"We'll shoot till they say 'stop'!" a defense establishment source told Ynet on Thursday after IDF activity in the Gaza Strip was expanded.
"We plan to operate against those who are guilty, not around them; they will be the ones to pay the price. We are aware of their Qassam launching abilities, but the more they launch, the more they will get back," the source said.
In an evaluation meeting held by Defense Minister Amir Peretz,
with the IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and
other defense establishment bodies, it was decided that activity in the Strip should be expanded; and that preparations for the possibility that activity would continue for a number of weeks be made.
At this point however, there are still no plans to send ground forces into Palestinian territory.
"We are not going to do anything unnecessary," the source stressed, "but we will certainly demand payback from those who hurt civilians."
The source said there was no doubt that this military operation would lead to "zero Qassams".
"We can defiantly bring about calm and make the other side see that we are serious," the source said.
Most of the IDF activity in the Gaza area is being carried out by the Southern Command through the Israel Air Force.
In addition, a few tanks and a small infantry force was sent a few hundreds meters into the Strip.
The IDF's aim is to achieve better observation points and better control. This step is not meant to be an aggressive, but certain means may be used depending on developments in the area.
IDF sources assume that terror organizations will attempt to reach the border fence to commit attacks; therefore, this deployment is meant to thicken the line of defense.
The deployment of artillery batteries across the Strip was approved on Thursday by Defense Minister Amir Peretz, after being removed some six months ago, when 18 Palestinian civilians were killed in Beit Hanoun.
Peretz's office said that "the firing procedures will be applied in light of lessons learned from previous incidents, and in full coordination with the chief of staff," meaning that the cannons will only shoot when the need arises.
There are no other forces around Gaza, and the IDF prefers not to assemble forces as long as there are no plans to launch a ground operation.
Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said that the State of Israel
would aid Sderot residents all the way.
"We acted today to get hundreds of residents out for a break, there is an organized plan to make people feel good and not want to leave," Sneh said.
"At the same time, Home Front Command officers are going from house to house, helping out. This is how a government acts," he added.
MK Tzachi Hanegbi, the head of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said that an IDF response was necessary. "It's vital that we persist for a long time, so that the price paid by Hamas is heavy and significant: An endless pursuit against the military leadership, terror infrastructure officials, rocket manufacturers, and the launching cells themselves."
Hanegbi said that the "informal immunity" which political leaders in the Strip, including Hamas
members, have been receiving, should come to an end.
Amnon Meranda contributed to this report