IDF tank in Beit Hanoun
Photo: Amir Cohen
Tunnel uncovered near border (Archive)
Pressure rises: Less than a week after leaving the Khan Younis area following an operation to apprehend wanted suspects and locate tunnels used for the smuggling of weapons, the IDF is planning another, broader operation in the Gaza Strip, to be launched in the coming days.
"We can't hold on to areas in the Strip for an extended period of time, but we must act all the more forcefully against the terror infrastructures," army officials told Ynet, adding that "an expansion of the operation in Gaza is expected soon."
During the war in Lebanon, the IDF's activity in Gaza has decreased. With the conclusion of the fighting in the north and the return of the forces to the south, operations were renewed and further ones are expected to be carried out deep in Palestinian territory.
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IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Defense Minister Amir Peretz were recently presented with the plans for the new operations and approved them. Peretz, who visited the Gaza Division's southern brigade last week, hinted then that no large-scale operation is in the cards at this point, and that the army will not take control over areas in the Strip, but only perform pinpoint operations.
A senior army official explained the objective of the operations: "The Gaza Strip appears relatively quiet, except for a few Qassam attacks each day, but under the surface the motivation of the terror groups to carry out attacks remained very high. This reinforcement, which is demonstrated by the smuggling of large amounts of arms, isn't very evident now, but may become extremely visible in the future, and this needs to be stopped."
Troubling scenariosThe operations are being planned against the backdrop of several troubling scenarios the Southern Command is concerned about, including a terror attack in an Israeli community located close to the Gaza border, to which terrorists will infiltrate through a tunnel.
The official also referred to alarming reports that Hamas in gaining in strength and said that, "We must not ignore what is happening in the Strip… we have to act until we see an internal change there. At the moment, such a change is not in sight."
Data presented by the IDF regarding its achievements in a series of operations since the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, indicate that some 300 terrorists were killed, hundreds were injured, and dozens of structures, warehouses and terror infrastructure bombarded.
According to plans, the IDF will expand the forays into Gaza and stay in the Strip for short periods of time. Military sources admitted that the broadening of operations will also lead to an increase in resistance on the part of the terror organizations, which may use innovative weapons similar to those employed by Hizbullah in Lebanon.