UN pushes for ceasefire between Israel and Hamas
A ground invasion would dramatically increase Palestinian fatalities, which have so far been mostly civilians, while also exposing the Israeli army to losses and Israel to international pressure to halt the operation. Analysts say Israel would most likely opt for a limited push into north Gaza and other border areas rather than reoccupying major cities. "If they do a ground operation, the goal will be to achieve additional aims of eliminating Hamas military infrastructure such as tunnels and launching sites, and to heighten the threat against the Hamas set-up in Gaza in order to bring about a ceasefire," said Yossi Alpher, former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
Zahava Gal-On, head of the Meretz party, said that Israel needs to shift to a diplomatic solution. "The bombings from the air and a ground operation won't eliminate the terrorism. This will only bring losses among our soldiers and the Palestinians, and in the end we will be back to square one," she said.
Israeli media reports said yesterday that Egypt is advancing an initiative which would call on Israel to free Hamas prisoners it rearrested following the abduction of three Israeli teenagers. But a senior Israeli official signalled last night that in Israel's view, conditions are not yet ripe for a ceasefire. "Our assessment is that Hamas is not yet ready for it," the official said. "We have been hitting them hard, and what they want is a ceasefire as a time out to lick their wounds and then we'll have rockets again in a day or a week. Ultimately, Hamas has to understand that the rocket fire has to stop and they are not there."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague backed calls for a ceasefire, having spoken to both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He said that Israel had "a right to defend itself" against rocket attacks from Gaza but offered "condolences for the loss of civilian lives in Gaza".
He said he would discuss a ceasefire with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as German and French foreign ministers when they meet today for talks on Iran.
By Ben Lynfield
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