Despite today’s announced cease fire, rocket attacks targeting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem represent a major escalation of the conflict and a demonstrates the increased offensive capability of Hamas. As Israeli defense policy is predicated upon defending major population centers from attack, believe operations to reduce stock of rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will continue or prove a major component of any further negotiations. As it is doubtful that Hamas will agree to voluntarily disarm or not pursue such capabilities, believe that Israel will ultimately turn to another all-out ground invasion.
While sources indicate that the U.S. has pushed hard for a negotiated end to hostilities, statements from the White House and State Department also appear to have sanctioned a ground invasion (despite the fact that this would represent a significant escalation of the conflict by Israel). The odds of a immediate attack have been lessened by efforts to broker a deal by Turkish/Egyptian/Qatari leaders that have resulted in a tentative cease fire as of Wednesday. Despite positive statements issued by Egypt’s President regarding the potential for a more permanent cease fire (and the leverage that the changed political landscape in Egypt gives Hamas in these negotiations) do not believe that this will ultimately affect Israel’s decision to invade Gaza.
Announcement for decision regarding timeline for ground offensive put at two days by Israeli cabinet level official – if approved, expect ground invasion to follow shortly thereafter based upon operational tempo observed during Cast Lead.