international affairs

Benjamin Netanyahu Says Israel Is ‘Prepared for a Significant Expansion’ of Conflict in Gaza

Israel and Hamas continued to exchange airstrikes and rocket fire throughout the day as international leaders increased their efforts to broker a cease-fire. On Saturday, Israel expanded its Gaza target list to include Hamas’s government infrastructure, which resulted in the leveling of the prime minister’s office (among many other things.) On Sunday, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, indicated that he intended to take on additional targets. “We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organizations and the Israel Defense Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation,” he said, referring to the 75,000 reservists who have been put on call for what many believe is a planned ground invasion. Meanwhile, Israel’s Iron Dome defense system successfully deflected another Hamas rocket aimed at Tel Aviv. And a morning airstrike on the home of a suspected Palestinian militant killed 11 people,  including four children, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 51.

Overnight, Israel also struck two Gaza buildings housing the offices of local news media outlets, as well as German and Iranian broadcasters and production companies that provide services to Al Jazeera, Fox News, Sky News, and CBS.  Seven journalists were injured in the bombings, which the Israeli military described as strikes on Hamas communication devices located on the buildings’ roofs. According to an Israeli spokeswoman, “Hamas took a civilian building and used it for its own needs. So the journalists … were serving as human shields for Hamas.” Whether or not that is true, the Jerusalem’s  Foreign Press Association said it was “concerned” by the incidents and cited a United Nations ruling that “journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilians, to be respected and protected as such.”

Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who has been leading truce discussions, said “there are some indications that there is a possibility of a ceasefire soon, but we do not yet have firm guarantees.” However, a spokesman for Netanyahu denied that a cease-fire was imminent, while a Hamas military spokesman said, “This round of confrontation will not be the last against the Zionist enemy and it is only the beginning.”

President Obama said again that he was in daily touch with Netanyahu, as well as Morsi and Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also playing a large role in the negotiations. While he said that the United States is “actively working with all the parties in the region to see if we can end those missiles being fired,” he added that “we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.” Other leaders encouraged more restraint:  Britain’s foreign minister, William Hague, warned that an Israeli invasion of Gaza “would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy they have,” making it “much more difficult to restrict and avoid civilian casualties.”

Israel ‘Prepared’ for Conflict Expansion