Monday 22 January 2018

Israeli army on standby as war in Gaza looms

Phoebe Greenwood in Gaza Damien McElory in Kiryat Malachi and Richard Spencer

Israel has mobilised troops to its border with Gaza after rockets fired from the territory came close to hitting its commercial capital, Tel Aviv.

At least a dozen trucks carrying tanks and armoured vehicles were seen moving toward the border area, as Israeli forces moved closer to a ground war against the radical Islamist group Hamas. Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, also approved the call-up of 30,000 reservists as the confrontation intensified.

The two rockets fell just short of Tel Aviv, the furthest they have ever reached inside Israel. One hit the town of Rishon Lezion, seven miles away, while a second fell into the sea off the coast of Jaffa, just to the south of the city. It was the first attempted attack on Tel Aviv since the Gulf War in 1991.

Israeli officials had earlier indicated a strike against Tel Aviv would be a "red line" which could trigger a ground war.

Tel Aviv had until recently been thought to be out of missile range for Gaza's militant groups.

Both attacks were claimed by Islamic Jihad, a more radical group separate from Hamas, which has political control over Gaza.

But Israeli leaders gave no sign of recognising that distinction, regarding any attack on its territory as a legitimate cause for retaliation.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, was buoyed by support from Western leaders including US President Barack Obama and the British foreign secretary, William Hague.

He gave an unrepentant defence of the decision to launch Wednesday's and yesterday's attacks on Gaza, which killed Hamas's military leader Ahmed al-Jaabari.

"Israel will continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people," he said. Officials last night, however, said that no decision had yet been made to enter Gaza.

The risks to regional security, particularly in light of the Arab Spring revolutions, were emphasised by an angry response in Egypt to Israel's attack.

Egypt's prime minister, Hisham Qandil, announced he would lead a delegation to Gaza today, the highest profile visit by an Egyptian leader since the Muslim Brotherhood took power. Egypt brokered an informal truce between Hamas and Israel on Monday, which Israel's attack two days later ended.

But Hamas, backed also by other Arab nations including the key western ally of Qatar, said it rejected all talk of a truce "at this time".

So far, 15 Palestinians, including both militants and civilian men, women and children, have been killed by Israeli air strikes, while three Israeli civilians died when a rocket fired from Gaza hit their apartment block in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi yesterday morning. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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