Israel preps for Gaza ground assault
The decibel level of anti-Israel outrage is about to be turned up to "11":
Israel began mobilizing tens of thousands of troops Thursday and extended its aerial and artillery attacks on the Gaza Strip to a third day early Friday, while Palestinian militants mounted their deepest-ever missile strikes into the heart of Israel.
The exchanges, which have killed 19 Palestinians and three Israelis, broadened a conflict that had erupted into the open Wednesday. Israel responded to escalating missile strikes from Gaza militants by launching a blitz of airstrikes that day that killed the top military commander of Hamas, the Islamist militant group and political movement that runs Gaza.
It was unclear whether Thursday's troop movements were designed to intimidate Israel's foes or to lay the groundwork for an invasion. Israel's leaders have said they are ready to launch a ground assault if rocket fire continues.
Early Friday, Israeli aircraft pummeled rocket launching operations of Gaza militants, the Associated Press reported.
"The situation has all the elements and dynamics that could lead us down the road to a place we haven't been before," said Steve Cook, a Mideast specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations. "It's a very dangerous situation, and it's difficult to say what the Israelis should do."
The conflict's course from here on out rests largely with Israel and its neighbor, Egypt-the two nations that form the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the region, but which have seen ties fray in the months since an Islamist government came to power in Egypt.
Egypt's President Morsi sent a delegation to Gaza headed up by the prime minister which will complicate Israel's military moves. Israel announced that they would honor a cease fire as long as the Egyptian prime minister was in Gaza, but that's dependent on Hamas standing down as well.
It's a dream scenario for Hamas, unfortunately. The world will blame Israel no matter what, while the terrorists exploit their close relationship with Egypt. Morsi is not likely to go to war with Israel, but the already frosty relationship between the two countries will no doubt deteriorate further.
This is Morsi's first big test as president. Will he allow the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood to rule Egypt or will pragmatism stay his hand? We are likely to get a good idea by the time this is over whether the peace treaty can survive.