Cabinet: IDF to prepare for extensive operation
Prime minister convenes security cabinet to discuss Israel’s next steps in response to Kerem Shalom attack, in which Palestinian attackers killed two soldiers, kidnapped third. Army instructs to focus on gaining release of hostage, prepare for wide-ranging incursion to be implemented at later date
During a security cabinet meeting convened by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Sunday it was decided not to deal an immediate military response in Gaza following the attack on Kerem Shalom, but to first focus on the safe return of the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
The cabinet discussed potential responses to the attack, in which two IDF soldiers were killed and Shalit was kidnapped. After examining numerous possible courses of action, the cabinet was decided the IDF would prepare for a wide-ranging military operation in Gaza, to be implemented at a later stage.
"We will respond, and the response will be mighty. It won't be an operation of one or two days. A border has been crossed," Olmert said during the meeting.
The prime minister asked minister and security staff to first enable the first step of returning the kidnapped soldier home safely.
The cabinet issued a message following the meeting saying, “Israel sees in the event Sunday morning at Kerem Shalom a most severe incident. The responsibility is on the Palestinians, on Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the government and the PA. Israel will take all the necessary steps to return the captured soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit to his home. The cabinet approved the military ranks to carry out the necessary preparations to accomplish this mission.”
Further, the cabinet noted: “Not a single person involved in the incident will be immune. The cabinet gave the army the go-ahead to prepare forces for an urgent military operation. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz will approve the operations as things develop.”
Simultaneously, Israel will conduct diplomatic contacts with the international community to represent its stance. Asaf Shariv, Olmert’s media advisor, will focus efforts on a public relations (hasbara) campaign geared towards Israeli and international media to accomplish this aim.
'We are activating all the tools available to us'
Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Peretz communicated a message to Shalit’s kidnappers: “I want to inform all who are involved, anyone who has hand or foot in the soldier’s welfare, in our view, anyone that brings harm to the soldier, should know that his blood is on his own head and on the heads of his leaders.”
“We intend to respond to this morning’s incident in a way that all those involved, who made a pact in this attack against the State of Israel, will understand that the price from such acts will be painful. If things don’t change, it could be painful sevenfold.”
The defense minister, in making his statements, appeared weary. He spoke quietly, but his threats were firm. “We are activating all the tools available to us. There will be additional, supportive activities, to the military action, and I hope that after the cabinet meeting we will be able to announce our plans,” he said.
Avi Cohen contributed to the report