On February 6, Israel once again resumed its air strikes against the population of Gaza, killing nine Hamas affiliated police officers and injuring 13 others. Israel claimed the attack was in retaliation for a suicide bombing on February 4 which claimed the life of one woman and injured six others in the southern Israeli city of Dimona.
While responsibility for the bombing was claimed initially by the Fatah-aligned Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Jihad and the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades (the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), Hamas, which won the 2006 Palestinian Authority (PA) elections, claimed full responsibility for the bombing on February 6.
According to a statement issued by Hamas's armed wing, the Izz al Din al-Qassam Brigades, those responsible for the bombing were not from the Gaza Strip and had not entered Israel from Egypt after the detonation of the wall between Gaza and Egypt, as Israel had claimed. The detonation of the wall had broken the total Israeli siege on Gaza, allowing hundreds of thousands of people to temporarily enter Egypt and stock up on supplies of basic goods and necessities denied by the siege.
Instead the bombers were from the West Bank city of Hebron. The statement noted that the attack was in response to Israel's "barbaric and inhumane" blockade of Gaza.
The Israeli Haaretz newspaper on February 6 quoted Hamas's representative in Iran, Dr Abu Osama Abd al-Moti, as saying: "For more than a year, we stopped [attacks of all kinds] but the Zionist enemy continued in its aggression and degraded the ceasefire on the part of the resistance.
"The message of the operation in Dimona is that Izz al-Din al-Qassam declared the renewal of suicide operations, and the enemy should expect additional operations."
The suicide bombing was the first carried out by Hamas in more than four years — the last attack coming in 2004. Since February 2005, Hamas also declared a self-imposed ceasefire, which saw the Izz al Din al-Qassam brigades refrain from firing poorly made "qassam" rockets into Israel.
The rockets — derisively called "flying iron" by the Israeli military as they have no guidance or accurate launching system and rarely hit their targets — were first launched in 2001.
Hamas's unilateral ceasefire, which it held for 16 months, was not reciprocated in any way by Israel, which continued its military operations, including targeting Hamas leaders as well as civilians.
In 2006, Hamas briefly resumed firing qassams in response to the killing of seven members of the Ghalia family, five of them children, in June on the beach at Beit Lahya in Gaza. The family, who were picnicking, were killed when Israeli naval ships fired shells indiscriminately on the crowded beach. Another 20 people were seriously injured.
At the time, Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri told CNN that it was "impossible to remain silent" after viewing the "terrifying pictures of women and children killed on the beach".
Hamas, however, refrained from recommencing suicide attacks. Following the initial attack in response to the Ghalia family deaths, Hamas once again re-imposed a ceasefire for more than a year, only resuming the firing of qassam rockets in response to the illegal Israeli siege and economic blockade of the civilian population of Gaza, which has resulted in major reductions in the supply of badly needed fuel and electricity.
Israeli government spokesperson, Mark Regev, told Haaretz on February 6: "We are obliged as a government to take the necessary steps to protect our people and we will continue to do so. Those extremists shooting rockets are a legitimate target and we will act surgically to strike against hardcore terrorist cells."
Regev's statement ignores the fact that Israel for decades has fired indiscriminately into Palestinian civilian population centres both in the West Bank and Gaza. In the two month period between the US-hosted Annapolis "peace" conference in November last year, and the end of January, Israel killed more than 145 Palestinians.
New York-based Human Rights Watch noted in its 2007 annual report that Israeli soldiers who killed Palestinian civilians enjoyed impunity. The report, released on January 31, noted that the "Israeli army's continued failure to investigate civilian death and injury" where there was evidence of a violation of international law "reinforces a culture of impunity in the army and robs victims of an effective remedy".
Former PA minister for information, Mustafa Barghouti told Al Jazeera that "Israeli arrogance is to blame for what is taking place now". He pointed out that although "the Palestinian resistance groups did not carry out any bombing attacks in 2007, Israel continued its state terrorism and killed 452 Palestinians".
Barghouti noted that the suicide bombing was "a response to the deafening international silence over what is taking place in Gaza Strip".
According to the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, since the start of the current intifada in September 2000, almost 4000 Palestinian civilians have been killed by the Israeli military, including 867 children, while 705 Israeli civilians, including 119 children, have died as a result of Palestinian resistance attacks.