Since the egyptian brokered peace treaty expired on December 19th 2008, Hamas (the authority in Gaza strip, their legally elected government and a militant organization) resumed firing rockets into Israel. Israel, United States and the West Bank palestinian governments as well as a few world leaders called on renewed peace talks between Israel and Hamas and for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel. Hamas declined to discuss peace offers and decided to continue firing. On December 27th 2008, Israeli Defense forces launched major air strikes into Gaza strip to cripple and to damage Hamas infastructure. The operations are set to continue "for weeks to come" according to the Israeli defense minister.
About 320 Palestinians have died since the start of the operation, the UN says. Four Israelis have been killed by rockets from Gaza (these figures are latest figures published on December 30th 2008). However, massive infastructural damage has been inflcted on Gaza strip from Arial bombardment and on Israeli soil from numberous rocket attacks (close to 200-400 rockets a day).
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate ceasefire and condemned both Israel and Hamas. While recognising Israel's right to defend itself from militant rocket attacks, Mr Ban condemned its "excessive use of force". The United States and other world leaders called for "peace talks" and ceasefires but refrained from condeming Israel. Arab leaders were quick to condem Israel and began to take various diplomatic steps to isolate Israel.
According to White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe, "In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable ceasefire." President Bush has been quiet on the issue but everyone understands he supports Israel while Condolessa Rice wants to put more pressure on Israel to control itself and for Hamas to stop its attacks. Incoming President Barack Obama said "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that, And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."
Israel's defender minister Ehud Barak says Israel will be engaged with Hamas to the "bitter end." Israel's ground forces have been mobilized along the border and reserve units have been called into active duty - leading to the speculation that Israel will lead a ground invasion following the airstrikes. Meanwhile, the UN has been relatively quiet and most of the world's attentions are diverted to India and Pakistani tensions and the holidays.
In my opinion, Israel should quickly use this time to dismantle as many Hamas infastructure as possible. If civilian casualites are kept low (hard to do since Hamas uses human shields), Israel should be able to follow its operations without much hinderance. So far the media worldwide have voice concern over civlian deaths but has supported Israel's right to defend itself.