The diplomatic clock is ticking, but the IDF moves forward: As Operation Cast Lead enters its 12th day, the preparations for the next stage – expanding and deepening the operation – are being completed.
The defense establishment still seeks to inflict a heavy blow on Hamas and return the soldiers to Israel only after creating an impression that the Palestinian organization's military wing has learned its lesson.
According to different estimates in the IDF, the current move may reach its final stages within several days, after which the ball will move to the diplomatic court.
In the meantime, army officials are taking pride in the forces' achievements in recent days, in the air and on the ground. Hamas' division and brigade commanders are hiding under the ground, the rocket manufacturing alignment has been damaged and many of the organization's infrastructures have disappeared.
The Southern Command, headed by Major-General Yoav Galant, is now examining the right way to expand the operation. The training of reserve forces which may enter Gaza in the coming days continued Tuesday.
The desire to deepen the blow suffered by Hamas is prompting the IDF to take advantage of each day to its end before the diplomatic clock rings.
"Every day that goes by is another punch to Hamas on any parameter – a weapons storehouse uncovered, a tunnel destroyed, facilities sustaining severe damage, activists hurt on different levels, and especially strengthening the understanding on the other side that there is a country here which will not accept the past situation and will not accept a repeated situation," a senior military source told Ynet.
'Gunmen dug tunnels under their homes'
IDF forces operating in northern Gaza have quickly become familiar with the enemy's modes of operation. According to commanders and soldiers, Hamas has built an underground city of tunnels and holes paved with weapons.
Many Hamas members have dug tunnels for themselves under their homes and hid weapon caches in them.
One of the Air Force strikes in Gaza, not far from the Shifa Hospital, revealed weapons hidden in the area. Following the explosion, the bottom part of the bunker was blown away, exposing a maze of tunnels.
IDF officials said the terrorists emerge from the tunnels, hide in them, attempt to kidnap soldiers into them and place different traps in a bid to attract the soldiers. The Hamas men try to initiate close combat, face-to-face, and use different methods – covering tunnels with dolls, placing explosives in schools and wearing IDF uniform.
The forces are still being prepared for the operation, and medical teams have been trained at the simulator of the Army Logistic Training Center.
"We are simulating a complicated incident with a large number of casualties according to the threats in the Strip," said Lieutenant-General Yoel Har-Even, head of the Medical Corps' training unit.