It seems almost callous to speak of a "routine" of Israeli airstrikes against Gaza, as more than 50 attacks were carried out on Thursday. In addition to the killing of Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan, Israeli raids hit the home of "senior Hamas military operative" Nabil Amrin, the Parliament building, the Ministries of Justice, Education, and Civil Defense, and a mosque in Jabaliya. The Israeli Defense Forces said more than 40 rockets were fired into Israel.
There may be a twist in the diplomatic tale, however. Israeli Tzipi Livni traveled to Paris to meet Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, only 24 hours after a French proposal for a humanitarian truce was rejected by the Israeli Cabinet. Livni said that the Israeli attacks had "achieved changes" and said the aim was to "weaken Gaza".
One possibility is that the Israeli Government, which has just permitted the departure of foreigners from the Gaza Strip, could be preparing for a ground assault. The Foreign Minister's words, however, point to another possibility: could Livni be backing away from the objective, declared on the eve of the Israeli assault, of overthrowing Hamas? And does her statement of "achieved changes" indicate that Israel may be ready to pause?
Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, I noted this yesterday from Donald Macintyre in The Independent:
There was a moment, back at the end of July 2006, when the second Lebanon war might just have ended five or six days after it began. We now know that Tzipi Livni, Israel's Foreign Minister, expressed serious concern that Israel might be missing a chance to reach a peace agreement at least as good as the one which would come a full four weeks and many hundreds of casualties – on both sides – later.
Reportedly, it was Minister of Defense Ehud Barak rather than Livni who supported the 48-hour truce in Israeli Cabinet discussions. Yet, with Sarkozy pressing his own role as an international statesman and travelling to Israel on Monday, it appears negotiations are ongoing for some manoeuvre which will permit an easing of Israeli operations while allowing Tel Aviv to claim victory in its immediate aim of facing down Hamas.
As Livni said, somewhat cryptically, after Thursday's talks, "The question of whether it's enough or not [for a truce] will be the result of our assessment on a daily basis," she said.