Benjamin Netanyahu warns Hamas that Israel is prepared to do anything to defend its people.
The prime minister clearly decided that the 120 missiles launched from Gaza since Saturday could not be allowed to go unanswered, particularly as he faces an election on January 22. But the Israeli political timetable does not provide the sole explanation for the timing of this assault.
Over the last few weeks, the flow of rockets has escalated and, most importantly, Hamas appears to have changed its strategy. The radical Islamist movement, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, has often adopted a position of calculated ambiguity towards rocket attacks, many of which have been launched by other armed groups. Whether or not Hamas approved has often been left open; on occasion, its operatives have chosen to deny culpability.
In the last few weeks, however, Hamas officials have openly claimed responsibility for launching rockets, describing them as retaliation for earlier Israeli air strikes.