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November 16th, 2012
08:30 AM ET

Israeli Dep. For. Minister Danny Ayalon says a ground war in Israel is possible: 'more rockets' in the next 24-36 hours 'would be the trigger'

A major conflict is developing in the Middle East this morning. Rockets fired from Gaza to Tel Aviv overnight after Israel began its “Operation Pillar of Defense” on Wednesday when a precision Israeli air strike killed Hamas military mastermind Ahmed Al-Jaabari. Hamas reports at least 15 Palestinians have been killed in missile strikes and Israeli forces reports three of its citizens have been killed.

Massive anti-Israeli protests have since sprouted in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Egypt, and Jordan, in reaction in Israel’s strike on the Gaza Strip.

Leaders in the international community are watching the violence closely, fearing a ground war as Israeli troops mass at the Gaza border. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has cancelled a planned trip through Africa to go to the Middle East to try to prevent further violence.

Danny Ayalon is the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister. He's also a former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ayalon joins Soledad O’Brien on “Starting Point” with more on the ongoing situation.

“The situation is that the terrorists of Hamas keep trying to aim more rockets…at Israeli populations,” Ayalon says. He says Israeli citizens have been unable to lead their lives peacefully for the last seven years, ever since handing Gaza over to the Palestinians. “We gave Gaza to the Palestinians till the last inch, and instead of peace and quiet, reconciliation, coexistence, they have fired more and more arms against us.”

Ayalon says “situation now has been exacerbated because of the so-called Arab Swing.” He says Hamas now has access to “more accurate and long-range missiles from the caches” of deposed Libyan Moammar Gadhafi. Ayalon explains that Israel’s role is now to defend itself because those in Hamas use these arms “very irresponsibly”.  “What we want to do is first and foremost, achieve peace and quiet,” Ayalon says. “That means, to stop the rockets.”

Ayalon says a ground war is possible. “We don’t want to get into Gaza if we don’t have to, but if they keep firing at us, we will have to do it.” Ayalon says the next 24 to 36 hours will determine whether a ground operation is in the cards. More rockets in that time frame “would be the trigger.” Ayalon says the decision is all “touch and go”.

Lastly, he alerts world leaders to their responsibility. “It’s really the responsibility on the Hamas terrorist heads and all those who support them, the Iranians, Qatari money,” Ayalon says. Ayalon stresses that the international community should cut off any aid to Hamas.

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