JERUSALEM, Israel -- Palestinian rocket and mortar fire on southern Israel never stopped Wednesday, climbing to more than 80 attacks by the end of the day when Egypt mediated a ceasefire that took effect at midnight.
Since Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gush Katif Settlement Bloc in Gaza in the summer of 2005, the sequence has been repeated regularly. It goes like this:
Palestinians fire rockets and mortars -- and sometimes longer-range Grad-type missiles -- at southern Israeli communities. The Israel Defense Forces responds by targeting munitions factories, weapons warehouses, launch pads and the like -- and sometimes the terrorists themselves.
Each time Israel retaliates for rocket fire, the IDF Spokesman's Office says it holds Hamas "solely responsible." This time, Hamas claimed responsibility for Wednesday's assaults, which injured five people, three critically, damaged seven homes, and brought life to a halt within a 24-mile radius of the border with Gaza.
"The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians and will operate against anyone who uses terror against the State of Israel. The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip."
Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of Egypt, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi said "We don't accept that people of Palestine be besieged."
For Morsi and other Islamists, Israel -- not Palestinian rockets, roadside bombs, attempted kidnappings, sniper fire or even terrorists girded with explosive belts -- is the problem.
Israeli supporters and others say no other country in the world would tolerate daily rocket fire -- now topping 10,000 attacks -- as Israel has. Israeli families have lived under the daily threat of rocket fire for more than a dozen years.
"We did not choose this escalation, nor did we initiate it," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters at the scene of an anti-missile site in the south Wednesday. "But if it continues, we are prepared for a much wider and deeper operation."
Despite the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire that went into effect at midnight, Palestinians fired a mortar at Israel Thursday morning, this time with no injuries or property damage.
Some say Hamas is feeling pretty confident after Tuesday's state visit of a 50-member Qatari delegation, led by Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to Gaza.
"The emir's visit is a huge diplomatic victory for Hamas and a severe blow to moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority," Khaled Abu Toameh said in an op-ed posted by the Gatestone Institute Thursday.
"The visit has actually solidified the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, turning Abbas's effort to establish an independent Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines into a fantasy," he continued.
"If he [P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas] tried to establish a Palestinian state on the West Bank alone, [he] would be accused of 'abandoning" the dream of creating a full, united, Palestinian state and of dividing Palestine into two states," Toameh wrote.