The gates have opened for the crush of foreign journalists attempting to enter Gaza to report on the Israeli air assault there, which began on Wednesday and has now killed at least 70 Palestinians, many among them children and other apparent civilians, in a purported attempt to put an end to years of regular but almost never fatal Hamas rocket fire.
Among those present are NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin, ABC's Alexander Marquardt, the New York Times' Jodi Rudoren and Fares Akram, the Wall Street Journal's Matt Bradley, the Washington Post's Abigail Hauslohner, AJE's Jacky Rowland, Nadim Baba and Nicole Johnston, Global Post's Erin Cunningham, the BBC's Paul Danahar, Cairo-based journalists Sarah Topol and Bel Trew and some dozens if not hundreds of Egyptian activists who were allowed across the Rafah border crossing this evening in numbers unheard of under Mubarak's rule.
Last but not least, CNN standard bearer Anderson Cooper announced his arrival today via Instagram, and Christiane Amanpour might be next.
At the risk of media naval gazing, allow me to venture that this level of access to a Gaza war zone is unprecedented. During the far worse Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, which involved an Israeli ground invasion and killed more than 1,000 Palestinians, some journalists who attempted to enter from Israel were arrested, and AJE's Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros were the only international television correspondents to report from inside.
Now, Israel's Government Press Office is trumpeting in press releases that 500 foreign reporters have arrived just to cover Operation Pillar of Cloud, in addition to the 1,400 already there.
"Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein has directed GPO Director Nitzan Chen to do what is necessary to receive the journalists quickly and efficiently," the GPO said in the release.
Egypt's strategy, after days of delaying Rafah's opening, is more or less discernable, from sending Prime Minister Hisham Qandil on whistle-stop visit to allowing journalists to finally opening up a flood of activists - it's a way of limiting or preventing Israeli attacks without any military involvement.
Israel's behavior has been a bit more peculiar, as the Government Press Office has more or less facilitated the continual entry of foreign journalists into Gaza through the Erez crossing. Why they've been so open is anyone's guess, though you imagine some in government are none too pleased that Gaza has now received the AC360 treatment.
What all this means, one would think, is that an IDF escalation has become unlikely. Not only is Israel now negotiating a ceasefire with Hamas via Egypt (though when has negotiating a ceasefire stopped Israel from waxing someone), but an onslaught like Cast Lead, witnessed live on all the American networks, could be disastrous PR for Israel. And now Ban Ki-moon himself might be coming.
Netanyahu, the conventional wisdom goes, wants to finish the air campaign up and declare victory, having dealt Hamas' military infrastructure a crippling blow a few months ahead of his re-election campaign. Unless an armed faction in Gaza makes a mistake, one would think the costs of escalation for Israel might now be too high.