"The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites and operatives in the Gaza Strip, chief among them Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets," the IDF announced this morning, signaling a new round of escalation under the name of Operation Pillar of Cloud. Ahmed Jaabari, head of the group's Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam brigades, was reportedly killed by the IAF. Further targeted killings of military commanders are expected. Rocket launching sites are also being bombed: so far, there is no hint of a ground incursion despite the rocket firing paralyzing civilian life in southern Israel though the IDF today announced that is it prepared to carry one out, a declaration it's made every time the two sides have exchange heavy fire since 2009.
While there's suggestions of this being part of an effort to prep world opinion for another war in Gaza Sol Salbe notes the similarities in the Israeli media's tone in the winter of 2009, right before Operation Cast Lead began, and the present this is also aimed at Hamas supporters in the region, intending to drive them apart and force their hands.
Since Hamas's leaders with their Fatah re-unity plans again on indefinite hold are now casting about for support from Qatar, Egypt and Turkey, the resumption of IDF assassinations is likely also meant to send a message to those parties.
And though it is unlikely Israel hopes to provoke an Iranian response here, it will have that effect and possibly drive Tehran and Hamas ever-closer together since Iran's statements and actions will obviously not be hampered by military agreements with the US. Here, for Iran, is an opportunity to reassert itself in Gaza, which is an unfortunate development for those in Hamas who've grown skeptical of the Damascus-Tehran alliance like its political chief, Khaled Meshaal.