Twelve Palestinian civilians and four fighters were killed in the air strikes, bringing the Gaza death toll since fighting began on Wednesday to 90, more than half of them non-combatants, local officials said.
Last Wednesday Israel fired a missile at a car in Gaza, killing the commander of Hamas's "military" terror wing, Ahmed Jaabari.
Attacks continue. Israel said over 20 sites were targeted. Hamas’ military wing, Izzeddin Qassam Brigades, said Israel “opened the gates of hell.” A robust response was promised.
However, Egypt's response to the events is not yet known. Cairo denounced what it said was "Israeli aggression in Gaza" Wednesday evening and Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi held consultations with senior officials to decide on his course of action. Hamas has been calling upon Morsi to show that he is not like his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. Hamas is saying that the "new Egypt" under Morsi must withdraw from the Camp David accords with Israel and expel Israel's ambassador in Cairo.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Cairo to weigh in on ceasefire efforts led by Egypt, which borders both Israel and Gaza and whose Muslim Brotherhood-rooted government has been hosting leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller armed faction in the Palestinian enclave.
In the absence of any prospect of permanent peace between Israel and Hamas and other Islamist factions, mediated deals for each to hold fire unilaterally have been the only formula for stemming bloodshed in the past. But both sides now placed the onus on the other.
The Gaza flare-up, and Israel's repeated signaling that it could soon escalate from the aerial campaign to a ground sweep of the cramped and impoverished territory, have stoked the worries of world powers watching an already combustible region.
ForUm has asked experts on international policy and Orientalists about possible and probable development of events in Israel and Palestine.
Viktor Kaspruk, Ukrainian political scientist, Orientalist:
- It depends of the interested parties and the world community, namely US and Europe, whether the conflict between Israel and Gaza will turn into a large-scale war. The question is whether the Palestinians decide to continue the fight on Israeli territory sending suicide bombers.
On the other hand, it is obvious that neither Israeli side nor Arabian party is interested in development of conflict. However, if you read Palestinian press, media writes that Israel suffers losses and that Palestinian resistance continues the offensive. Such reports unite the Palestinian society. Moreover, the Palestinian leaders, especially Hamas, do not care much about big human losses.
To some extent, these events may be linked to the forthcoming elections in Israel, when Israeli society unites around Netanyahu government, which in its turn bravely protects its citizens. Thus, Netanyahu's chances to be reelected grow.
We know that Arab-Israeli conflict, which lasts for over 60 years, does not have linear solution, as none of the parties is ready to surrender its principles. Already third generation of Palestinians live in camps in various Arab countries, as Arab world did not want to integrate them into these countries. How long can Palestinians live in camps? Arab countries could have made an agreement with Israel long time ago, could have asked for certain compensation and settle these Palestinians in more than twenty Arab countries. Probably, Arab world sees it profitable to stand against Israel and foment the conflict.
I believe Palestinians will ask again for independence. But even if we theorize about national identity of Palestine, there are still two Palestines - Gaza sector headed by Hamas and West Bank headed by Mahmoud Abbas. Unless Palestine itself is united, there will be no talks about recognition of its independence.
Ihor Semivolos, executive director of the Center for Middle East studies:
- Most probably, there will be no ground operations, but we cannot give 100% guarantee, as certain circumstances have changed. For example, Palestinian missiles can reach Tel-Aviv now, and this changes the political landscape and increases the tension. If earlier Israel could just bomb several military infrastructures in Gaza to win the battle, now such actions are not enough.
However, there are more signs that this conflict will end soon, as many other conflicts before this one, meaning after some time Israeli authorities will announce that the goal has been reached and military bases in Gaza have been destroyed. Such development of events will help the ruling party of Israel to win the parliamentary elections. However, if the conflict lasts longer and ground operations are launched causing losses among Israeli soldiers and civilians, it may torpedo chances of Netanyahu for victory.
Oleksandr Sushko, scientific director of the Institute of EuroAtlantic cooperation:
- Relations between Israel and Gaza intensify several times per year. Last time it happened in May of 2012, when both sides exchanged air attacks. Though this conflict is large-scale, it won't change the situation in general. None of the sides wants to give up, and it means that the world community will not change its attitude towards the conflicting parties. Those countries, which support Israel, will keep supporting it, and friends of Palestine will remain friends.
Meanwhile, Israel itself does not have a single point of view regarding the military operations against Gaza. Current events will help Netanyahu to consolidate his right electorate on the eve of the elections. He appears in the winning position, as the first air attacks were carried out by the Palestinian side.
Oleksandr Paliy, political scientist:
- Israel will not emerge victorious from this fight and the conflict may end sadly in the future. On the other hand, the Arab world, which could have carried out fast modernization thanks to demographic and energetic possibilities, has lost this opportunity because of the current events. If we include Iran, the situation becomes even more complicated. Most probably, Israel will stage show of force and Iran will monitor closely its every move.
It is probable that the conflict may grow into a large-scale war, but the question is not in technical nuances. Even if all missile bases in Gaza sector are destroyed, it won't solve the main issue.
Kost Bondarenko, chairman of the management board of the Institute of Ukrainian politics:
- It is too early to speak about large-scale war, as the sides have only exchanged the blows. Further development of events will depend on the third parties and whose side they may take.
Usually, if a country faces elections, there is a temptation to link every event happening in the country to these elections. However, I don't think this is the case for Israel.
As for Palestinian issue, there are positions of US, EU, Russia and Arab countries, which all take part in the game. Moreover, don't forget about the position of French politician Bernard Kouchner, who stands for independence of Palestinian state. However, not all EU members support his plan, and international community is holding discussions on this issue now.
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