Is Gaza war in cards? The current round of fighting between Israel and Palestinian terror groups could prompt Israel to launch a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, a senior IDF official said Monday.
The comments were made as Gaza terror groups continued to shell southern Israel communities with dozens of rockets and mortar shells Monday.
Two such rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system over Ashkelon Monday evening. Military officials said the advanced system shot down 85% of the rockets fired from Gaza in the past four days. Meanwhile, the IDF struck several targets in Gaza, killing at least two terrorists Monday night.
The official said that Iran and the Islamic Jihad’s headquarters in Damascus “are encouraging the terrorist organization to continue the current round of rocket fire until they obtain a significant gain.”
The recent escalation in Israel’s south, which has seen more than a million residents come under heavy rocket fire, has already been described by the IDF as “unprecedented in scope.” According to the senior officer, there is “no end in sight” to the current round of fighting.
“The IDF is prepared for any development, including a situation where we are forced to launch a ground operation,” the IDF official said. “We have everything we need and are ready to step it up if needed. There are many measures that we haven’t employed yet.”
“There is no effective control in Gaza, and no clear distinction between the political and military wings of Hamas… we are prepared to turn it up a notch,” he said
Military officials have stressed that Hamas’ lack of involvement in the current round of aggression points to the dominance of the Islamic Jihad, which has enjoyed rising popularity in Gaza.
“They haven’t been paying attention to the Hamas for the past two years, because it can’t rule Gaza or enforce the law,” the official said, adding that the terror group also enjoys the support of its headquarters in Damascus and is being portrayed as the “defender of the Palestinian people.’”
So far, the official noted, 22 terrorists have been killed in IDF airstrikes, including Islamic Jihad mid-level commanders. In addition, three civilians were killed in close proximity to rocket-launching sites.
“This points to a cynical exploitation of civilians, and so far we have acted with utmost precision to prevent the loss of innocent lives,” the official said.
Asked whether there is a possibility that the rockets will reach the Tel Aviv-area, the senior officer said that terror groups “are always contemplating whether to fire their (long-range) Fajr rockets, but they realize the consequences and make the cost-benefit calculation.”
However, this could change should the fighting continue, the IDF official said.
“If we boost our offensive activity in Gaza, I suppose they won’t keep their Fajr missiles as museum exhibits,” he said.
Elior Levy contributed to the story