Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said he ordered Gaza crossings opened for essential humanitarian supplies in response to numerous requests from the international community.
The deliveries could ease tensions that might have led to military action to end rocket attacks, though in the past Israel has allowed Gaza to resupply with vital goods before launching assaults.
Which, according to Haaretz, once again appears to be the case:
On Sunday, the prime minister will hold a series of consultations ahead of a possible military action in the Strip. No major move will apparently be made until these discussions have concluded.
In statements Thursday, senior security officials were unwavering. “Anyone who harms Israeli citizens and soldiers will pay the price,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.
Israel is planning a relatively short operation that will cause maximum damage to Hamas “assets.” The defense establishment says the operation would not necessarily limit itself to stopping rocket launches and that during the operation, daily massive rocket launches can be expected. Hamas might fire rockets with a range beyond the 20 kilometers it has used so far.
The sources warned that an Israeli ground operation would result in many civilian casualties in Gaza, especially in the refugee camps.
So. Allow aid to flow, then (reluctantly) cash in a blood debt by liquidating civilians Hamas assets. A cynic might say that the lambs are being fattened before the slaughter.
Update 12.27: And so it begins:
At least 155 Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli aerial bombardment on Hamas security installations.
Israel launched air attacks across the besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday, threatening that further operations would be carried out later in the day.
Witnesses reported heavy damage as at least 30 missiles were fired on the targets.
Emergency services said that at least 200 people were also wounded.
The Israel army released a statement saying “terrorist installations” were hit and that all Israeli pilots returned unharmed.
The operation against the Hamas is “only just beginning,” Avi Benayahu, an Israeli military spokesman said.
Update 2: Laura Rozen:
I asked former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy, currently in Israel, why, while recognizing the pressure on the Israeli government to do something about the rockets from Gaza hitting southern Israel the past weeks, did Israeli officials choose to strike Hamas security facilities at midday when they were full of people, with high loss of life and almost certain dramatic escalation of the conflict? “I do not fully understand why they went for such a disproportionate escalation,” Levy writes. “My guess: a combination of electioneering and misplaced wishful thinking that this will push the Arabs/world to intervene and downsize Hamas on terms favorable to Israel ….[This] won’t happen – certainly not in a sustainable way. By the way, Hamas probably thinks this will cause intervention on terms favorable to themselves – also misguided (though less so; long term, this helps Hamas is my guess).“
Also via Rozen, Haaretz: “Hamas chief vows third Intifada has come”:
Hamas Political Leader in Damascus Khaled Meshal threatened revenge attacks after a series of Israel Air Force attacks left at least 230 dead and hundreds more wounded in Gaza, saying “the time for the third Intifada has come.”
Meshal issued a call to Palestinians in the West Bank to carry out suicide attacks against Israeli targets and to attack Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
“This Intifada will be peaceful for the Palestinians but lethal for the Zionist enemy,” Meshal said, adding that this ‘new Intifada,’ will “rescue Gaza and protect the West Bank.”
A Hamas spokesman on Saturday vowed the group would not surrender in the face of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip, and that Israel would not break its “resistance to the occupation.”
The spokesman added that Hamas would not “raise a white flag” of surrender and would respond with all means available at its disposal.