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Why Hamas is a growing challenge for Israel

Saturday's suicide bombings at Kerem Shalom are part of a shift toward the tactics of Lebanon-based Hizbullah, presenting Israel with a new-old dilemma: invade or try to broker a cease-fire.

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Even as Jimmy Carter was seeking a promise from Hamas leaders this weekend to cease rocket attacks on Israel, the militant organization launched what a top Israeli army commander called its most aggressive cross-border attempt since Palestinians took over the Gaza Strip in 2005.

On Saturday, militants using jeeps disguised as Israeli army vehicles approached an Israeli border crossing and detonated the vehicles in twin suicide attacks that injured 13. A senior leader promised that worse was to come if Israel, which responded with airstrikes that killed seven militants, doesn't loosen Gaza's "siege" – a 10-month economic blockade of the territory.

The uptick in border-fence attacks – Saturday's was the fourth in less than a month – increasingly suggests that Hamas is emulating the tactics of the Lebanon-based Hizbullah militant group, adding a new dimension to the conflict with Israel. A border ambush last Wednesday helped push the casualty toll this year of Israeli soldiers killed inside Gaza to eight, on pace with the annual death rate inflicted by Hizbullah in southern Lebanon in the late 1990s.

"They have a new tactic now," says Michael Oren, a military historian and author of the recent book, "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present."


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