"Hamas understands only violence and we don't plan on being gentle," a senior military official familiar with the operation in Gaza told Ynet. Palestinian sources reported at least six people dead in Friday's strikes, and claimed four of them were children.
However the official did not indicate that the operation was coming to an end. "The road is long," he said. "We've set an objective for ourselves and only when we reach it will we be able to conclude (the operation)."
The Air Force struck a number of homes belonging to Hamas officials Friday afternoon, including that of Mohammad Madhoun, a gunman responsible for rocket fire from Gaza, according to an IDF statement.
More than 750 targets have been destroyed by the Air Force throughout 'Operation Cast Lead', including homes of Hamas operatives, mosques, underground tunnels, warehouses, and offices, all of which the IDF claims have been used for terror purposes.
"They weren't expecting this in their worst nightmares," the official said. "We ruined all of their plans. They expected lines of tanks to fall into their traps – but this did not happen and now it will take them a while to recover."
Evening strike in Gaza (Photo: Ido Erez)
However the official was not quick to eulogize Hamas. "They will do anything to come out of this on top. They will not raise a white flag but continue to return fire, and will also make sure to fire a few rockets at the last moment before it's over," the official said.
A number of senior officers who participated in the preparation of the operation said they had been doubtful as to its immediate necessity, but doubts seemed to melt away as soldiers and officers alike expressed satisfaction with the proceedings.
Casualties on the Palestinian side rose to 428 dead and more than 2,200 injured on the seventh day of the operation. Palestinian sources said at least 150 were civilians, a third of them children. Medical sources in Gaza said the Strip faces a lack of blood transfusions and medical equipment.
Palestinian sources also reported that hundreds of homes have been destroyed in the Gaza Strip, and many have been damaged by blasts that occurred nearby. Many have reportedly fled from homes near the border fence.
Some families moved in with relatives, while others were reportedly sleeping in schools or institutions belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).