Some leaders in Israel are now saying Hamas must be eliminated to assure peace for Israelis.
The call comes from Benjamin Netanyahu, Chairman of the Likud Party in Israel.
But senior Israeli defense officials want a cease fire now.
Gaza: Hamas Makes Cease-Fire Offer
Senior defense establishment officials believe that Israel should strive to reach an immediate cease-fire with Hamas, and not expand its offensive against the Palestinian Islamist group in Gaza.
At least three Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon landed near Kiryat Shmona, Israel, on Wednesday morning, the second rocket attack from Lebanon in less than a week.
Israeli sources have been unable to say who exatly has been responsible for these seemingly isolated and uncoordinated attacks but they indicate the intensity of the anger and protest all around Israel since the start of the operation in Gaza.
Meanwhile, Israeli troops thrust deeper into Gaza City Wednesday, backed by tanks. The soldiers seemed to be seeking our engagement with Hamas fighters in alleyways and cellars.
Residents spoke of heavy machine-gun fire as Israeli troops fought Hamas gunmen near Gaza City. Israel said it launched 60 air strikes overnight.
The Israeli army claimed 50 militants were killed in fighting over the last 24 hours but it was impossible to confirm the claim.
On the diplomatic front the Associated Press reported that Israel sent its lead negotiator to Cairo for “decisive” talks on a cease-fire and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also headed to the region to join the diplomatic efforts.
“All the member states of the United Nations have an obligation to abide by UNSC resolutions,” he said during a press conference following a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “[They] are binding in their nature, and I urge the Israeli leaders – as I have until now- to abide by this, to cease military operations, ensure a ceasefire, and engage in humanitarian assistance.”
Haaretz continues to report on an apparent disagreement within the Israeli government.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is promoting a week-long “humanitarian cease-fire” in the Gaza Strip. In contrast, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert believes the military operation still has not achieved its goals.
Olmert is delaying a meeting with senior ministers in an effort to allow the military operations in Gaza to continue, Haaretz said.
Asked if Israel’s war aims had been achieved, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: “Most of them, probably not all of them.”
The Israeli air and ground offensive against the coastal territory’s Hamas rulers has killed more than 940 Palestinians, half of them civilians, according to Palestinian hospital officials.
There seems to be a stalemate of sorts in and around Gaza. The combat elements are engaged but neither will relent.
For over ten days Egypt’s spy chief, Omar Suleiman, has sought in vain to win assurances from Hamas that it would stop militants firing rockets into Israel from Gaza.
Hamas has demanded a withdrawal of Israel forces and an end to Israeli airstrikes before it agrees to a ceasefire.
In Israel, the government is split at least to some degree and will not relent.
Hamas also is torn between those that want to end the bloodshed and those that are energized by support from Iran and fueld by images of anti-Israel protests around the world.
Even if a cease fire can be worked out here nothing will be solved on a long term basis, many say.
“Like Hezbollah, Hamas believes that God is opposed to a Jewish state in Palestine,” writes Jeffrey Goldberg in today’s New York Times.
And in Israel, there is a deep sense that the nation is fighting for its very life.
According to Israel’s Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, “there are two options [in Gaza]. The eradication of the Hamas regime – and there will be no escaping this in the long run – and putting an end to its armament.”
John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
Why Israel Can’t Make Peace With Hamas
Unable To Stop Hamas Arms, Some Israelis Say “End Hamas”