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Why Israel is wary of getting into another Gaza war

Despite pledges by Israel and Hamas to restore calm amid the worst violence since the 2009 Gaza war, Israeli aircraft fired on the Gaza Strip as militants launched rockets within 16 miles of to Tel Aviv.

By Correspondent / March 24, 2011

A Palestinian man walks next to a smuggling tunnel following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, on the border between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, March 24. Israeli aircraft struck militant targets in the Gaza Strip on Thursday in response to rocket and mortar fire, stoking concerns that a grave new round of hostilities will fill the vacuum left by an impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Eyad Baba/AP

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Tel Aviv

Fighting along the Israeli-Gaza border that has killed at least 11 people continued Thursday for the sixth-straight day, despite parallel pledges by Israel and Hamas to restore calm amid the worst violence since the 2009 Gaza war.

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Israeli aircraft on Thursday fired on low-profile targets such as border smuggling tunnels, while Gaza militants launched mortars and homemade rockets into southern Israel. One rocket even struck within 16 miles of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

Still, with both governments facing wary populaces, it appears unlikely for now that the violence will quickly escalate into a full-blown war. Gazans still blame Hamas for escalating the deadly war two years ago. And Israeli officials – despite absorbing a week of rocket attacks and yesterday's Jerusalem bombing that killed one person and injured 30 – find the idea of a broad offensive unappealing at a time when the peace process is moribund and the region is awash in protests.

"The whole Middle East is topsy turvy, and nothing is clear," says Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the US. "Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing to do with the unrest that goes all the way from Morocco to Afghanistan, it would not be an advisable step for Israel to give in to the provocations of factors like the Islamic jihad, which would very much want to put Israel in the center."

The pressure is on

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel must act prudently and responsibly to preserve a calm that has been a "blessing" for Israelis. Still, the pressure is still on him.

"The idea of attrition isn’t acceptable to me," Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said, commenting on the rockets out of Gaza on Thursday. "We need to respond aggressively and hit infrastructure."

But without major casualties from the rocket attacks, Israel may have a hard time drumming up diplomatic support for a major push into Gaza.

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