The Guardian reports: Israel has launched what it described as an open-ended and escalating offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, as air strikes and naval gunfire hit 50 sites overnight.
As part of a new offensive dubbed “Operation Protective Edge”, Israeli troops have been mobilised along the Gaza border and a limited number of reserves called up for a possible ground invasion.
The strikes came after Israeli army sources said troops were being put on notice of “preparation for escalation”. The Guardian saw columns of tank and armoured personnel carriers moving along the main highway between Jersualem and Erez, on the Gaza border.
Rocket attacks from Gaza – initially from Islamic factions other than Hamas – have been increasing in recent weeks against the backdrop of a major Israeli operation against Hamas on the West Bank following the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers whose bodies were found last week.
Air strikes by Israel, both following the discovery of the bodies and in response to rocket fire, have escalated in recent days despite assessments by analysts in Gaza and Israel that neither Hamas nor Israel wants a prolonged or bloody conflict.
Despite the continuing rocket fire, Israel’s prime minister, Binyanim Netanyahu, had shown a marked reluctance to be drawn into a military operation, offering Hamas “quiet for quiet” despite increasing political pressure from hardliners in his cabinet.
The Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on Monday formally announced his party was leaving the Netanyahu coalition over the Gaza issue.
But despite this alleged government reluctance, the army has reportedly been ordered to prepare a significant expansion of its operation. [Continue reading…]
Asmaa al-Ghoul reports: During the past few days, news has circulated about indirect communication between Cairo and Hamas to set up a cease-fire agreement in Gaza with Israel. A Hamas official confirmed to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that there has been no Egyptian brokerage for the truce and that “Egypt has distanced itself this time.”
In previous statements, Hamas leaders had set the lifting of the blockade in Gaza as a condition for any truce. However, this has yet to materialize.
“We agreed with the factions during a meeting held two days ago not to launch missiles, but 20 missiles are launched every day. Therefore, it seems that some parties have breached the agreement,” the Hamas official said. [Continue reading…]