the end of the round of escalation in November 2019
- After the last round of rocket fire (November 12-14, 2019), during which approximately 560 rockets and mortar shells were launched into Israeli territory, a ceasefire was reached. However, about a week and a half later the rocket fire was renewed, and so far 14 rockets have been fired:
- January 15, 2020: Four rockets were fired into Israeli territory. Two were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system.
- December 25, 2019: A rocket was fired at Ashqelon. It was intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system.
- December 19, 2019: A rocket was fired at the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip. It exploded in an open area.
- December 18, 2019: A rocket was fired at the southern Israeli town of Sderot. It was intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system.
- December 7, 2019: Three rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at Sderot and the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip. The three rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system.
- November 29, 2019: Rockets were fired at Ashqelon and the communities near the Gaza Strip. One rocket fell in an open area.
- November 26, 2019: Two rockets were fired at the communities near the Gaza Strip. One was intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system, the other fell in an open area.
- November 25, 2019: A rocket was fired at the communities near the northern Gaza Strip. It fell in an open area
The Renewal of The Launching of Incendiary and IED Balloons
- Palestinian and Arab sources claimed that the Sons of al-Zawari had launched dozens of incendiary and IED balloons into Israeli territory (Sawa, January 18, 2020; al-Akhbar, January 16, 2020). According to an Israel Police source, so far six clusters of incendiary and IED balloons have been identified in Israeli territory, two of them in Sderot and one on the coast of the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. So far no casualties or damage have been reported.
The Sons of al-Zawari in Khan Yunis display detonators and fuses (Sons of al-Zawari in Khan Yunis’ Facebook page, January 15, 2020).
- Examples of incendiary and IED balloons located in Israeli territory:
- January 15, 2020: During the night a pipe bomb attached to a balloon was located in Sderot. It was neutralized by the Israel Police Force.
- On January 16, 2020, an IED was found attached to a balloon cluster in an agricultural area in the western Negev (Field Security News, January 16, 2020). An incendiary balloon cluster was located in an open area in the western Negev. In response the IDF attacked a Hamas target in the northern Gaza Strip.
- On January 17, 2020, a balloon cluster with a small IED attached to it was found in the Ashdod beach. It was neutralized by a demolitions expert (Ynet, January 17, 2020).
- January 18, 2020: A balloon cluster was found in a public playground in the city of Sderot. A demolitions expert neutralized the small IED attached to the cluster. During the day balloon launches were observed from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. Some of them exploded in the air and others landed in open areas (Ynet, January 18, 2020).
- In the meantime, Palestinian sources reported that the Night Harassment Units would renew their activities shortly if no progress was made in implementing the lull understandings (al-Akhbar, January 18, 2020).
Media reports regarding the background for the renewal of launching the balloons
- According to reports in the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, the renewal of the launching of incendiary and IED balloons is intended to exert pressure on Israel, allegedly because were difficulties Israel was making in implementing the lull understandings. Al-Akhbar claimed that many understandings relating to improving living conditions in the Gaza Strip had been rejected by Israel, among them supplying the power plant with gas, increasing the amount of electricity imported into the Gaza Strip, and finding a “sustainable economic alternative” to the money from Qatar. Hamas insists that “Israel’s delaying tactics cannot be passed over in silence, and that the lull in the Gaza Strip will not be given [to Israel] for free” (al-Akhbar, January 18, 2020).
- In another article, Al-Akhbar reported that launching balloons was meant to send the message to Egypt that Hamas relations with it were in a state of crisis because of the visits of Hamas and the PIJ delegations to Iran (the delegations went to the funeral held for Qassem Soleimani and also met with senior Iranian officials). It was also reported that Egypt had not sent gas to the Gaza Strip for a number of days because it planned to raise its price and impose taxes on other items imported to the Gaza Strip (al-Akhbar, January 16, 2020).
- Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the Supreme National Authority, called the balloons “individual measures taken by revolutionary young men.” He called the launching of balloons the “natural response” to Israel’s continued delay in implementing steps to break the “siege.” He said the balloons were meant to force Israel to implement steps to break the “siege.” Asked if a decision had also been made to renew the activities of the Night Harassment Units, he said that “if Israel continues dragging its feet, all options are open” (al-Ayn, January 16, 2020).
 On the night of November 16, 2019, two rocket launches were identified from the Gaza Strip, targeting Beersheba. Apparently Hamas was behind the attack, since during the round of escalation Hamas did not fire rockets into Israel. The launches were apparently Hamas' way of having the last word in the escalation and therefore the rockets were not included in the statistics. ↑
 In April 2019, Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the DFLP's political bureau and of the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March, said an informal understanding had been reached to stop the use of "violent measures" along the Gaza Strip border. That included the stopping of the activities of the Night Harassment Units and the launching of incendiary and IED balloons (Dunia al-Watan, April 4, 2019). According to an article in al-Quds, in view of the progress made in the process for a lull arrangement, Hamas and the PIJ had instructed their operatives to completely stop the launching of balloons and the nighttime activities along the border (al-Quds, April 4, 2020). ↑