'All Options on the Table' as Israel Launches 'Operation Pillar of Cloud'

Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip November 14, 2012. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

'All Options on the Table' as Israel Launches 'Operation Pillar of Cloud'

Multiple airstrikes already started, ground invasion may follow

Israel has launched the start of a new war on Gaza "that will continue and grow," pounding the blockaded area with an aerial assault including multiple airstrikes on Wednesday.

Israel has named their new war "Operation Pillar of Cloud" -- a Biblical reference to the Divine cloud that protected the Jewish people.

The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) tweeted Wednesday: "All options are on the table. If necessary, the IDF is ready to initiate a ground operation in Gaza." And Israel's Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai also hinted at a ground operation being a possibility, telling Channel 2 TV, "There are preparations, and if we are required to, the option of a entry by ground is available." In more evidence of a ground war in sight, Haaretz reports that the IDF has issued draft orders for Israeli Homefront Command reserve soldiers.

Confirming that air assaults are only part of longer-term escalation, Mordechai added on Wednesday evening, "We are in the midst of an attack that will continue and grow. There is no hourglass."

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed this message in a televised address on Wednesday, saying "we are prepared to expand the operation," and, in a sign of the scope of this newest assault, said, "We are at the beginning, not end of this action."

Australia's The Agereports that "Gaza's health ministry said 10 civilians have been killed, including two young children - an 11-month-old and a six-year-old - while at least 45 people were wounded, 10 of them in critical condition."

One of the strikes killed Ahmad Al Jabari, the head of the armed wing of Hamas, Ezzedine Al-Qassam. The assassination "opened the gates of hell," Agence France-Pressereports the group as saying.

The IDF has a boastful tweet of Jabari's assassination, in which it says he has been "eliminated."

"The Israelis thought they could break Hamas resistance by killing Al-Jabari. They are wrong. The Palestinian resistance is still strong. We will coordinate together our reply to this crime committed by the Israelis," the Independentreports Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri as saying. "Two days ago there was a ceasefire agreement prepared through Egyptian mediation. The Israelis did not commit to it and now they will pay the price."

The Guardianreports on the reaction from Egypt's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood group and the party of the new president, Mohammed Morsi:

The chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood's FJP party, Saad Elkatatny, said: "The Egyptian people revolted against injustice and will not accept an attack on Gaza. The brutal aggression on Gaza proves that Israel has not yet learned that Egypt has changed."

A statement from the FJP added: "The Freedom and Justice party stresses its full condemnation of the Israeli assignation operation against al-Qassam leader Ahmed al-Jaabari." It called for a quick Arab and international reaction.

"Israel's return to the policy of assignation of leaders from the Palestinian struggle groups shows that the Israeli occupation wants to drag the region towards instability," the FJP statement added.

"But the occupying state has to understand that the changes the Arab region, and especially Egypt, have witnessed will not permit that the Palestinian people be put under the hold of the Israeli offence in the same way as the past."

Egypt has also recalled its ambassador to Israel.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Wednesday in which it said the U.S. "support[s] Israel's right to defend itself."

* * *

Al Jazeera has live coverage:

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.