Tweets are coming fast and furious from Gaza, many reporting heavy shelling by drones, helicopters and tanks both in Gaza proper and along the border with Egypt.
Reports coming from those on the ground are that:
-- the U.N. has evacuated all staff from Gaza
-- Egypt has closed the Rafah border crossing
-- Casualties and heavy damage have already been reported
-- Hamas has called for a cease fire
-- Abbas is asking Western powers to intervene
While some of this is unsubstantiated at the moment, it is probably safe to assume that Israel is heavily bombing Gaza after an anti-tank missle from Gaza hit a school bus in Israel, injuring several students.
More over the jump on what is happening and why this may be happening now.
UPDATE: this is the BBC's first report. Here is the link to Al Jazeera's update.
This will be updated as more information comes in. Please use comments to offer updates as well.
What is Happening – The Mainstream Narrative
Today, an anti-tank missle from Gaza hit a school bus in Israel, injuring several students. In response, Netanyahu made clear Israel's intention to defend its citizens, with undertones of a possible major military operation.
This is the narrative that many news outlets have been reporting today, and it appears to be the simplest way to explain events that are transpiring right now.
1) Rocket hits bus in Gaza
2) Israel defends itself
However, from reports that are coming in on Twitter and elsewhere, the bombing taking place right now in Gaza goes far beyond simple retaliation, for if reports are to be believed (which, again, are unsubstantiated), Israel is currently engaging in a broad, fierce military operation across multiple fronts in Gaza.
Why This May Be Happening Now
Below are the possible reasons Israel may be heavily shelling Gaza at the moment, and may be preparing for a broader operation:
1) This is a straight retaliation for rockets coming in from Gaza
2) Israel, under a diplomatic cover after Goldstone's op-ed debacle, is taking advantage of this cover by striking
3) In my opinion, this third reason gets to the heart of what may actually be transpiring: Mahmoud Abbas and the PA have been working hard in the past several weeks to reach some type of reconciliation between the PA and Hamas. This is a reconciliation that Netanyahu has already expressed displeasure with, as I noted here.
While Israeli strikes can certainly be chalked up to defense, strikes of the magnitude that are being reported currently don't jibe with one-to-one strikes against those who fired at a bus from Gaza.
It is thus possible that Israel, due to items 1 & 2, is using this as an opportunity to create enough chaos and discord capable of scuttling reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the PA.
While I freely admit that this third reason is mere speculation on my part, it's important to know this political context, for given past histories, it's impossible that the PA-Hamas dynamic is not in play currently.
UPDATE: I also want to add, for the sake of balance, that one of the central ironies here is that Hamas' recent attacks are also likely being perpetrated to scuttle the above-mentioned reconciliation efforts, or at least take Gazans' minds off of their popular protests for reform and the formation of a unity government. Does Hamas want to destroy Israel? Yes. But these recent escalations aren't about that at all. I believe this will be the topic of my next diary.