Israel is pounding Gaza and hints of a ground war.
Israel opened its offensive with a surprise airstrike on Nov. 14 that killed the shadowy leader of Hamas’ military wing. Since then, it has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in what it says is a systematic campaign to halt years of rocket attacks launched from Gaza. While Israel claims to have inflicted heavy damage, dozens of rockets have continued to fly out of Gaza each day.
Israel launched the operation in response to days of rocket attacks out of Gaza, highlighted by a rare missile strike on an Israeli military jeep that wounded four soldiers. But the operation was actually years in the making. Since a previous Israeli offensive four years ago, Hamas has restocked its arsenal with more sophisticated and powerful weapons smuggled in from Egypt through underground tunnels. After a lull following Israel’s previous offensive, rocket fire has steadily climbed the past two years. The Israeli military says more than 700 rockets were launched into Israel this year before it launched the offensive last week. In this environment, Israeli officials have said it was only a matter of time before a new round of fighting broke out.
What each side wants:
Israel wants a halt to the rocket attacks and an end to arms smuggling into Gaza, most likely in a deal that is guaranteed by Egypt or other international parties. Hamas wants a halt to Israeli assassinations of its leaders and a lifting of the Israeli blockade. While gaps remain wide, both sides have strong interests in a deal. Bringing quiet to Israel’s embattled south will make Netanyahu a national hero, weeks before parliamentary elections. Hamas, branded a terrorist group by Israel and the West, has seen its influence grow as the Arab Spring brings Islamists to power across the region. A cease-fire, particularly an arrangement guaranteed with international partners, would cement Hamas’ control of Gaza and give it more of the international recognition it covets so much.