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As Gaza offensive intensifies, Israel enjoys unusual international support

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The bombing has made a cease-fire less likely. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and various foreign ministers have descended on the region to hasten an agreement, though prospects are dimming. Last night, Hamas and Egyptian officials were claiming that a truce was agreed, and later blamed Israel for scuttling the deal at the last minute.

But even as international pressure has been mounting for a cease-fire, the US, the UN, and the European Union have been careful to emphasize that Israeli citizens cannot be expected to live under a barrage of rocket fire.

“One thing is clear: The cause of this escalation is the rocket fire from Gaza to Israel’s south. That cannot be justified,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said yesterday in Jerusalem. “The Israeli government does not have to live with this; it has the right to protect its civilian population.”

Israeli officials credit Israel’s application of lessons learned from its 2008-09 Cast Lead operation, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and reduced much of Gaza’s infrastructure to rubble, for their current international support.

“I think this is a little bit longer than the average period that was given to us,” says Nachmann Shai, a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense committee with a long career in representing Israel’s interests to the world. “The United Nations gave us generously some time to take care of the terror,” he says, adding that there were clear expectations that Israel was to do its best to avoid civilian casualties and refrain from collective punishment measures.

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