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Israel gears up for ground assault
- Gaza rocket again lands near Tel Aviv

Jerusalem, Nov. 16: After a morning of heavy rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, the Israeli military seemed to be edging closer to a ground invasion of Gaza today, saying forces were “on standby” and “ready to enter should it be decided that a ground operation is necessary”.

In a statement, the Israeli military said paratrooper and infantry brigades had completed final preparations for a potential ground operation, which would be the first since the winter of 2008-09, when Israel drew broad international reproach for an invasion that claimed 1,400 Palestinian lives for the loss of 13 Israelis.

The statement came after scores of rockets were fired into Israel, striking major cities of the south, causing widespread panic and damage and shattering plans for a temporary ceasefire during a remarkable visit to Gaza by the Egyptian Prime Minister that showed the shifting dynamics of West Asian politics since the turmoil of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Word of the potential invasion emerged shortly before a rocket from Gaza struck near Tel Aviv. It was the second attempt to strike at the city in two days. Hamas said it had fired a single “homemade” projectile towards Tel Aviv.

An Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said the rocket that was fired at Tel Aviv probably landed in the sea, and that it was one of about 120 rockets fired into Israel by dusk today. Israeli officials say that the only rockets in Gaza with a range that can reach Tel Aviv are the Iranian-made Fajr-5 projectiles that Israel has been targeting in its hundreds of airstrikes over the last two days.

That these rockets were still being fired seemed to weigh heavily in Israeli military calculations about a ground invasion. After a meeting with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli army was “continuing to hit Hamas hard and is ready to expand the operation into Gaza,” according to a statement from his office.

The rapidly escalating confrontation between Hamas and Israel followed an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday that killed the top commander of Hamas, and the tit-for-tat violence is widely seen as a potential catalyst for broader hostilities at a time of spreading turmoil in Syria.

 
 
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