Will a ground war be the next step?

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 17, 2014
Israeli air strikes on Rafah in Gaza

Israeli air strikes on Rafah in Gaza

Israel was contemplating escalating its military offensive against Hamas and Islamic Jihad after the Palestinian groups rejected a ceasefire proposal backed by the Arab League, and continued to fire rockets from Gaza.

The week-and-a-half of fighting continued despite efforts by former prime minister Tony Blair and Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to broker a truce on Monday. The UN also proposed a "humanitarian" ceasefire, which had been accepted by Israel but not by Hamas as the JC went to press. By mid-week, more than 200 Palestinians had been killed in Israeli air-strikes since the start of Operation Protective Edge. One Israeli was killed this week near Gaza in a mortar attack.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired around 1,300 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, most of which landed in open areas or were intercepted by Iron Dome.

The first ceasefire proposal was drafted in a phone call last weekend between Egyptian President al-Sisi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and during meetings held by Mr Blair with leaders in the region. Israel's security cabinet voted on Tuesday morning to accept the ceasefire; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett voted against.

Israel ceased all its attacks at 9am local time for six hours while Hamas fired more than 40 rockets at Israeli targets. On Wednesday afternoon, the terror group's political leaders officially rejected the proposal.

Casualty claims challenged

An analysis of deaths in Gaza has revealed that most are "disproportionately those of young males, which corresponds with the characteristics of combatants", and not women or children.
Data published by Al Jazeera and examined by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (Camera), challenges claims that Israel is indiscriminately killing civilians. Camera's report said: "Males over 40 are also disproportionately represented", such deaths being "likely to represent members of terrorist organisations."

On Tuesday evening, Mr Netanyahu said that "Hamas chose to continue this campaign and it will pay the price for that decision."

As the current air strikes are incapable of destroying many of the rocket launchers and command centres under civilian buildings, pressure within Israel to send in the troops is intensifying. If efforts to reach a ceasefire do not succeed in the next few days, the pressure on Mr Netanyahu to launch a ground offensive may prove irresistible.

Throughout the country, anxieties have been allayed by new apps such as "Red Alert", which updates users every time a rocket is fired.

Last updated: 2:29pm, July 17 2014