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Gaza Bombing Continues as Possible “Truce” is Being Floated

President Barack Obama talks with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough in the Oval Office, Nov. 16, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Israel bombed militant targets in Gaza for a fifth straight day on Sunday, launching aerial and naval attacks as its military prepared for a possible ground invasion, though Egypt saw “some indications” of a truce ahead. [Reuters]

LATE SATURDAY, both Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi, as well as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, weighed in on the skirmish currently enveloping Gaza. Nasrallah, speaking in Beirut, said that Israel would “commit a stupid mistake if they decide to launch a ground operation against Gaza,” which was reported by Haaretz on their liveblog of Operation Pillar of Defense. Morsi had something different to offer, saying he believed “there are some indications that there could be a ceasefire soon.”

Over 950 air strikes by Israel have been launched, according to Reuters.

From Haaretz, as day 5 came in watching this nightmare unfold:

As Operation Pillar of Defense entered its fifth day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke over the weekend with U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying he had told both that he is prepared for a comprehensive cease-fire if the rocket fire from Gaza will stop.

Jerusalem residents received their first taste of rocket warnings over the weekend as terror groups fired more missiles on the south and at Tel Aviv, and the Israel Defense Forces continued to prepare for a possible ground invasion as Pillar of Defense ended its fourth day.

Helene Cooper in the New York Times encapsulates the feeling in the U.S.:

The Obama administration is increasingly concerned about the escalating violence in Gaza, believing that a ground incursion by Israel there could lead to increased civilian casualties, play into the hands of the militant Palestinian group Hamas and inflict further damage to Israel’s standing in the region at an already tumultuous time.

And the consequences for Israel could be severe, according to experts. “It’s a question of diminishing returns, and the chances of mishaps go up,” said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He pointed to the Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon in 2006 and the Israeli raids in Gaza in 2008 as examples where Israel suffered deeply in terms of international opinion after protracted fights with its Arab neighbors that produced televised images of Arab casualties.

“I’ve got to believe that the lesson from the 34 days in 2006, along with 2008, which went on for weeks, is that Israel does much better with short campaigns than with long ones,” Mr. Makovsky said.

The good news right now is that Egypt’s Morsi is so far playing the part of mediator, while continuing to hold fast to the treaty with Israel, positions that would likely begin to crumble if Israel put boots on the ground in Gaza. Israel needs Morsi and the treaty with Egypt, with the new Egyptian president presenting PM Benjamin Netanyahu with a dynamic that has changed Israel’s options.

And the consequences for Israel could be severe, according to experts. “It’s a question of diminishing returns, and the chances of mishaps go up,” said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He pointed to the Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon in 2006 and the Israeli raids in Gaza in 2008 as examples where Israel suffered deeply in terms of international opinion after protracted fights with its Arab neighbors that produced televised images of Arab casualties. “I’ve got to believe that the lesson from the 34 days in 2006, along with 2008, which went on for weeks, is that Israel does much better with short campaigns than with long ones,” Mr. Makovsky said. [New York Times]

As for President Obama, he’s on a trip to Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. From David Sanger:

“We never considered scrapping the trip,” one of Mr. Obama’s top aides said on Friday. “It’s the difference between keeping focused on what’s important in the long term and the urgent crisis du jour, which will always be there.”

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