Israel seeks support for more military repression in Gaza

Israel seeks international backing for Gaza campaign
By Adam Entous, Reuters, Feb. 13, 2008

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel drove nearly 70 foreign ambassadors to its border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday as part of a campaign seeking international support for tougher action against the enclave's Hamas Islamist rulers.

Israel took the ambassadors to the Erez crossing with the Hamas-controlled enclave, where they were briefed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and military commanders.

Type the rest of your post here."It's important that the international community know what we are facing and what dangers are created by Hamas," Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said of the briefing.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has so far been wary of launching a major ground operation that could cause heavy casualties, arguing there were no "overnight solutions" to daily rocket fire from Gaza that has inflamed Israeli public opinion.

But he faces growing domestic pressure after Hamas claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in southern Israel last week and an 8-year-old Israeli boy lost part of his leg to a rocket strike on Saturday. Olmert says Israel is at "war".

Israel says it can maintain parallel tracks with the Palestinians, one aimed at breaking Hamas's hold on Gaza, and the other aimed at reaching a statehood agreement with West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Western-backed forces were defeated by Hamas in Gaza last year.

The rockets have sparked debate inside and outside Olmert's government, with top ministers calling for the army to assassinate Hamas political as well as military leaders and to flatten those areas in Gaza where the rockets are launched.


Prize-winning Israeli author Amos Oz, in a letter published on the front page of the mass circulation daily Yedioth Aronoth, appealed to Israeli leaders to think through the implications.

"The number of casualties from a land invasion into Gaza will be much greater than the number of casualties from 7 years of Qassams," the noted peace campaigner said of the rockets.

Frequent Israeli air strikes and ground incursions into the Gaza Strip have killed some 300 Palestinians in the past year, including dozens of civilians, but failed to prevent rocket fire, which killed two Israelis in the same time period.

Israeli leaders are preparing the ground internationally for a stepped up Israeli military campaign aimed at weakening Hamas's hold on power, officials say.

Shunned by the West for refusing to renounce violence after beating Abbas's Fatah faction in a parliamentary election two years ago, Hamas say it would cease fire if Israel stopped its military operations in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Hamas is also demanding an end to an Israeli-led blockade that has cut supplies to the coastal territory.

Although Abbas's Fatah faction remains deeply hostile to Hamas following its seizure of the Gaza Strip in June, the president and his West Bank-based government have publicly criticized Israel for stepping up its military action and threats to kill Hamas leaders.

Israel denied involvement on Wednesday in the killing in Damascus of Imad Moughniyah, a senior commander in the Lebanese Hezbollah movement which has links with Hamas. Hezbollah and Hamas blamed Israel and Hamas warned it would retaliate if Israel assassinated any of its leaders in Gaza.

(Reporting by Adam Entous; Editing by Keith Weir)

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