Israel faces a turning point in its war against Hamas militants, according to Maj. Gen. (Res.) Dan Harel, former deputy chief of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)’s General Staff and a former head of its Southern Command.
Israel is "running out of targets" after launching more than 1,300 coordinated attacks on terrorist entities and weapons facilities in the Gaza Strip since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, Harel told reporters during a conference call organized by the Israel Project Monday.
"We are moving quite fast to a turning point," he said.
While it is legal according to international law for Israel to target sites in highly populated areas, "it wouldn’t be moral or very smart of the Israel side," Harel said. Israel will have to decide whether to escalate hostilities or strike a truce with Hamas.
"It’s thinner and thinner and we will have to decide what to do," he said. "We are about 24 to 48 hours from this junction."
More than 30,000 Israeli troops remain at the Israel-Gaza border in the event a full-scale ground incursion is ordered. Nearly 75,000 IDF reservists also are on stand-by should a ground assault be necessary to stop Hamas’ attacks.
Hamas would face "a lot of casualties" if Israeli forces launch a ground operation, Harel said, adding that such an operation would "be bad for both sides."
Hamas continues to fire hundreds of rockets at Israeli citizens: A rocket struck a school early Tuesday in Ashkelon, a town in Israel’s southern region that is regularly targeted by Hamas militants.
More than 90 schools, 61 kindergartens, and three million Israeli citizens are within striking distance of Hamas, according to the Israel Project. Nearly 2,000 rockets and mortars have struck Israel thus far in 2012.
Militants have launched 45 rockets at Israel since the early morning hours of Monday and nearly 900 have fallen since the IDF began its military operation last week, according to an IDF spokesperson.
Three Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets were fired towards Tel Aviv on Sunday, further revealing Iran’s role in the arming of Hamas terrorists.
Israel has made a concerted effort to avoid civilian causalities in Gaza and has treated Palestinian patients in its own hospitals, according to reports.
It also has delivered multiple truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza during the conflict, including medical equipment and food, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Hamas has increased its anti-Semitic propaganda since hostilities began.
"From the Al-Qassam Brigades to the Zionist soldiers: The Al-Qassam Brigades love death more than you love life," the terror group said in a video message broadcast on Al-Aqsa TV, according to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
Another video promises fierce reprisals on Israeli soldiers and citizens.
"Oh occupier, we are coming towards you. Leave our land," the video states, according to PMW. "All of Palestine is ours. There is nothing here for you but death. There is nothing here for you but to be killed and to leave."
Hamas has been launching rockets near civilian homes, mosques, and schools in an effort to increase causalities among its own people, according to footage it recently broadcast on Al-Aqsa TV.
Iran has sought to stoke tensions since hostilities broke out, providing Hamas terrorists with sophisticated weaponry and urging other Arab countries to send troops into Palestine.
"Regional countries should send their forces, weapons, and equipment to the Palestinian people so that they will be used for confrontation with the Zionist regime instead of being used to cause attrition and confrontation between two Muslim groups in Syria," Ali Larijani, chair of Iran’s parliament, was quoted as saying on Sunday according to the Mehr News Agency.
Larijani also took aim at President Barack Obama in his remarks.
"U.S. President Barack Obama fulfilled its shameful election pledge [to support] the Zionist regime through expressing satisfaction with the attacks, and after getting the go-ahead from the West, the Zionist regime presumptuously organized a savage attack and openly announced that it would mount an operation due to the Palestinian resistance’s military capability," he was quoted as saying.