The current situation in Gaza cannot continue, and ongoing Qassam attacks on Israel may force the IDF to launch a large-scale operation in the Strip, IDF Chief of Staff Lit.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said
"You cannot defeat a terror organization without eventually taking control of the territory," he said, "the only reason we have been successful in Judea and Samaria is because we control the area."
Speaking at a conference hosted by the Institute for National Security Studies at the Tel Aviv University, Ashkenazi said that while the current limited army operations in Gaza impair the capabilities of terror organizations, they would never completely curb all attacks against Israel.
"We may very well come to a point where we will be forced to carry out a large-scale operation," he said.
The chief of staff's speech came several short hours after a heavy barrage of Qassam rockets hit Sderot. Earlier in the day the security cabinet recommend against launching a large-scale military operation in the Strip but called on the IDF to continue its limited counter-terrorism efforts.
Ashkenazi said that Israel must prepare for the possibility of facing numerous enemies on several fronts - including foreign armies and terror groups – simultaneously. "The threat to the Israeli home front is growing and this requires us to prepare ourselves both on the defensive and offensive levels," he stated.
"This threat began to evolve as our enemies began to understand that they were incapable of defeating us militarily and also when they realized our sensitivity to the loss of human life. That is how these weapons came into use – from the Qassam to the Shiab.
The chief of staff also addressed the long-term ramifications of the Second Lebanon War. "The IDF's deterrence has only grown stronger after the war," said Ashkenazi.
As for Israel's concerns regarding its enemies from the east, Iran and Syria, Ashkenazi said the IDF "must be prepared to achieve a decisive victory in any confrontation."
In a possible war with Syria, he said, the army would not combat rocket attacks on Israel's home front as it had during the war in Lebanon. "So long as there are rockets falling on homes in Israel - we can not win the war. We will not fight as the army has in the past. We will not only operate against the rocket launchers themselves but also create a situation where the other side's desire to launch these attacks sufferers, the price for these attacks will be steep – and the enemy will have to decide whether it can keep fighting.
"In a playground like Syria, we have the capability to strike them," said Ashkenazi.
Barak: Stopping Qassams will take time
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he was aware that the situation in and around Sderot was "difficult and complicated" and assured residents that the IDF would find a solution to their plight.
Taking the podium after Ashkenazi, Barak said that Israel's "finest" were working day and night on the Qassam problem.
"We know that this is a mission we haven't accomplished yet, and the road ahead is still very long," said Barak. "This is a solution that requires sound judgment and responsibility, the situation isn't simple and I hope it will not come to a point where we are forced to do that which, for now, we do not want to do."
The defense minister also called on Eli Moyal to reconsider his decision to resign as mayor of Sderot following a particularly heavy rocket barrage earlier in the day.