Israel Warns of Escalation After Tel Aviv Missile Firing
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak signaled that Israel is ready to escalate its military operations against Gaza after at least one long-range missile was fired at Tel Aviv by Palestinian militants.
The missile attack and the volume of fire in general toward Israel “is an escalation and there will be a price to pay,” Barak said on Channel 2 television yesterday. It was the first such attack on Israel’s commercial hub since Iraqi missiles in 1991 during the Gulf War.
Neither side showed signs of yielding as international diplomacy ramped up. Hamas kept up rocket fire in the most serious conflict since Israel sent troops into Gaza in December 2008 in a three-week offensive it said was aimed at stopping such attacks. Israeli Army Spokesman Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai told Channel 2 that the military was calling up 30,000 reservists hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military was ready for a “substantial expansion” to stop rocket attacks.
In a phone call with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, U.S. President Barack Obama supported Israel’s right to self defense as the two leaders agreed on “the importance of working to de- escalate the situation as quickly as possible,” according to a Nov. 14 White House statement. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to go to Egypt and Israel next week, according to a Security Council diplomat.
Israel launched a wave of air strikes at 70 underground launch sites for medium-range rockets late yesterday, and direct hits were confirmed, the army said in an e-mailed statement. Israeli naval vessels fired on Hamas bases on the Gaza shore, the army said.
The rocket fired at the Tel Aviv area of Gush Dan, home to about 1.3 million people, probably fell in the sea, said police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld, noting there was no damage and no injuries reported. Air-raid warnings sounded in the city, which is at the limit of the approximately 70-kilometer (44 mile) range of the Iranian-developed Fajr-5 rocket.
Launching the long-range Fajr-5 rockets at Tel Aviv shows “maturity and wisdom,” Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah militia said on Manar television yesterday. Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said, in reference to the death of the group’s military commander, that “pure blood will not go in vain.”
Barak said earlier this week that Israel may carry out a ground operation in Gaza. In the December 2008 assault, more than 1,100 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed.
Tanks were shown on Israeli television yesterday heading south on Israeli highways toward the Palestinian coastal territory.
Army spokesman Mordechai, when asked about a possible ground assault, said “all options are on the table.”
Looming over the bloodshed was the possibility of a wider conflict and an immediate test for Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt. Hamas, an Islamist movement considered a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union, has appealed for help from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Mursi has recalled Egypt’s ambassador to Israel for consultations. The Arab League is scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss the violence. Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Qandil plans to lead a high-level delegation to Gaza today to show solidarity with Palestinians, Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency reported yesterday.
Mursi is in touch with “all the effective players in the world” in an effort “to calm the situation, stop the bloodshed in Gaza and end this unacceptable aggression against our families and people in Palestine,” Yasser Ali, spokesman for the Egyptian president, told Al Jazeera television in an interview.
The Egyptian visit to Gaza and attempts to build a cease- fire “would probably take place prior to any very large scale entry of the Israeli military into the Gaza Strip,” said Jonathan Spyer, political scientist at Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
“Only if that fails, if it’s clear that’s not going to achieve a cease-fire in the next days, then there could be a real possibility of a ground entry,” Spyer said.
Posted by: Steve White