‘Israel to avoid escalating tension in Gaza’

Israel lacks global legitimacy to carry out a military operation in the coastal territory.

Jerusalem: Israel has decided to refrain
from escalating the situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza because
the country lacks global legitimacy to carry out a military
operation in the coastal territory, a media report here said.

Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud
Barak offered various arguments for exercising restraint --
Israel`s international isolation, the fact that the Iron Dome
rocket interception system still offers only partial defence
and the fear of worsening the diplomatic crisis with Egypt,
Ha`aretz daily reported.

Netanyahu reportedly said that under these circumstances
an all-out war against Hamas-run Gaza would be inadvisable.

The informal truce under Egyptian mediation has largely
held during the last 24 hours, although three rockets did hit
southern Israel from the Gaza Strip yesterday.

The ministers were briefed by senior defence officials,
but were not asked to approve any further military action.
The Cabinet meeting instead focused on ways to contain the
situation and prevent an escalation, the report said.

Several ministers had earlier demanded a harsher Israeli
response to the rocket fire.

What emerged most clearly from Netanyahu`s and Barak`s
statements to the Cabinet was that Israel lacks international
legitimacy needed for a large-scale operation in Gaza, the
daily reported.

The diplomatic crisis in the wake of deaths of Egyptian
securitymen further constrains Israel`s freedom of action, it

"The Prime Minister thinks it would be wrong to race into
a total war in Gaza right now," one of Netanyahu`s advisers
was quoted as saying. "We are preparing to respond if the fire
continues, but Israel will not be dragged into places it
doesn`t want to be."

Several other Netanyahu aides also explained the reasons
for constraint, most of which are diplomatic.

"There`s a sensitive situation in the Middle East, which
is one big boiling pot. There`s the international arena,
there`s the Palestinian move in the Untied Nations in
September," when the Palestinians hope to obtain UN
recognition as a state, one adviser explained.

Tension between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinians
escalated last Thursday when a three-pronged terror attack
against Israeli civilians in the south of the country left
eight people dead.

Israel blamed Gaza-based militant factions for the
attack and launched a major air offensive in the coastal Strip
killing 15 people, but the militant groups denied
responsibility for the attacks firing scores of rockets in
which an Israeli citizen died and several were injured.

Israeli leadership has been torn between calls to respond
fiercely or defuse tension with the new Egyptian government
incensed over the killing of five of its policemen by Israeli
troops in hot pursuit of the terrorists.


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