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 Military Official Says Israel Invasion of Gaza Is Likely

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PostSubject: Military Official Says Israel Invasion of Gaza Is Likely   Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:01 pm

Military Official Says Israel Invasion of Gaza Is Likely

By JODI RUDORENJULY 16, 2014

Photo


An Israeli artillery unit deployed next to the border with Gaza on Wednesday.  Credit Atef Safadi/European Pressphoto Agency  
TEL AVIV — Even as Israel and Hamas agreed to suspend hostilities briefly on Thursday at the request of the United Nations, a senior Israeli military official said that his government was increasingly likely to order a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip that it had hoped to avoid.
Though Israel initially set limited goals of halting the rocket assaults against it and degrading Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates Gaza, the group’s tenacity and surprisingly deep arsenal have led to widespread calls to expand the mission. The military official said only “boots on the ground” could eradicate terrorism from Gaza and indicated that Israel was even considering a long-term reoccupation of the coastal territory.
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But with the Palestinian death toll reaching 214 on Wednesday, Israel and the Gaza militants agreed to end the violence for five hours on Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For Israel, it was a move that might help mitigate international criticism of rising civilian casualties, and that carried little cost: The military warned that if Hamas or other groups “exploited” the “humanitarian window” to attack Israel, it would “respond firmly and decisively.”




The daily tally of rocket attacks, airstrikes and deaths in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.




Hours earlier, Israel called up 8,000 reservists in addition to the 42,000 troops already mobilized. With no progress reported from Cairo, where President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority had gone to discuss terms to end the fighting, Israel’s airstrikes intensified despite what the military official acknowledged were diminishing returns.
“Every day that passes makes the possibility more evident,” the military official said of a ground campaign. The official, who has been briefing Israeli ministers responsible for strategic decisions and spoke on the condition of anonymity under military protocol, said that his assessment was based on “the signals I get” and that the likelihood of an invasion was “very high.”

“We can hurt them very hard from the air but not get rid of them,” he told a handful of international journalists in a briefing at the military’s Tel Aviv headquarters. An Israeli takeover of Gaza would not be “a huge challenge,” he said, estimating that it would take “a matter of days or weeks.” But he added that preventing a more dangerous deterioration in the territory would require a presence “of many months.”

The stark assessment came as Israel bombed scores of targets, many of them homes in northern Gaza, after warning 100,000 residents via leaflets, text messages and automated telephone calls to evacuate by 8 a.m. Palestinian health officials said that more than 1,500 people had been injured since the Israeli operation began July 8, and that several young children, including four boys on a beach, were killed in strikes on Wednesday.
The lone Israeli casualty, a 37-year-old man killed by a mortar round as he distributed food to soldiers Tuesday night near the Erez crossing into Gaza, was eulogized by Israel’s president-elect, Reuven Rivlin, at an afternoon funeral.

In Washington, President Obama called for both sides to exercise restraint, and Secretary of State John Kerry continued making phone calls to the region. “The Israeli people and the Palestinian people don’t want to live like this,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “We will use all of our diplomatic resources and relationships to support efforts of closing a deal on a cease-fire.”

Mr. Obama reiterated his support for Israel while expressing sorrow over civilian casualties. “Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks,” he said. “But over the past two weeks, we’ve all been heartbroken by the violence, especially the death and injury of so many innocent civilians in Gaza.”

Photo


Palestinians on Wednesday sat near the house of Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, after it was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike.  Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times  
The Israeli military said that 132 rockets had been fired toward Israel on Wednesday, and that 33 of them had been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile-defense system, including several over Tel Aviv and the southern city of Ashkelon.
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Featured Comment

 
TP
New York, N.Y.
Hamas is making it so, so very difficult to support the Palestinians and champion their cause.



“We will use as much force as necessary in order to bring back the quiet to the people of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told mayors of the battered southern cities on Wednesday, according to his office.

Mark Regev, Mr. Netanyahu’s spokesman, said an invasion of Gaza was “definitely an option.”

“It’s being discussed,” he said. “I can’t go beyond that.” Asked about the military official’s characterization of the likelihood as “very high,” Mr. Regev said, “That’s a professional opinion of the military.” Then he added, “But you can be assured that opinion was expressed by the military to the political wing.”

