Palestinian factions met on Monday in Gaza City to discuss Israeli attacks and threats of a wider operation in the enclave.
Hamas called the meeting to try and avoid further casualties after Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in Gaza since Saturday, said Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Talal Abu Tharefa.
Abu Tharefa told Ma’an any truce with Israel must include an end to Israeli airstrikes and attacks, adding that the Palestinian resistance would retain the right to respond to Israeli aggression.
Top-selling Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth said Monday that the United States had given a green light for an Israeli operation in Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened foreign ambassadors in what appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt international censure should Israel, whose 2008-2009 Gaza offensive exacted a costly civilian toll, again go in hard.
Netanyahu briefed the envoys in Ashkelon, a port city within range of some Palestinian rockets. “None of their governments would accept a situation like this,” he said.
Major escalation ‘within hours’
Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, an influential member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the briefing was meant to prepare world opinion for “what is about to happen,” adding there might be a major Israeli escalation within a few hours.
“Hamas bears responsibility. The heads of Hamas should pay the price and not sleep at night. I expect to see not just a return to targeted killings, but also to very wide activity by (the army),” he told Israel Radio.
Netanyahu said a million Israelis – around one-eighth of the population – were in danger from rocket attacks.
Israeli tanks shelled Gaza City on Saturday killing four civilians and injuring at least 25. Israel’s army said it was responding to a missile attack on an Israeli military jeep which injured four soldiers.
Gaza factions fired dozens of rockets into Israel in response to the deaths, and Israel launched an airstrike early Sunday which killed two members of Islamic Jihad’s military wing.
Israel launched multiple airstrikes on the Gaza Strip overnight Sunday, with no injuries reported, and 11 rockets have been fired from Gaza since Monday morning. One rocket struck a home in the city of Netivot at around 7 a.m., causing material damage.
Hamas took part in missile launches over the weekend but Monday’s attack was claimed by the Shura Council of the Mujahedeen, a Salafi organization that rejects Hamas’s authority.
Israel has been deploying its Iron Dome rocket interceptor, air raid sirens and blast shelters, but eight people have still been wounded by the salvos.
Egypt in the picture
A Palestinian official who declined to be named said Egypt had been trying to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants and that, although no formal truce was in place, Hamas understood the need for calm.
Israel has shown little appetite for a new Gaza war, which could strain relations with the new Islamist-rooted government in neighboring Egypt. The countries made peace in 1979.
But Netanyahu may be reluctant to seem weak ahead of a Jan. 22 election that opinion polls currently predict he will win.
The political adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza’s prime minister, said he believed Egypt’s new president, Mohammad Mursi, provided “a safety net” for the Palestinians.
“The president of the biggest neighboring Arab country (has) said: We will not allow a new war on Gaza, and Palestinian blood is our blood,” Youssef Rizqa wrote in the pro-Hamas daily Felesteen.