Cease-Fire: Israel Tables Gaza Ground Assault
Israel was considering a ground assault into Gaza on Monday in response to Palestinian rocket strikes before both sides agreed to a tentative cease-fire Tuesday morning.
On Saturday, Palestinians in Gaza fired an anti-tank missile at an Israel Defense Force Jeep, injuring four soldiers. This was followed by over one-hundred rockets fired from Gaza into Southern Israel.
The Israeli Air Force fired back on Monday at two rocket sites in the northern Gaza Strip and a weapons storage site in central Gaza. Palestinians responded by firing a Grad rocket that landed near Ashdod. Twenty more rockets were fired from Gaza, one of which hit a Netivot factory as employees ran for cover.
On Monday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was deciding what options were on the table, telling a group of foreign ambassadors in Ashkelon: “We’ll take whatever action is necessary to put a stop to this. This is not merely our right, it’s also our duty.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz and OC Southern Command Major Geneneral Tal Russo in Tel Aviv. He also met with Netanyahu and Gantz in Jerusalem to decide what actions to take.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar told Israel Radio on Monday that Israel was considering a ground assault into Gaza: “We are preparing for a major operation."
The United Nations and the European Union had urged both parties not to take any steps that would escalate matters. The office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated: “Both sides should do everything to avoid further escalation and must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians at all times.”
Catherine Ashton, the EU head of foreign affairs and security policy, added that she supported letting Egypt mediate a cease-fire.
President Barack Obama has yet to comment on the violence in Gaza or the temporary cessation of hostilities announced today.