The likelihood of an Israeli ground invasion in Gaza is now "very high," according to an anonymous senior Israeli military official, as reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, following sustained rocket fire from Hamas and the brutal, very public killing of four Palestinian children. Taking over is "not a huge challenge," the official said, and "if you want to efficiently fight terrorism you must be present, boots on the ground."
Added Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, "To the best of my understanding, it is not possible to ensure summer vacation, a normal summer for our kids, without a ground operation in Gaza." Another escalation of the ongoing flare-up is appearing less and less avoidable.
"Every day that passes makes the possibility more evident," said the military official. "We can hurt them very hard from the air but not get rid of them." Already, residents of the Gaza Strip are being told in phone messages and leaflets to evacuate: "Failure to comply will endanger your lives and the lives of your family."
"We don't need to rule Gaza, or build settlements in Gaza," Lieberman said. "We need to ensure that all Hamas terrorists run away, are imprisoned, or die."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesperson said the invasion was "definitely an option ... It's being discussed — I can't go beyond that." About 42,000 troops are currently mobilized, with an extra 8,000 reservists called up today.
On Monday, the White House urged the two sides to figure something else out. "Nobody wants to see a ground invasion because that would put more civilians at risk," said Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who was careful not to put the blame on Israel. "We need Hamas to stop launching rockets that are putting Israeli citizens in harm's way," he said. "At the same time, the United States is also very concerned about those Palestinian civilians who are in harm's way."
Update: Israel will observe a "humanitarian" truce in Gaza for five hours on Thursday, the BBC reports, at the request of the UN and other aid organizations.