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Palestinian militants fired rockets deeper into Israel than before, with one rocket fired from Gaza reaching the central Israeli city of Hadera. The demonstration of militants' increased capabilities is likely to fuel the rapidly escalating conflict.
Israel ratcheted up its operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip overnight, bombing more than 100 targets, while Hamas fired more than 160 rockets. Concerns about a possible Israeli ground invasion are growing.
It is unclear how Hamas obtained the rocket, an M-302 that reached Hadera. Similar Iranian-supplied arms were intercepted by the Israeli navy in the Red Sea several months ago. Hadera is about 30 miles north of Tel Aviv, meaning that Israel's biggest city and commercial capital, as well as its main airport, are within reach of the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s minister for internal security, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, told a local TV station that the operation “won’t end in a day, and it won’t end in two days; it will take time.”
Since the start of the Israeli offensive, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” 24 Palestinians have been killed. Yesterday, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the call-up of 40,000 reservists. While he has seemed hesitant to launch a ground assault, The New York Times reports that he is under pressure from the Israeli public to stage a stronger response.
Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security advisor, told the Times, “If we don’t find a solution through this exchange of fire, and Hamas won’t understand what we can do, we’ll have no other choice than to do the big operation that we don’t want to do today.”
The BBC’s Kevin Connolly reports from Jerusalem that the sharp uptick in military action makes it hard to see what an "endgame" will look like.
Hamas will find it difficult to walk away from this round of conflict without something to persuade its own people that the death and destruction in Gaza has achieved something. It will want prisoners released as part of a deal. Israel will be reluctant.
The pressure of public opinion too weighs on Israel, which has talked in terms of a final end to the rocket threat from Gaza. That's a tall order when Israel itself estimates that Hamas has a stockpile of 10,000.
Such cycles of conflict have ended in the past of course – as recently as November 2012 – but for now the talk is of deterioration, when last week the buzzword was de-escalation.
As the Monitor reported yesterday, when a cease-fire was reached in 2012, it was only “after Israel amassed 75,000 reservists on the border and threatened to invade.” However, Hamas is now in a weaker position then it was in 2012, and may be less interested in or able to compromise.
Hamas is effectively bankrupt and has lost much of the popularity that swept it to power in 2006. It has lost powerful regional allies and patrons, including Iran, Syria, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and its reconciliation last month with secular rival Fatah failed to bring the financial and political boost expected.
Egypt remains a possible intermediary with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asking Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to intervene.