What's the endgame for Israel and Hamas in Gaza?
Israeli troops moved deeper into Gaza City Sunday and pounded Rafah from the air. Hamas rejected plans for international peacekeepers in Gaza.
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"It is possible that Israel will occupy all of Gaza and create a situation in which the regime cannot function," says General Eiland. "The question is whether it's possible and whether we're ready to pay the price. There are two possible goals: one is to obtain a cease-fire, two, the more ambitious of them, is the collapse of Hamas.Skip to next paragraph
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"Or there is something in between," he adds. "If we want to make sure that there is no smuggling of weapons [from Egypt into Gaza], we can reoccupy the city of Rafah and its neighborhoods ... since the [Israeli] army doesn't trust the Egyptians to stop that."
Israel continued to bombard Gaza over the weekend, attacking 60 targets on Saturday alone that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) said were connected to Hamas, including the home of its military commander, Ahmed Jabri. On Sunday, Israeli forces moved south toward Gaza City, the Strip's most densely populated area, killing at least 27 Palestinians, according to Palestinian medical sources.
It's unclear whether Israel is ramping up the Gaza campaign and moving into what was predicted to be a third and final phase, or that this is a continuation of the same lethal force it has been using since it began the offensive on Dec. 27 with the stated goal of ending Hamas's rocket attacks.
On Saturday night, Mashaal said Hamas would not agree to any permanent cease-fire with Israel. One aspect of the French-Egyptian proposal includes the possibility of sending in international observers, which neither Israel nor Hamas seemed keen to accept.
Mashaal, who was in Cairo over the weekend to discuss the cease-fire proposal, said that any international peacekeeping force sent to Gaza would be seen as an occupying entity. He also said that Hamas could not accept the inspection of Gaza's numerous smuggling tunnels by international observers. "The objective of the war in Gaza is to subdue the Palestinian people and to dictate its political concessions," Mashaal said.
Israeli officials reject the suggestion that they have made a decision to overthrow Hamas. But one, who requested anonymity, acknowledged that it was one of many "contingency plans" the Israeli military is weighing.
Following the weekly Sunday cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, an Israeli government spokesman said that Israel has no intention of retaking the Gaza Strip, which it occupied from 1967 to 2005. The spokesman, Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel, pointed to a steep drop in the number of rockets fired from Gaza each day as a mark of Hamas's launching capabilities being curbed. There were 70 missiles a day coming into Israel at the beginning of the operation, and now there are about 20, Mr. Yehezkel told reporters.