Gaza: ‘All options are on the table’–including an Israeli ground offensive

Israeli soldiers with armored vehicles gather in a staging ground near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.
Israeli soldiers with armored vehicles gather in a staging ground near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.
AP/Tsafrir Abayov

Fighting in Gaza is intensifying, and rumors are swirling about an Israeli ground offensive. “No decision has been made yet,” said Israeli military spokesperson Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, “but all options are on the table.” She confirmed that 16,000 reservists were called up on Friday.

Palestinian militants fired rockets at Jerusalem for the first time Friday, sounding air raid sirens there and in Tel Aviv–two cities that, previous to the cross-border violence that started three days ago, had not yet been exposed to strikes from Hamas-controlled Gaza.

“We are sending a short and simple message: There is no security for any Zionist on any single inch of Palestine and we plan more surprises,” Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Hamas militant wing, said of the rockets aimed at Israel’s two main cities, according to the Associated Press.

Fighting between Israel and Gaza has intensified since Wednesday, when Israel killed Hamas’ top military chief in an aerial assault.

Israel had announced that it would suspend military operations today during Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil’s three-hour visit to the Gaza Strip, but that ceasefire collapsed after Palestinians continued cross-border rocket attacks and Israel launched air strikes, NBC News confirmed. Hamas field commander Ahmed Abu Jalal was killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza, according to NBC News. The commander was targeted in central Gaza with his two brothers, who were also killed in the strike.

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland reiterated the U.S. State Department’s position: “Israel has a right to self-defense.”

Clinton spoke with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr, and Jordanian King Abdullah II to urge the Mideast leaders to use their clout to help calm the conflict. “There are a number of other calls that we anticipate the secretary will make in the coming 24 hours to other countries with influence to try to maximize the pressure we can bring to bear on Hamas to cease and desist,” Nuland said. The goal, she added, is to make clear to Hamas that such violence is “not benefiting” the cause of the Palestinian people.

President Obama made similar calls to the Turkish, Israeli, and Egyptian prime ministers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called President Obama on Friday and expressed his deep appreciation for the U.S. investment in the Iron Dome rocket and mortar defense system, which has effectively defeated hundreds of incoming rockets from Gaza and saved many Israeli lives, according to a White House statement. President Obama reiterated that America supports Israel’s right to defend itself, and he expressed regret over the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives.

Gaza: 'All options are on the table'--including an Israeli ground offensive