Israel indicated for the first time on Sunday that an end was in sight to its war on Hamas, amid some of the heaviest clashes of an offensive that has killed 879 people in the Gaza Strip.
Infantry units backed by tanks pushed deeper into Gaza’s main city, sparking some of the fiercest battles yet of the 16-day-old war Israel launched on the Islamists in response to rocket fire from their stronghold.
But Israeli officials suggested the Jewish state was nearing the end of its deadliest ever offensive in the Palestinian enclave, despite having last week waved off a UN Security Council resolution calling for a halt to the fighting.
“The decision of the (UN) security council doesn’t give us much leeway,” Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told public radio. “Thus it would seem that we are close to ending the ground operation and ending the operation altogether.”
Earlier Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the Jewish state was nearing the goals it had set for its operation, but said fighting would continue for the time being.