Israel press sees Gaza bloodshed spiralling out of control

DVBP278 4 WA 0572 ZZZ /AFP-VK61 Israel-Palestinians-conflict-Gaza-attacks-media Israel press sees Gaza bloodshed spiralling out of control by Steve Weizman JERUSALEM, Aug 21, 2011 (AFP) - Israeli media warned on Sunday that the bloody exchanges in and around Gaza which erupted after a deadly attack in southern Israel last week, risk spinning out of control, with nobody a winner. The latest round of fighting was sparked by a series of coordinated attacks on Israeli cars and buses on a desert road near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat last Thursday which left eight people dead in an operation blamed on militants in Gaza. Since Thursday, 15 Palestinians have been killed, nine of them militants, and 48 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza. And in Israel, one man has been killed and 18 injured as militants in Gaza have fired more than 100 rockets and mortar rounds at towns and cities in the south. "Escalation" was the single-word headline splashed in red across the front page of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot, with veteran commentator Nahum Barnea, warning there could be no winner in the latest spiral of violence. "More and more civilians are getting hurt -- both on our side and on the other side," he wrote. "Every death produces yet another escalation, and every escalation produces more deaths. Both sides are losing control." The armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement, which rules Gaza, also joined the fighting on Saturday, but it was "dragged into a battle it didn't want, a battle in which there is no victory," he added. "The Israeli government isn't going to achieve victory in this battle either," he wrote. "If the goal is to destroy the Hamas regime in Gaza, this isn't the way to do that... The Israeli government has at its disposal sophisticated military means. It has no strategy." Alex Fishman, writing in the same paper, warned of the diplomatic fallout which would be inevitable if Israel decided to embark upon a repeat of Operation Cast Lead, a devastating 22-day operation in Gaza over New Year 2009 which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and 11 Israelis. "Where do we go from here without getting into large-scale ground operations that will completely destroy our relations with Egypt and will persuade wavering countries not to support us in the UN vote about a Palestinian state in September?" he wrote, referring to Palestinian plans to seek UN membership next month. He was also referring to a diplomatic crisis with Egypt, which erupted after Cairo said five of its policemen were killed by Israeli soldiers hunting gunmen involved in Thursday's attacks. But Haaretz said that a statement by Defence Minister Ehud Barak, in which he expressed regret over the deaths and insisted the Israeli-Egyptian relationship was "strategic and highly important," should be interpreted as signalling that the raids on Gaza were coming to an end. "Barak's statement in effect sent the message that Israel's harsh aerial response to Thursday's terror attacks was finished and that no further escalation was anticipated, certainly not a ground assault," commentator Amir Oren wrote. "It was an open letter to Egypt: Israel will not launch Operation Cast Lead 2 and will not risk hurting Palestinian civilians, in order to avoid creating an even more serious crisis in its relations with Cairo," he added. scw/hmw/jds/hkb AFP 211216 GMT AUG 11