Israel has continued air, naval, and tank strikes on Gaza on Thursday after Wednesday's pinpoint bombing that killed a Hamas leader sparked intense rocket fire from Gaza. An Israeli strike killed the military head of Hamas, Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari, and was accompanied by air strikes on over 100 militant targets in the Gaza Strip. Violence has reached levels not seen since four years ago, during the three week Israeli ground invasion into Gaza in the winter of 2008 to 2009. Israel has said about 200 rockets were fired into southern Israel since the hit on Jabari, although 145 were destroyed by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. Three civilians were killed in a strike in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi. Up to 13 Palestinians have also been reported killed from strikes, mostly militants, but including some children. Dozens of people have been injured on both sides. The recent violence has heightened international concerns of escalation. Israel's activities are stressing its fragile relationship with the new leadership in Egypt. President Mohamed Morsi has recalled the Egyptian ambassador to Israel. The United Nations Security Council met in a closed emergency session on Wednesday evening, and the Arab League is scheduled to meet on Friday. The escalation has come nine weeks before Israeli parliamentary elections and as the Palestinian Authority prepares to request observer status for Palestine at the United Nations General Assembly.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is urging the Syrian opposition to unite as France pushes for arming the opposition. Lavrov met with Arab foreign ministers on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia stressing the unification of Syrian opposition groups and calling for the establishment of a team to negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad's government. Syrian opposition groups formed an umbrella coalition on Sunday in what Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad criticized as a "declaration of war." France said it will discuss arms supplies to the Syrian opposition with its European partners. While French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he was wary of injecting more weapons into the war torn country, the government is looking for a relaxation of a European Union arms embargo which has made it difficult for "defensive arms" to reach opposition fighters. Meanwhile, tensions remain along the Syrian and Turkish border after days of bombing targeting the town of Ras al-Ain. Attacks seem to have abated. However, Turkish jets have deployed monitoring the area.
Arguments and Analysis
The wisdom will lie in knowing when to stop (David Horovitz, The Times of Israel)
"Hamas warned Israel on Wednesday that it had opened "the gates of hell" in targeting Gaza's notorious terror chieftainAhmed Jabari.
In truth, however, a reluctant Israeli government - Israel has no desire to be drawn into prolonged military conflict with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip - plainly felt it had little choice but to launch Operation Pillar of Defense, an escalated air assault on Hamas targets... The resort to force is widely regarded in Israel as both overdue and unavoidable. The wisdom of the operation's stewards, however, will lie in knowing how and when to de-escalate - in recognizing when all that can reasonably be achieved has been achieved."
The end of the two-state illusion: Gaza's silver lining? (Mark Levine, Al Jazeera English)
"It is deja vu all over again of the worst kind. Israel's latest assault on Gaza will kill dozens and perhaps hundreds of civilians in a hail of hellfire from the ground, sky and even sea. Hamas will fire hundreds of rockets, likely killing a few Israeli civilians and terrorising tens of thousands of residents of the south of the country, but otherwise achieving little beyond helping to justify even more Israeli carnage in Gaza and who knows how many new housing units in the West Bank.
Outside of the benighted territory of Palestine/Israel sides will be chosen - at least for the cameras. The US will give "full-throttled support" for its ally. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood president will feign outrage, bring home his ambassador, and otherwise stay safely out of the way. The Arab League and the UN Security Council will meet and make strongly-vaguely worded pronouncements. Or not. It really doesn't matter."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
The Middle East Channel offers unique analysis and insights on this diverse and vital region of more than 400 million.