‘Israel to avoid escalating tension in Gaza’
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Last Updated: Tuesday, August 23, 2011, 22:23
  
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 said.

"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.

PTI


First Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2011, 22:23


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