Israel bombed Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip from air and sea for a fifth straight day on Sunday, preparing for a possible ground invasion while also spelling out its conditions for a truce.
Palestinians launched dozens of rockets into Israel and targeted its commercial capital, Tel Aviv, for a fourth day. The "Iron Dome" missile shield shot down two of the rockets fired toward Israel's biggest city but falling debris from the interception hit a car, which caught fire. Its driver was not hurt.
In scenes recalling Israel's 2008-2009 winter invasion of the Gaza Strip, tanks, artillery and infantry massed in field encampments along the sandy border. Military convoys moved on roads in the area newly closed to civilian traffic.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to widen its offensive.
"We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organizations and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation," Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting, giving no further details.
Translation: "We're contractually obligated to warn you before we come in there and kill a whole crapload of your people. Have a nice day." If the Palestinians were looking to the White House for the Good Cop part of the routine, they're not finding it. President Obama spoke from Bangkok on his Asian tour:
President Barack Obama says Israel has a right to defend itself from missiles being aimed at the country by militants in the Gaza Strip.
Obama says "no country on earth would tolerate missiles raining down" on its people and says any effort to resolve the conflict in Gaza "starts with no missiles being fired into Israel's territory."
Translation: "We're looking the other way while the Israelis are contractually obligated to warn you before they come in there and kill a crapload of people. Have a nice day."
Of course it doesn't matter what the Palestinians do now. Bibi's not going to turn this opportunity for patriotic bloodlust down right before the Israeli elections in January. He's proven Iron Dome is an effective defense, he's gotten the Palestinians boxed in on their little reservation, he's got the US looking over Turkey and Egypt's shoulders to make sure they don't try anything stupid, and he's arguably a couple days away from flattening what effectively qualifies as the largest open-air prison on earth.
It's hard to imagine there being any other outcome at this point. Once those ground troops roll in, the IDF statement will be "We didn't finish the job in January 2009. We will this time."
And this time, they'll finish it. The cost will be brutal and devastating, and repercussions lasting a generation. It will almost certainly fully light the pyre that is Syria's civil war. If the US steps up the elimination of the al-Asaad regime, that would leave Hezbollah in Lebanon with no backing. They would go for broke against Israel, and then the real fun begins as Jordanian, Kuwaiti, and Saudi uprisings flare to life and Iran and Egypt get involved.
And that leaves China and Russia in a position where they may have to step in. Doesn't take a military history major to see what results from that scenario.
I'm hoping it doesn't blow up from here, but given the simultaneous wars about to erupt in both Gaza and Syria, it's going to be a tough couple of months.