Israel-Gaza conflict: Prepare to widen invasion, Benjamin Netanyahu tells military

The ground offensive is a high-risk move for the Israeli premier

jerusalem

The Israeli prime minister says he has instructed the army to expand its invasion of the Gaza Strip, after 58 Palestinians - including 15 under 18s - and one Israeli were killed in the first night of fighting.

Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The directive to the Israel Defence Forces that the cabinet has approved is to prepare for a significant widening of the ground operations. We chose to start this operation after we exhausted other options and reached the conclusion that without it we would pay a much higher price.”

The ground offensive is a high-risk move for the Israeli premier. He could end up drawn into an all-out reoccupation of Gaza – this he wants to avoid for fear that anything that replaces Hamas rule would be worse. Moreover, casualties among his troops have already begun, with a 20-year-old soldier today becoming the first Israeli fatality. Beyond that, Israel risks further alienating the international community with increasing Palestinian casualties.

Officially the ground offensive was launched late on Thursday after 10 days of aerial and sea bombardments with the stated objective of locating and destroying Hamas tunnels used to infiltrate Israel from Gaza. But it is also clearly designed to soften up Hamas during Egyptian ceasefire efforts, in which the Islamist group has rejected an unconditional truce that would put an end to its rocket attacks against Israel and Israeli army operations. It says easing of border strictures crippling the Gaza economy and release of re-arrested Hamas prisoners held by Israel need to be part of the equation.

“The Israeli hope is that on-the-ground military pressure, losses, pressure on the population and the elimination of assets will bring Hamas to the point where they say to the Egyptians “we’ll deal, we’ll drop our conditions”, said Yossi Alpher, former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. He believes Mr Netanyahu, more cautious about using military force than his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, is not aiming for a full reoccupation. “He has no appetite to escalate this into a full-fledged reoccupation and destruction of Hamas but it could end up that if things get out of hand.”

However, Maj-Gen Gad Shamni, former Israeli army division commander for Gaza, said that even the limited tunnel-searching goal will require penetrating urban areas of the densely packed coastal enclave. “You have to go one and a half to two kilometers into Gaza to the outskirts of urban areas, you have to penetrate these... to protect your forces that are searching and working to find the tunnels. It takes time,” he said.

In the general’s view, Israel’s decision to call up 18,000 reservists, adding to 30,000 already mobilised, “hints that we are preparing to hold a wider operation if this second phase doesn’t succeed”.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London