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Hamas Gaza Israel attack, blockade Gaza, Israel launches assault on Gaza
Ariel Schalit/AP
Israeli tanks are seen at a staging area near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern
Israel, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. (AP)

As Violence Escalates, What’s Next for Gaza?

December 29, 2008 04:19 PM
by Josh Katz
As the fighting in the Middle East intensifies and a ground assault appears forthcoming, commentators assess the situation between Israel and Hamas.

Gaza Violence Could Become Full-Scale War

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Three days into its military offensive into Hamas-ruled Gaza, Israel has called up 6,500 army reservists and has indicated that it might launch a ground attack. Israel has proclaimed Gaza a closed military zone, a distinction that has heralded ground assaults in the past.

“We have nothing against Gaza residents, but we are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies,” said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, according to the Daily Telegraph. “This operation will expand and deepen as much as needed.”

Israel began launching punishing air strikes on Saturday after Hamas fired dozens of rockets into neighborhoods in southern Israel. Palestinian medical sources indicate that the strikes against Gaza have killed about 320 people and injured 1,400 others over three days.

The Telegraph quotes David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, who urged a halt to the air strikes because they “fuel radicalism.”

According to Agence France-Presse, “The Israeli offensive has sparked protests across the world, with demonstrations held in European capitals, Turkey, Egypt and Syria.” The Jordanian Parliament has called on the government to rethink its peace treaty with Israel, and Turkey said it will cease brokering peace talks between Israel and Syria.

The White House on Monday called on Hamas to stop the rocket fire into Israel and consent to a cease-fire, not placing blame on Israel, Reuters reports.

But on Monday, Hamas launched about 40 more rockets into Israel. Since the Israeli operation began on Saturday, militants in Gaza have sent 250 rockets and mortars across the border, killing two people and injuring another two dozen, according to AFP.

According to Reuters, the Israeli strikes against Gaza are “the fiercest in the coastal enclave since the 1967 Middle East war.”

Opinion & Analysis: New offensive opens up debate about future peace

In The Wall Street Journal, Michael B. Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi argue that a “decisive victory over Hamas” in Gaza is necessary to protect Israel, and to sway public opinion in the direction of a two-state solution. They claim that previous military failures, particularly in Lebanon, damaged Israel’s confidence in a two-state answer because Israel granted Lebanon more autonomy only to suffer more violence and international condemnation. “Without the assurance that they will be allowed to protect their homes and families following withdrawal, Israelis will rightly perceive a two-state solution as an existential threat,” they claim.

Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post is pessimistic about the future in the Middle East, and the legacy of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert represents those feelings. Diehl says that, “The saddest aspect of all this is that Olmert, a former hard-line believer in a ‘greater Israel,’ was more committed than any previous Israeli prime minister to ending the country's conflicts with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians,” yet he will be remembered for engaging in two “mini-wars” in Lebanon and Gaza—one already a complete failure. Olmert was considered a strong supporter of a two-state solution to achieve peace, but now, hardliner Binyamin Netanyahu holds the lead for the next prime minister post, and “If Netanyahu is elected, Barack Obama will be more likely to preside over a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations than a Middle East peace.”

Mick Hume expresses similar sentiments in the Times of London, also noting that taking sides is not as easy as some believe: “There is a tendency to reduce the Middle East to a simplistic morality play where Good battles Evil, projecting our own victim politics on to other people’s complex conflicts,” he writes. “There is much debate about what impact President-elect Obama might have. Yet the history of the Middle East suggests that outside interference offers no solution.”

An editorial from The Christian Science Monitor also examines the role of politics in the Israeli military offensive. “By moving so forcefully in Gaza, Israel appears to be putting immediate concerns ahead of long-term peace prospects,” the Monitor says. “Elections are coming in February, and political leaders undoubtedly feel compelled to prove their security credentials.”
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