VIDEO - Infantry and armor forces began pulling out of the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday night, after operating in the area since the weekend, bringing the first stage of Operation Warm Winter to an end.
Video courtesy of infolive.tv
The Israel Air Force continued to strike in the Strip overnight, however, with Palestinian sources reporting of two gunmen killed.
"The soldiers faced the missions they were tasked with courageously," a military source told Ynet shortly after the forces left the Palestinian territory.
"Patience is needed in order to reach significant achievements, and we have it. Unfortunately, we also paid a price, but we must know that when handling such battles there is a chance we will also have to pay in the future. Our mission is to defend the citizens, and that's what we're doing," the source added.
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IDF officials did not rush to conclude the operation, hinting that it would be continued.
"It's wrong to use statements of victories and occupation, but there is no doubt that the extent of casualties on the Palestinian side, among the terror organizations, is significant and sends a clear message," a military source said.
'One operation ended, next on their way'
A senior military source told Ynet on Monday morning that "one operation had ended, but many more are on their way."
Addressing the rockets fired at Ashkelon and the Gaza vicinity communities after the end of the operation, the source said, "One operation cannot bring about a change in the situation. However, there is no doubt that in a series of activities, while exerting patience, the terror organizations will suffer a heavy blow and this will also bring a change in the situation, in terms of Qassams as well."
Fighters from the Givati Brigade's Shaked Regiment told Ynet about the return to operational activities, after being absent from the southern front for about seven months.
"We clearly missed Gaza," one of the soldiers said. "We know these territories better than anyone and are proud to be part of this fighting. There are many soldiers here who were not in Lebanon, but there are some veterans who fought there and feel that it is very similar."
IDF forces on Gaza border (Photo: AFP)
Several fighters who left Gaza on Sunday to freshen up and fuel their vehicles, spoke about the events beyond the border, on the Palestinian side.
"It's not what took place here when we left," one of the fighters said. "The terrorists are more courageous, wily and sophisticated, and it seems like they are part of an army. They also have improved equipment. They were a number of serious battles here in the recent days, but it eventually calmed down a little.
"Over the weekend there were many incidents of antitank missiles fired at us, but we operated well. The Air Force also helped us. We hit many terrorists and there is a feeling of success.
"After the first stage of the fighting we reached a situation of control, which enabled us to comb the area in relative calm, but with many heartbeats of course. After all, Gaza is Gaza."
Among the armor forces there was also a feeling of a more complex challenge this time. However, they said, the post-Second Lebanon War training prepared them to deal with this challenge.
Air Force continues to strike
Palestinian sources reported Sunday night that IAF aircraft struck various targets in the Gaza Strip. According to the reports, the IDF attacked four weapon manufacturing workshops and an office used by the Hamas movement.
Hamas reported that the IAF also attacked two terrorist cells in the Strip. Medical sources said that one gunman was killed in each strike and that several gunmen were wounded. The IDF confirmed that several airstrikes had taken place.
The rocket fire on the western Negev and Ashkelon continued Sunday until the evening hours, lightly injuring nine people since the morning hours. Many people suffered from shock.
Some 40 Qassam and Grad rockets landed in Israel since Sunday morning.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday that "the time has come for actions." He spoke during a meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin, and other senior security officials
Barak said that Hamas' ongoing attacks left Israel with no choice but to respond. "Hamas bears the responsibility and it will pay the price," he said.
"We disengaged from Gaza, we uprooted communities and Israelis from their homes just so there would be quiet for the Gaza vicinity towns – these are painful concessions that we have made for peace and Hamas continues its attacks," Barak noted.