Analysts: Truce failure gives Israel leeway

2014-07-16 20:52
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as he speaks during a press conference at the defense ministry in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv. (Gali Tibbon, AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as he speaks during a press conference at the defense ministry in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv. (Gali Tibbon, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Jerusalem - Israel's acceptance of a short-lived Egyptian truce which was rejected by Hamas, has set the scene for a much broader operation in Gaza, including a limited ground incursion, analysts say.

Although the ceasefire plan unveiled by Cairo did not lead to an end to the latest round of violence, Israel's agreement to hold its fire for six hours - even as Hamas militants continued firing rockets over the border - won it some room for manoeuvre.

"In the eyes of the world, Israel took a risk and gave a real chance to a ceasefire, while Hamas chose to continue fighting. This gave Israel renewed credit, including credit to expand the operation," wrote Yoav Limor in pro-government freesheet Israel Hayom.

After six hours of calm, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military to resume its operations, saying Hamas's rejection of the ceasefire had granted Israel the "international legitimacy" to expand and intensify its military operations.

Shortly afterwards, he convened his security cabinet to discuss an operation against the network of tunnels used by militants to set up rocket launchers.

Ministers also discussed a limited ground incursion into the fringes of Gaza, which would not involve troops entering populated areas in the initial stage, army radio reported.

Commentators suggested there were three ways Israel could step up its campaign against militants in Gaza.

"There are three escalation scenarios - stepping up the air strikes; a limited ground operation at the margins of the Gaza Strip against the exits of the tunnels; and a broad ground operation at the end of which Israel will control Gaza for six months, two years or 20 years," wrote Alon Pinkas in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot.

In recent weeks, there have been growing calls from cabinet hardliners, among them Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, for a full re-occupation of the territory from which Israel withdrew in 2005. Netanyahu has so far ignored them.

A limited ground operation?

Early on Wednesday, the Israeli army dropped flyers over northeastern Gaza, urging 100 000 residents to leave the area ahead of an intensified air campaign.

So far, there has been no move to send in any of the 43 000 reserve troops who have been mobilised, or the armour massed along the border.

But in a move which could indicate a shift in thinking, the cabinet on Wednesday authorised the call-up of another 8 000 reservists, media reports said.

Experts say a ground operation would be the only way of reaching targets unattainable from the air, such as Hamas's network of underground bunkers and tunnels which are crucial for assembling the rockets Israel wants to eradicate.

"Hamas is largely inspired by the techniques used by Hezbollah, notably its underground infrastructure, which gives it the capacity to hold out for weeks," political commentator Daniel Nisman told AFP, referring to Lebanon's Shi'ite militia.

Former national security adviser Giora Eiland agreed that only a ground operation would succeed in inflicting "real destruction" on Hamas's underground network.

"I estimate that if there are no unexpected developments and if a ceasefire is not agreed at the last moment, within 48 hours there will be a limited ground operation," Eiland told Mako news website, estimating such an assault would last "weeks."

Iron Dome doing work

Nisman said Israel had so far been able to avoid putting boots on the ground thanks to the success of the Iron Dome air defence system, which has shot down more than 250 rockets over the past nine days, minimising casualties on the Israeli side.

So far one Israeli has been killed and four seriously wounded.

"The Iron Dome anti-missile system has worked well and allowed Israel to take its time and carry out air strikes which are perhaps less effective than using special military units, but which allow Israel to avoid a military operation in which it has a lot to lose," Nisman said.

Israel was hoping that an intensified air campaign would convince Hamas to back down, thereby avoiding the need to send troops in, commentators said.

"Israel would prefer to hold off on the ground option and to make do with intensifying the aerial bombardments, in the hope that Hamas will get the message and agree to a ceasefire soon," Limor wrote.

Read more on:    israel  |  gaza

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.