Mr. Netanyahu has been fending off demands for a ground operation from some members of his cabinet and party. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has been at turns partner and rival to the prime minister, reiterated his call for a more substantial campaign against Hamas on Wednesday, as did Yuval Steinitz, the minister of strategic affairs, who has been a Netanyahu stalwart and frequent mouthpiece.

“It is not possible to ensure summer vacation, a normal summer for our kids, without a ground operation in Gaza,” Mr. Lieberman said during a visit to Ashkelon.
“We don’t need to rule Gaza or build settlements in Gaza,” he added. “We need to ensure that all Hamas terrorists run away, are imprisoned or die.”

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At an appearance at the White House, the president discussed the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Mr. Steinitz said in a radio interview that it was possible Israel would begin a ground campaign in the next few days. He urged Israel to take over Gaza for a few weeks to demilitarize it, topple Hamas and pave the way for “something else.”
But the senior military official said it would not be so simple.

“We estimate that sitting there and eliminating Hamas terrorism from the Gaza Strip is a matter of many months. It’s not a matter of two or three months; it’s much more than that,” he said. “We have a very good idea of what does it mean to take over Gaza Strip in all aspects: military, civilian, infrastructure, economical. We have a very good idea, and I think it’s one of the issues that the Israeli government should consider very seriously.”
He added: “That’s a huge burden on anybody who would do it. Everything has its own prices.”

The official said the military had a variety of operational plans, including one for a full reoccupation of Gaza, which Israel seized in the 1967 war and withdrew settlers and soldiers from in 2005. But he said it had also considered other options, like “taking specific parts of the strip, taking places with tunnels, places with rockets.”
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Recent Comments

 
Janet
6 minutes ago
Please share more of what life is like for ordinary Israelis. The reporting's focus on collateral damage in Gaza neglects to emphasize that...
 
SBS
7 minutes ago
Israel vacated Gaza in 2005 leaving working farms and industry in working order. Thousands of Gazans and West Bank Palestinians had jobs in...
 
r.j. paquin
8 minutes ago
Those in Gaza have said via a legitimate ballot they agree with the policies of Hamas.Hamas is getting those rockets somewhere, somehow; who...



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The current campaign, Israel’s third major military operation in Gaza in six years, followed mounting tensions after the June 12 abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers who were hitchhiking home in the occupied West Bank — a crime Israel blamed Hamas for — and the July 2 kidnapping and killing of a 16-year-old Palestinian in Jerusalem, which the authorities say was a revenge attack by Jewish extremists.
By Wednesday, Israel had struck more than 1,800 sites in Gaza — topping the 1,500 targets hit over eight days in November 2012, when 167 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. The more intense Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009 lasted three weeks, included a ground invasion, and killed 13 Israelis and about 1,400 Palestinians.
Photo


Israeli soldiers at a deployment area near the Gaza Strip. Over 40,000 troops are mobilized.  Credit Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images  
The Israeli leaflets dropped in northern Gaza and some neighborhoods of Gaza City this week warned, “Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families.”
It was unclear how many Gaza residents were heeding the call; Hamas has urged people to stay put, calling the warnings “psychological warfare.” But it was also clear that any military campaign of this magnitude in such a densely populated area would inevitably lead to civilian casualties.
In the poor neighborhoods of Zeitoun and Shejaya in Gaza City, streets were emptier than usual, but a few children flew kites and some men sat in the shade. Many people appeared confused, with some seeking shelter in friends’ homes deeper inside the neighborhoods rather than leaving.

“We don’t know where we’re going,” said Mohammed Dalul, who was driving a donkey cart with his six children and an older neighbor. “We’re going aimlessly.”

The neighbor, Naziha Rukhneh, said, “Nobody is looking after us.”

Around noon on Wednesday, eight rockets were launched simultaneously from nearby. A few minutes later, the sound of a warplane was followed by that of a bomb dropping.
The senior Israeli military official said the campaign had entered “a higher level of operation” but had not yet div

“The point will be the exact time when the Israeli government will decide we are going to change method,” he said. “When they feel the current method or the current concept is no longer working for them, I believe they will order the military to do something else.”
“A ground campaign,” he added, “will be much messier.”

Reporting was contributed by Anne Barnard, Fares Akram and Tyler Hicks from Gaza; Isabel Kershner from Ashkelon, Israel; and Peter Baker from Washington.



http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/17/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-strip.html?smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0


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