Initial response on way: Special army forces have started to gradually enter different areas in the Strip in an operation aimed as a response to the shooting incident at an army post near Kerem Shalom earlier Sunday that left at least six soldiers hurt.
Shortly after 9:00 p.m. the army began deploying dozens of vehicles, including jeeps, tanks, armored personnel carriers and bulldozers in the direction of Sunday's shooting incident. The IDF's operations currently focus on the vicinity of the tunnel the terrorists have dug from the Strip into Israel's territory.
Army forces near Gaza border (Photo: Amir Cohen)
The IDF is using heavy equipment to uncover any tracks that may reveal the terrorists' path. Other forces, including special units, are preparing for entry into Gaza in order to pursue the terrorists.
Palestinian sources in Gaza confirmed that the IDF has started mobilizing units in the attack's vicinity.
Peretz briefs Olmert
Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has been holding meetings since the early morning hours to evaluate the situation following the Gaza incident. According to estimates, the army will recommend that the government launch a large-scale operation in the Strip in response to the attack.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in order to brief him on the serious attack before the scheduled cabinet meeting takes place. Sources in Peretz's office said however that "it Is still early to draw lessons or speak of responses to the incident."
Peretz is also expected to brief the ministers during Sunday's cabinet meeting. The Shin Bet head and deputy head of the IDF's intelligences research unit will present their assessments before the ministers in light of recent developments.
'Terror won't lead to political achievements'
Officials in Jerusalem said that it was still early to discuss an Israeli response to the "high quality attack" carried out by the Palestinians, including terror groups affiliated with Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and "The Army of Islam," – an organization allied with the global Jihad movement.
The same sources stressed that according to current estimates, the attack has been under planning for quite a while and it took several days to carry it out. The incident is in no way linked with the recent events in Gaza, or with the understandings reportedly reached between Hamas and Fatah on the prisoners' document, the officials added.
"The motivation of the terror groups in Gaza, which at times enjoy the support of the Hamas-led government, still exists. The Palestinian terror continues to be legitimized by its leaders, who define it as 'resistance.' This despite the fact Israel and the IDF have left Gaza," a Jerusalem official said.
"It needs to be made clear that terror does not lead to political achievements, but rather the opposite. At this point it only marks a step up in the tragic series of events that took place in recent weeks, in which Israeli citizens and army soldiers fell victim to attacks and the State of Israel defended itself and its citizens," he added.
Efrat Weiss, Ilan Marciano and Ronny Sofer contributed to the report