Israel may luanch ground invasion into the Gaza Strip if Palestinians keep on firing rockets and mortars against the Jewish state, a British newspaper reported Sunday.
One unnamed senior Israeli government official told The Telegraph that “a ground incursion is certainly not out of the question although we hope it won’t come to that.”
More than 70 rockets and mortars landed in Israel from Gaza Sunday, leaving six Palestinians killed and eight Israelis injured.
On Saturday, Israeli tank shells killed at least four Palestinians and wounded 25 in Gaza after an apparent attack on an Israeli army patrol in the border area, Palestinian medics and local witnesses told Reuters.
Violent exchanges between Palestinians and Israel usually subside, but lately Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist party that controls Gaza, has shifted to focus on Israeli targets inside the Jewish state.
“Sometimes it looks as if they are trying to shake the status quo, pushing us to check our response. Every time, they push a little further,” a senior Israeli military official told the paper. “Several Israeli soldiers have now been badly injured. I don’t think the government or the Israeli people are prepared to accept this.”
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “the world needs to understand that Israel will not sit idly by in the face of attempts to attack us. We are prepared to intensify the response.”
Hamas also issued a unified call to arms to counterattack Israeli strikes.
Israel went to war against Hamas in the winter of 2008-2009 but has shown little appetite for a new round that could strain fraught relations with the new Islamist-rooted government in neighboring Egypt, which made peace with Israel in 1979.
The 2008-2009 Gaza coincided with an election campaign and some Israeli analysts see the same dynamics building.
Gaza, a coastal territory crowded with more than 1.5 million people, many of them refugees, is controlled by Hamas who reject Israel’s right to exist.