Some 450 rockets have been fired at Israel
since the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Cast Lead
in the Gaza Strip 13 days ago, the Shin Bet security service said in an interim conclusion released Thursday night.
About 700 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire and 13 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian fire.
The first stage of the operation included striking targets from the air. The ground offensive stage was launched on the second week. Eight IDF soldiers were killed have been killed during the ground incursion.
Throughout the operation, Palestinian gunmen continued firing rockets into Israel, and additional cities joined the firing range. Cities like Ashdod, Gdera and Beersheba found themselves under fire, joining Sderot, Ashkelon, Netivot and other southern communities.
Three Israeli civilians and one soldier were killed after being hit by a rocket.
Soldiers in the line of fire (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office)
Defense establishment officials claim that Hamas
was surprised by the offensive and by its extent. The Hamas leaders, who declared the truce over at the end of last month, did not estimate Israel's response correctly and were surprised by the huge blow inflicted on them by the IDF and the accurate intelligence used by the warplanes.
Some 900 targets across the Strip have been attacked so far, most of them linked to Hamas. Most damage was caused to the rocket and weapon manufacturing and storage alignment and to the tunnels dug by the terror organizations. Hamas' government institutions also suffered a significant blow.
Defense establishment officials are expressing slight optimism, saying Hamas suffered a heavy blow but is still maintaining its abilities as a military-like terror organization.
The military wing's top echelon went into hiding immediately after Operation Cast Lead began, and has managed to maintain a reasonable level of control over the forces. The organization's leaders are managing the fighting from fortified bunkers and underground tunnels deployed in advance across the Strip.
Palestinians feel abandoned. Damage in Zeitoun (Photo: AP)
Nonetheless, the forces' middle commanders were somewhat harmed. A significant number of the field commanders across the Strip have lost their homes, which were used as weapon storehouses and war rooms.
Hamas' rocket alignment also sustained personal blows, when its artillery commanders Ayman Siam and Muhammad Hamdan were hit by IDF fire.
The blows suffered by the rocket manufacturing and storage alignments, including the damage caused to the launching pads and launching cells, were heavy but have yet to destroy the entire alignment.
Defense establishment officials stress that Hamas was prepared for the possibility of a ground invasion and prepared the ground for action from its leaders' hiding place.
As for the Palestinian public, defense establishment officials say the operation undermined Hamas' status in the public opinion. The fact that the organization's commanders and leaders went into hiding, and that the group members hid in tunnels, caused the population to feel abandoned.
Many Palestinians are under the impression that they have suffered mostly. Hamas rivals have pointed a finger at the organization, which is perceived as responsible for the damage caused to civilians. These elements criticize senior group members "who took care of themselves, but abandoned the public in the Strip".