Maybe it was envy that the world's attention was shifted to other Arab hot spots. Or maybe it was precisely because of these distractions that Hamas figured now would be a good time to resume its attacks on Israel. Maybe, the group thought, no one would notice.
But Israel can't afford not to notice. And now, as a result of a barrage of rockets that hit southern Israel over the weekend, the Israel Defense Force and Hamas are embroiled in the worst escalation of violence in two years.
On Saturday, Hamas launched more than 50 mortar shells from Gaza, striking southern Israel, injuring at least two Israelis, and damaging homes and buildings.
After Israeli planes responded on Monday, a new round of mortar attacks from Gaza struck the region. And on Tuesday, the tensions intensified with Israeli troops reportedly firing in the direction of Palestinians who had launched yet another round of attacks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regret for the unintentional killing of eight civilians in that attack, which included three teenagers.
"It is unfortunate that Hamas continues to rain rockets aimed at the citizens of Israel, while using citizens as human shields," he said. "The State of Israel has no intention to bring about a deterioration in the current situation, but the IDF will continue to act decisively in order to defend the citizens of the State of Israel."
With the Arab world rocked by revolution and repression, the possibility of a two-state solution recedes further and further into oblivion. But one thing is clear, Israel's security needs — and fears — will only intensify with each new round of rocket attacks and each new interception of smuggled weapons attempting to make their way into the region.
Last week, Israel seized a cargo ship filled with concealed arms originating in Iran and headed for Gaza. And twice in the past week, Turkey forced the landing of an Iranian plane, confiscating caches of weapons headed for Syria.
For weeks, we've been riveted to the events unfolding throughout the Middle East, trying to discern the good guys from the bad, which U.S. policies make sense and which don't. There are a lot of questions about the U.S. military action in Libya — like what's the goal and why the Arab League, after begging for international intervention, suddenly has cold feet. But there isn't any question as to who the bad guy is in that country.
Likewise, we know other bad guys, even if they're not taking center stage at the moment. Iran and its surrogate forces, including Hamas, are taking advantage of the developments in Libya and elsewhere to advance their own destabilizing agenda. The fallout could be worse even than what's happening in Libya.
No one can afford not to notice.