Knesset Leader to Newsmax: Israel Ready for Ground Assault on Gaza
By: David A. Patten
In an ominous sign that the violence in Gaza may continue to escalate, a key member of the Israeli Knesset tells Newsmax that the Jewish state is prepared to launch a ground invasion of Hamas-held Gaza in the next 24 to 48 hours, if Palestinian terrorists continue to launch rocket barrages at Israeli cities.
On Thursday, the Israeli cabinet decided to call up 30,000 reservists. This came on the same day that the Tel Aviv area came under rocket fire. It marked the first time Tel Aviv came under attack since the 1991 Gulf War.
Knesset member Tzipi Hotovely, who often is described as the “intellectual voice” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, tells Newsmax: “I must say, for many Israelis this is a big issue. Shooting into the most important city is like shooting rockets into New York.
“This is something that is unbearable and impossible for any country to suffer and to accept,” she says. “We will do anything to prevent our people to suffer from terror and rocket attacks.”
Hotovely spoke to Newsmax just before midnight in Israel, while driving to the southern area where three Israelis were killed in a rocket attack earlier Thursday. She emphasized that Israel wants peace with its neighbors, but will act to defend its citizens from deadly missile barrages.
Some analysts suspect an additional motive for the attacks: The need to weaken Hamas and impair its ability to attack Israel, if an attack must be launched this spring to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.
In the past week, Hamas has fired over 220 rockets into Israel. Approximately 80 of the rockets have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
Hotovely tells Newsmax that Israel is prepared to launch a ground attack in Gaza in order to further decimate Hamas and its weapons caches, if an assault proves necessary in order to halt hostilities.
Israeli F15s have been relentlessly pounding targets in Gaza in response to the rocket salvos that have forced over a million Israeli citizens to hunker down in bomb shelters and safe rooms throughout the region.
Hotovely says Israel’s leaders are waiting only to see if Hamas, which denies Israel’s right to exist, will cease its attacks.
“The reason that we’re waiting, for the moment,” she says, “is that we need to know how much the message is clear… and [whether] Hamas realizes it there is no real point to shooting [at] civilians and hurting innocent people, children and women.”
Internationally, concern is spreading that the strong Israeli response to the escalating rocket attacks from Gaza could trigger unintended consequences throughout the volatile region.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has recalled Egypt’s diplomatic representative from Israel in protest of the Israeli assault. On Wednesday, a precisely targeted attack killed top Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari, who Israelis say is the mastermind behind a number of attacks on the Jewish state.
Morsi finds himself squeezed between Egypt’s treaty obligations under the Camp David accords on the one hand, and a growing animus in Egypt to take action to defend Gaza’s Palestinians.
“Israelis must recognize that we do not accept this aggression,” Morsi told Egyptians Wednesday in a televised address.
As a sign of his nation’s support for Palestinians, Morsi ordered his prime minister and Egyptian diplomats to travel to Gaza on Friday.
But Hotovely tells Newsmax that time is running out for the Islamists in Gaza to cease hostilities. Asked if she expects ground troops to push into Gaza in the next 48 hours if the rocket attacks continue, she replied: “Yes, I think that we’re not afraid of doing that.
“We did that four years ago in a strong military operation. This government is willing to do everything in order to protect the people. I’m saying again, no one is in favor of war. We all prefer to live our lives peacefully. But when the enemies are forcing us to protect ourselves and defend ourselves, this is what we need to do.”
She added, “The IDF has many and various ways to show its power, and to use the information we have about the leaders of Hamas. Most terrorists at the moment are busy hiding from the IDF forces and the Israeli air force.
“And this is a better way to control the willingness of those people to hurt our country, by making the threat of their leadership to lose their lives if they keep on shooting rockets on people in Israel.”
The last time Israel launched a ground assault in Gaza was in January 2009. Over 1,000 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died in that conflict.
President Barack Obama has been in touch with Morsi and the Netanyahu government. The administration has issued a statement supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks, while urging an immediate end to the hostilities.
Commented Hotovely: “At the moment, it appears that as much as the American president would like to keep things silent in the Middle East and not be under war. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go this way.
“The Egyptian leader is going to come to Gaza tomorrow, and I’m afraid we are not going into a better world of peace when it comes to the Egyptian issue. But we still need to see, because it is too early to speak about how the Islamic revolution and Muslim Brotherhood will influence the whole Hamas issue.”
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