Q&A: Gaza strikes could be beginning of ground attack

Story highlights

  • Israel says its attack was in response to Hamas rocket attacks
  • It is the most serious offensive in Gaza since 2009
  • Israel says contingency plans for a ground attack are in place

What has caused the Israelis to strike so hard inside Gaza?

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor told me Israel felt compelled to respond to what it sees as relentless Palestinian rocket attacks into Southern Israel which terrify civilians and force schools and business closures.

But the view from Gaza is very different. Palestinians there say that what the Israeli military calls surgical strikes routinely kill civilians and they are cut off from the world with a total land, air and sea blockade.

Map: Israel
Escalating tensions in the Middle East
Escalating tensions in the Middle East


    Escalating tensions in the Middle East


Escalating tensions in the Middle East 05:26

FAQ: What is Hamas?

Is this a serious escalation of the Israel/Palestinian conflict or just another skirmish?

This is the most serious Israeli offensive on Gaza since early 2009, when an Israeli military ground war killed up to 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. The question now is whether this will remain a contained incident or if this will turn into something bigger.

Israel's military says preparations are being made for a ground offensive, should the need for one arise. The coming days will determine how serious this incident is.

iReport: Photos and video from inside the protests in Israel

Already, we are seeing signs that this Gaza offensive is causing regional rifts. Egypt, which brokered a recent ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel, was so angry at the offensive it has recalled its ambassador to Israel.

Opinion: New dangers in familiar Gaza violence

Is there a danger that this will spill into wider turmoil?

Regionally, the Middle East is looking more and more unstable by the week. The tragic Syrian civil war is spilling over into Lebanon, the occupied Golan Heights, Jordan and Turkey. Israel is concerned about Iran's nuclear program and the possibility that it will strike Iranian nuclear facilities are adding to those tensions.

And now Egypt is signaling displeasure with Israel's Gaza offensive. Will that test its treaties with the Jewish state? There are many moving parts to keep an eye on.

Are you there? Share photos, video but stay safe

What does it mean for the stalled Middle East peace process?

The moribund Middle East peace process is now suffering another setback. Remember, there's an election next January and some have accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of launching this offensive in order to benefit politically from appearing to take tough action against Hamas.

There are no signs that peace talks between Israel and the Fatah government in the West Bank or any element of Hamas' leadership is looking likely on any level.

      Israel-Gaza conflict

    • iReporter and keen photographer Makandel heard about protests outside the White House in Washington DC over Gaza and arrived to find competing demonstrations between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian supporters.

      Share your story with CNN

      Are you in the region? Share photos and video of what you are witnessing, but please do not expose yourself or others to a dangerous situation.
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    • Palestinians celebrate waving Fatah and Hamas flags at the square of the Unknown Soldier in central Gaza City on November 22, 2012. Israeli politicians returned to the campaign trail as the streets of Gaza came back to life after a truce ended eight days of bloodshed, with both sides claiming victory while remaining wary. AFP PHOTO/MARCO LONGARI (Photo credit should read MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

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    • TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 21: Emergency services respond to the scene of an explosion on a bus with passengers onboard on November 21, 2012 in central Tel Aviv, Israel. At least ten people have been injured in a blast on a bus near military headquarters in what is being described as terrorist attack, which threatens to derail ongoing cease-fire negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian authorities.  (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

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    • Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (R) and his Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr (L) meet with US Secretary Hillary Clinton at the presidential palace in Cairo on November 21, 2012. Clinton's visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed an bringing an end to the conflict which has killed over 130 people in a week. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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      However crude the calculation, the winners and losers in the Israel-Gaza conflict are already reshaping political alliances in the Middle East.
    • Palestinians extinguish fire from the car of Ahmaed Jaabari, head of the military wing of the Hamas movement, the Ezzedin Qassam Brigades, after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on November 14, 2012.

      Q&A: What is Hamas?

      What is the group, where did it come from and what does it hope to achieve by its rocket attacks on Israeli targets? CNN explains.