Defense Minister Amir Peretz approved the plans presented to him by the army. The next stage of the operation, which began early Wednesday, will include an entry into the northern Gaza Strip and taking hold of central posts.
At the first stage, forces will create a kind of "security strip," which will also distance Qassam launching cells from the northern Strip. The IDF is also expected to create "zone borders" in the Strip, in a bid to limit the movement from parts of the Strip. This will also assist in reducing the risk of transferring abducted soldier Gilad Shalit from one place to another inside Gaza.
The exact timing of the forces' entry into Strip has not yet been determined, and it may take several hours, according to the army's operational considerations. However, contrary to the smooth entry into the Dahaniya area, where forces barely encountered any resistance on the part of Palestinian gunmen, the entry into the northern Strip may be slower and more complex, mainly due to the large number of terror cells in the area and explosive devices placed in the ground in order to hurt the forces.
Israeli tanks and troops rolled into the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday, after mediators said hope of recovering kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit through talks was running out.
IDF artillery shells were fired toward Gaza as the ground forces entered the Strip.
The incursion came shortly after Palestinian security forces deployed near the Gazan border town of Rafah said they were ordered out by the Israeli military.
Israeli Air Force planes targeted missiles at three bridges in the central Gaza Strip shortly before midnight Tuesday. After completing the deployment of forces to the area, the army entered “battle regulations” – or the state of preparation to launch an offensive.
According to the IDF, the aim of blowing up the bridges was to minimize the chances that Shalit, whom the expected incursion aims to rescue, would be moved from place to place by his abductors. The bridges lie on one of the main roads linking the north and south of the Gaza Strip.