ISRAEL on Wednesday said it backed Egyptian efforts to mediate a truce with Hamas in and around Gaza but also at the same time ordered its military to prepare for a possible offensive into the Palestinian territory to ‘give Hamas a good thrashing’.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesman Mark Regev said: ‘The security cabinet decided this morning to support Egyptian efforts to achieve calm in the south.
‘In parallel the security cabinet instructed the military to continue its preparations in the unfortunate event that the Egyptian track should prove to be unsuccessful.’
A senior government official said that while there was little hope a truce would materialise, ‘for the time-being we decided to give them a chance.’
The decision followed two days of meetings in which Israel’s leaders considered launching a wider military offensive in the besieged territory. This followed on from threats by various Israeli military and political leaders that they foresaw that Israel would have to attack Iran to halt its progress in developing nuclear power.
Even as the Israelis were meeting the Egyptians, Israeli tanks were in action in Gaza killing three Palestinians and wounding a number of others.
One of the dead was a 10-year-old Palestinian girl, Hadeel al-Smeiri. She died when an Israeli tank shell hit a house east of the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis. Two members of her family were wounded.
A member of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the democratically elected ruling Hamas movement, was killed a short time later in the same area, again by tank fire.
Hamas on Wednesday dismissed as ‘not serious’ Israel’s decision to give Egyptian-mediated peace efforts in the Gaza Strip a chance, adding that the essence of the situation is that Tel Aviv is preparing to launch a major military offensive to try to crush the Hamas movement.
The Hamas movement said: ‘The Israeli announcement is not serious because the Israeli occupation continues its daily aggression against our people which has made six martyrs in 24 hours.
‘The Israeli occupation itself says it is preparing a large operation in Gaza, which demonstrates that its declarations on a truce are neither realistic nor serious,’ added its spokesman.
A military spokesman in Tel Aviv said: ‘Israeli ground forces opened fire Wednesday morning on resistance fighters operating near Khan Younis, around the security barrier,’ separating the Palestinian enclave from Israel.
The security cabinet meeting came after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held more than two hours of talks on Tuesday with Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi and intelligence chiefs to discuss Gaza.
The Egyptian-mediated talks on a proposed truce have continued for months, with Hamas demands that Israel ease the blockade, dubbed by human rights groups as ‘collective punishment’.
At least 498 people, nearly all Palestinians, have been killed since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed in November.
It is clear that Israel and its US and UK backers are only keen to have a truce with Hamas when that movement has been smashed by military action.
This will leave Israel to deal with the much more moderate Abbas leadership whose rule over the whole of Gaza and the West Bank will be restored, with the results of the historic 2006 democratic general election, when Fatah was routed by Hamas, completely undone by the Israeli terrorist government, and its tanks, bombs and missiles.
Israel is now on the brink of ordering an attempt to crush Hamas.
Workers in the West must give their active support to the Palestinian masses as they face yet another murderous Israeli offensive.
They must make their trade unions adopt a complete boycott of Israel, and see that it is adopted by the trade union movement world wide. This must only be lifted when the Palestinian state has been established, along with the right of the refugees to return and with East Jerusalem as its capital.