Israel escalated its air assaults against Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Wednesday, having struck at more than 400 targets that led to nearly 40 Palestinian deaths in the past two days.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Wednesday to ramp up an Israeli campaign against Gaza militants.
"We have decided to further intensify the attacks on Hamas and the terror organizations in Gaza," his office quoted him as saying after consulting defense chiefs in southern Israel.
Israel, Gaza, West Bank map
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called an emergency meeting of Palestinian leadership for Wednesday to discuss the Israeli "aggression," which he blamed on Netanyahu's coalition.
In a speech given late Tuesday night, Abbas reiterated his call for protection of Palestinian against Israeli campaigns targeting terrorists in the Gaza Strip aiming to strike Israel.
World leaders responded to the growing crisis in the Middle East, many stating that it was within Israel’s right to protect itself against Hamas’ rocket attacks.
President Barack Obama said that "everyone involved" should act in a sensible and measured way, rather than seek revenge or retaliation.”
Obama’s comments were published in the German newspaper Die Zeit and he reiterated U.S. support for a two-state, Israeli-Palestinian solution and added that "both sides must be prepared to accept risks for peace.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, "The missile attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip has created a situation which threatens a spiraling process of violence and violent counter measures. Israel of course has the right to protect its citizens from rocket attacks."
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said that Ban "condemns the recent multiple rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza" and that "these indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas must stop."
According to Israel Hayom, French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave said on Tuesday, "When one is here [Ashdod, Israel], 30 kilometers [19 miles] from Gaza, you can feel up close the constant anxiety and fear which the families in the south live with, who find themselves yet again hostage to the violence. I would like to say to these families that we are not forgetting them and that France stands alongside them."
Egypt on Wednesday urged Israel and Hamas in Gaza to halt their escalating conflict but played down hopes of a Cairo-mediated truce.
Egypt, which has a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, played a key role in mediating cease-fires in past wars between Hamas and the Jewish state. But it has signaled a more hands-off approach in the latest conflict, which comes at a time of mounting tensions between the new government in Cairo and Hamas.
Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi condemned "Israeli aggression" and sent his prime minister to Gaza in a show of support for the Palestinians. Morsi brokered a truce seen as favorable to Hamas, which is linked to his Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the former army chief who ousted Morsi and has been elected president in his place, has said Hamas alienated Egyptians by backing the Brotherhood.
China called for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, as the Israeli army intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run territory for a second day.
"We believe force and violence will not settle the issue, but will only exacerbate hatred," Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei said. "We hope all relevant sides will bear in mind the bigger picture of peace and safety of the people, immediately realize a ceasefire, resume peace talks as soon as possible and stick to them.”
The Arab League on Tuesday called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an urgent meeting to discuss the Israeli military operation, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said.
Elaraby denounced the "dangerous Israeli escalation" and warned against its humanitarian consequences in Gaza.
In an opinion piece published online Wednesday, Haaretz wrote that Military restraint is no sign of weakness. “After all, there is no diplomatic process and the West Bank is threatening to erupt into a third intifada. … Operation Protective Edge, the name given Israel’s recent offensive, is designed to deliver a sharp and clear message to Hamas: Israel will not tolerate rocket fire on its territory. Still, concerns abound that this message will expand into a wider war with unpredictable consequences.”
David Horovitz of The Times of Israel writes that this is a sobering moment for Israel. “If we are to heal this nation, last Wednesday’s killing must rid us, once and for all, of the complacent illusion that we enjoy a distinctive moral superiority over our neighbors.”
In an opinion piece written exclusively for the Israel Conference on Peace and published on Haaretz’s website, President Obama wrote that the only solution is a democratic, Jewish state living side-by-side in peace and security with a viable independent Palestinian state.
“Just as the Israeli people have the right to live in the historic homeland of the Jewish people, the Palestinian people deserve the right to self-determination,” Obama wrote. "In President Abbas, Israel has a counterpart committed to a two-state solution and security cooperation with Israel.”
Obama drew criticism from conservative Fox News when he barely mentioned Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his commentary.
David Blair writing for the Daily Telegraph says history is repeating itself in Gaza, but this time Israel can seriously damage Hamas.
Blair writes: "Like many of the Middle East’s conflicts, the conflagration in Gaza has escalated with a speed that outsiders find bewildering.
"But two vital differences are worth highlighting. The first is that Israel’s defenses against rocket attack, based on the Iron Dome system, are more sophisticated than ever before. Hence the 160 rockets appear to have caused no injuries, let alone fatalities [in Israel].
"The second is that Hamas is starting from a position of unprecedented weakness" - having lost support of its "axis of resistance" members, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.
Derek Stoffel of CBC News questions that Hamas, which is out of money, big supporters and supplies, so why is it shooting at Israel?
“Hamas is broke. It's lost some of its biggest supporters. Its supply lines from Egypt are cut off. The Islamist militant group is at one of its weakest points since it was founded in 1987. Yet, its operatives are busy firing rockets at Israel, as hostilities between the two arch-enemies continues to escalate.
“Why? Hamas has little other choice but to fight,” Stoffel writes.
David Ignatius writes for The Washington Post that the developments in the Middle East are a slow-motion crisis that we saw coming. “What happens when hopes for a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict collapse? We have been watching the answer over the past month, as extremist killers drive events and Palestinian rocket attacks beget Israeli rockets in retaliation. The fact that it was so predictable makes it all the more horrifying.”
Ignatius also offers Rethinking Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points: The tragedy of the U.S. role in the modern Middle East is that it became, without entirely intending or realizing it, the protector of the very post-imperial order it once resisted.
However, several commenters find Western media at fault for not offering a more balanced view of events.
Owen Jones, writing for The Guardian, makes a case that more balance is needed in coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The macabre truth is that Israeli life is deemed by the Western media to be worth more than a Palestinian life – this is the hierarchy of death at work.”
“There is no defense for Hamas firing rockets into civilian areas, and as sirens wail in Israel, the fear among ordinary Israelis should not be ignored or belittled. But the media coverage hardly reflects the reality,” he writes.
Rachel Shabi, writing for Al Jazeera, echoes that comment. In reporting the current clashes, why does Western media never begin with Palestinian pain, she asks?