Posted November. 19, 2012 01:59,
The world is on alert over whether Israeli ground troops will invade the Gaza Strip as Israel`s clash with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas reached its fifth day Sunday.
Reuters said Israel has launched more than 950 air strikes on the Gaza Strip since the clash began Wednesday, targeting weaponry arsenals and flattening militant installations. In Gaza, shelling sounds from Israeli artillery were heard dozens of times overnight.
The BBC reported that Israel also conducted naval strikes Sunday. The previous day, Israeli air strikes leveled the headquarters of Hamas cabinet, including the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and struck police and security buildings. As Hamas continued to fire rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel carried out more than 200 air raids Saturday alone.
Because of continued rocket attacks by Hamas, Israel canceled school in a southern region close to Gaza. Jerusalem then prepared to launch a ground assault, deploying massive troops and tanks in the Gaza border areas and more than doubling the number of reservists to be mobilized to 75,000. The Israeli government retained its hard stance, ruling out a cease-fire until Hamas stops its rocket attacks.
The intensifying conflict has led to global jitters. On Saturday, the foreign ministers of Arab League member states in Cairo decided to send a delegation to Gaza to mediate a cease-fire. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also reportedly plans to visit Israel and Egypt to broker a stop to the fighting.
Whether Israel will launch a ground assault remains uncertain. Certain observers say Jerusalem fears using ground troops because unlike air raids, a ground assault could result in huge casualties. If Palestinian civilian casualties increase, global sentiment could worsen against Israel. Israel also remembers sending ground troops to Gaza in December 2008, only to declare a unilateral cease-fire.
The U.S., a strong ally to Israel, is also reluctant over the escalation of ground warfare. On Saturday, CNN quoted a senior U.S. official as saying Washington was urging Jerusalem not to invade Gaza because Israeli ground troops could draw Egypt into the conflict on Hamas side, and that Iran would supply weapons to Hamas to further complicate Tehran`s nuclear program.
Certain experts say both Israel and Hamas have gained from the conflict. The Israeli ruling party, which will hold parliamentary elections in January, has garnered support by stressing national security and destroying major militant facilities in Gaza. Hamas has also benefited through its tough stance against Israel and weakening the influence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who advocated negotiations with Israel.