Israel called up 16,000 reserve troops on Friday as it massed ground forces on the border of the Gaza Strip. Israel and Hamas had agreed to a ceasefire during a three-hour visit to the Palestinian territory by Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, but the truce collapsed after militants fired a dozen rockets into Israel and the Israeli air force responded by bombing the house of a Hamas commander. Kandil called the Israeli strikes, now in their third day, a "disaster," but said that his country would "spare no effort" to broker a truce. After a pair of Palestinian long-range rockets hit near the metropolis of Tel Aviv, however, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Hamas would pay "a price for that escalation." On Friday, air raid sirens blared in Jerusalem as a rocket landed nearby. At this point in the fighting, can anything avert an Israeli ground invasion and all-out war?
It looks like the war is underway: Here we go again, says David Blair at Britain's Telegraph. "Seven times since the foundation of the state of Israel 64 years ago the country has found itself at war, sometimes on a front of its own choosing, sometimes in a setting imposed by its enemies." It looks like we're in for "number eight." After Hamas militants went beyond lobbing rockets and blasted a military jeep in Israel, which responded by assassinating Hamas' military chief, neither side seems inclined to back down.
"Is this war number eight for Israel?"
A ground war could happen, but isn't inevitable: "Unfortunately you have to hit hard to make your point," Meir Elran, head of the homeland security program at the Institute for National Security Studies, tells JTA. Israel had to hurt Hamas as a "deterrent" to the constant rocket attacks on its southern towns. Israel "would be better off" avoiding a mutually destructive ground incursion, but if the militants hit Tel Aviv or inflict heavy Israeli casualties, all bets are off.
"Deterrence is the idea behind Israel's strikes in Gaza, but how far will conflict with Hamas go?"
Everybody has too much to lose to let this go too far: "Though their rhetoric is belligerent, both sides ought to be hoping that the diplomats will save them from themselves," says The Washington Post in an editorial. Israel's 2008-09 ground invasion of Gaza inflicted heavy casualties on Hamas and civilians; Israel paid heavy "diplomatic costs." This time, the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace accord could be at stake, which is just one of the reasons "a quick cease-fire would benefit all sides."
"Heading off full-blown war in the Gaza strip"
This fight might renew hope for peace: This "sadly predictable spasm of violence," says Daniel Kurtzer at Foreign Policy, only "drives home once more why the United States cannot walk away from this part of the world." Gaza will always be "a periodic war zone unless" if the U.S. continues a "hands-off" policy toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace. "It is time for a fresh American initiative." If it is truly "well-structured, fair, and balanced," it could "yield surprising and positive results."
"The peace process isn't dead"