Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will continue its campaign against Gaza “as long as necessary,” despite the fact that a recent air strike killed a 12-year-old boy in a refugee camp, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 17.
“We extracted a high price from them and will continue to do so. We will act as long as necessary," Netanyahu told the government on Sunday, as quoted by Agence France Presse.
Earlier, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he expected the violence to carry on for "another day or two." He added a ground operation is “not desirable” at the moment, but other Israeli ministers show no unanimity on that issue.
Clashes between Israel and Gaza militants erupted on Friday, when Israeli air forces killed two senior members of the Popular Resistance Committees: the secretary-general Zuhair al-Qaisi and Mahmoud Hannani.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman justified the attack calling al-Qaisi "a ticking bomb." Israeli intelligence reported he had been preparing an attack on the Jewish state to be launched from Egypt, similar to the one the PRC carried out last August killing eight Israelis.
Gaza responded to the Israeli air strike with artillery, which was coupled with more raids of the Jewish warplanes.
The three days of Israeli raids took the lives of at least 17 Palestinians. A Sunday attack killed a 12-year-old-boy in Jabaliya refugee camp and injured another seven-year-old boy.
Gaza had fired over 110 rockets into southern Israel by Sunday noon. Most of them were intercepted by the Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. The shelling injured at least six people in the country, says Reuters.
Israel has ordered all the schools in the targeted south be temporarily closed. After the announcement The Jerusalem Post reported a Palestinian rocket hit one of such schools in Beersheba. Another rocket landed in a residential area damaging 15 homes. "Residents experiencing trauma," tweets the JP.
Gideon Levy, a journalist at the Haaretz newspaper, believes that the latest exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza is a short-term escalation, dictated by the Israelis’ seeing an opportunity to eradicate al-Qaisi.
“Nobody is interested in the invasion right now. I’m very afraid that the time will come and there will be another invasion, but not in this circle [of violence]. This circle will be ended, hopefully, within one or two days. There are no Israeli plans to invade Gaza now,” he told RT.
Cairo is “racing against time” to mediate the new conflict. A delegation headed by Hamas co-founder and leader Mahmoud Zahar set off to Egypt on Saturday, according to the Palestinian News Network.
"Unjustifiable" was the word Egypt's envoy to the Palestinian territories, Yasser Othman, used to describe Israel's strikes on Gaza. He rejected the Israeli claim that the PRC leader Zuhair al-Qaisi had been planning a terror attack involving Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Sinai is "fully under control. This is an attempt by Israel to give justification for the offensive against Gaza," Othman told the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency on Sunday.
On Saturday, the Arab League condemned Israeli air strikes on the Strip, calling it a "massacre" and urging an international tough stance against the Jewish state.
On Monday, the Middle East Quartet (the US, EU, Russia and the UN) will be meeting to discuss the long-stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The meeting comes ahead of the UN Security Council’s gathering, which will focus on the Arab Spring uprisings.