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Gaza: Why Israel and Hamas are trading rocket fire

Both sides are maneuvering for another ceasefire, and Israeli troops are not likely to invade the Gaza strip, say analysts.

AIR ATTACKS: A Palestinian family flees after an Israeli missile hits.

Eyad Baba/AP

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On the second day of intense Israeli airstrikes that set off street protests throughout the Middle East, Hamas responded Sunday by extending the range of its rocket attacks on southern Israeli cities.

The ferocity and precision of the Israeli blitz sent the Palestinian death toll to nearly 300, surprising the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, and sowing panic. Egyptian border police fired on Palestinians fleeing across Gaza's western border Sunday. Meanwhile, Israeli troops and tanks massed on Gaza's eastern and northern borders.

But Israel is mindful of the lessons from its war with Hezbollah in Lebanon two years ago, say analysts, and isn't likely to send in ground troops to topple Hamas.

Rather than reoccupy Gaza, a politically unpopular move, Israel may want to simply redefine the terms of engagement along the southern frontier and reach a new cease- fire. "[Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert has been chastened by the Lebanon experience," says Michael Oren, a fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem who authored a book on the 1967 war. "He talked about toppling Hezbollah and disarming Hezbollah. There are far more modest objectives for this operation – an improved status quo ante."


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