VIDEO - Wednesday saw the cabinet meet to discuss Defense Minister Amir Peretz's recommendation to refrain from embarking on an all-out offensive and stick to 'pinpointed activities' in Gaza.
The current operation in the Beit Hanoun area continues, with reports of at least six Palestinians killed and about 20 wounded. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has already condemned the operation and called it "another massacre."
The formal announcement summing up the meeting states that the cabinet members decided "to authorize the continuation of the current security operations and increase the pressure on Hamas and other terror organizations in an effort to halt the firing of rockets into Israel, and to authorize steps that would allow responsible parties in the Palestinian Authority, who are not from the Hamas government, to realize their influence."
It was further decided to increase cooperation efforts with Egypt to minimize the smuggling of arms across Gaza's southern border, while advancing humanitarian projects.
Newly appointed Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman suggested operating in Gaza "like Russia operates in Chechnya." Internal Security Minister Avi Dicter replied by saying that "Gaza is not Chechnya and we are not the Russians. Our tactics are completely different."
Dicter stated during the meeting that the technological component for thwarting the Qassam rockets demands improvement. He warned that the groups in Gaza were molding themselves after Hizbollah in Lebanon, that the ties between Hamas and Hizbollah were growing stronger and that Egypt "is doing nothing about the smuggling."
Likud officials voiced their criticism of the cabinet's decision, which was made amid grave warnings from security forces regarding the massive amounts of arms being smuggled into the Palestinian Authority. "The IDF's activities in Gaza have been turned into aimless wandering, devoid of any strategic purpose," said MK Yuval Steinitz.
Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant who heads the IDF Southern Command said on Tuesday that Hamas is building up a division-sized force, armed with anti-tank weaponry. Maj. Gen. (res) Yom Tov Samia, who headed the Southern Command between 1997-2000 and has been called by emergency order to aid Galant, has long since called for the retaking of the 'Philadelphi' route to thwart arms smuggling.
Chairman of the Hadash Party Muhammad Barakeh, referring to IDF operations in Gaza, said that "this government is trying to increase the circle of bloodshed and base it's tenure on as many Palestinian corpses as possible."
"The government has a consistently hawkish agenda and every time shows anew how quick it is to intensify the situation in the occupied territories," he said.