Photo: AP
IDF in Gaza
Photo: AP
Prelude to war
Current 'limited' Gaza operation only prelude to wide scale military conflict
Let there be no mistake. This is not the "large scale operation." The operation launched by the IDF Tuesday in Beit Hanoun is not part of the series of operations discussed this week by the security cabinet.


The cabinet discussed ways of dealing heavy handedly with the strengthening of Hamas and ways to stop the "commando division" – as described by the southern command chief – from being established by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.


"The large scale operation" – if given the green light – would be a long term offensive operation employing a different scope of troops entirely.


The "Autumn Clouds" operation, currently in progress, is still part of the series of defensive operations being carried out against Qassam rocket launchers. The operation can be combined with another operation on another front to uncover arms tunnels, or jointly with the air force.


The idea is to keep the incessant activity up in an attempt to delay the inevitable and to gain time for what looks like the unstoppable strengthening of Hamas. These operations are simply blocking the dam. But alas, only in fairytales can floods be stopped with a single finger.


Build up in the Strip?

"Autumn Clouds" is a targeted operation with limited objectives set for a limited period of time. But it is another step in the direction of concentrating military forces in the Gaza Strip. Military battalions executed previous operations, and now the military divisions are doing the job.


Operations at the edges of urban areas have now moved into populated areas. The military is planning to stay in the area for a few days while it discusses remaining there for longer. This is supposed to be a phased operation, slow, calculated, with minimal damage inflicted on civilians.


During this time as many gunmen as possible will be targeted, as many people as possible will be apprehended for questioning, and the military will try to locate as many metal foundries and weapons as possible. This operation will not stop the Qassam rocket fire entirely.


Yet, on the other hand, it will not lead to an explosive situation vis-a-vis Hamas, as Hamas has no interest in escalating the situation at this present time. Currently the level of resistance to this operation in the area is limited, but this could change.


Such operations also have an "accustomed" effect. The operations are getting the area and the military forces used to IDF presence in the Gaza Strip, each time for a longer spell and with larger forces. Meanwhile, the IDF is exercising military tactics in residential areas, and commanders are being trained.


At the same time, the terror organizations' power is being eroded, operatives are being killed, facilities destroyed and intelligence is leading to more arrests.


From the Israeli political and military standpoint, the road to a second Lebanon in Gaza passes through Hamas' idea of Hudna. Subsequently, there is no chance of a political settlement whatsoever with Hamas. Therefore, we are in the midst of a gradual process towards a wide scale, military conflict in the Gaza Strip.


First published: 11.03.06, 23:17
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