Second day of violence may trigger Israel-Hamas escalation
A series of rocket attacks have spurred calls in the Israeli government for an invasion of Gaza.
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The latest round of violence appears to have Israel preparing for a new offensive against Hamas. Haaretz reports that several members of the Israeli Knesset have called for an invasion of Gaza to prevent further rocket attacks.
"The State of Israel must make a strategic decision to order the IDF to prepare quickly to topple the Hamas terror regime and take over all the areas from which rockets are fired on Israel," MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) told Israel Radio. He said the IDF should prepare to remain in those areas for years.
MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) said his party would back an invasion of Gaza, though he fell short of advocating reoccupation.
"There is no doubt that the security response needs to include a ground component," said Sa'ar. He said the "takeover of territory in the northern Strip" from which the Palestinians launch rockets at Israel would reduce the barrages from Gaza.
Such an invasion may be in the works. The Associated Press reports that while "Israel does not intend to launch a major ground offensive in the next week or two... the army has now completed its preparations and informed the government it's ready to move immediately when the order is given," according to an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity. And The New York Sun writes that Israel has begun to inform foreign intermediaries between Israel and the Palestinians that a major offensive may be on the way.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a closed-door meeting with aides yesterday in Jerusalem that Israel has begun preparing "the international community" — foreign officials involved in negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs, including a former British prime minister, Tony Blair — for a "large ground operation" in Gaza, several Israeli press outlets reported.
"If there is one more fatality, Israel may have to go in," a Western diplomat who asked not to be named said. Since the killing Wednesday of Roni Yihye by a rocket from Gaza — the first such Israeli fatality in several months — a growing number of Israeli officials, opinion makers, and politicians have searched for ways to counter the increasing accuracy and range of the Palestinian Arab rockets.
"This is not an easy decision, but it may be necessary. We have to break the Hamas military power," a former Israeli deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh, told The New York Sun.