Operation Autumn Clouds completed: Israel Defense Forces soldiers left the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun early Tuesday, after carrying out Operation Autumn Clouds for the past six days.
Thus far, 57 Palestinians have been killed in the operation. Staff Sgt. Kerell Golenshin was killed in duty in Beit Hanoun.
Operation Autumn Clouds, the largest IDF operation since the attack in which Cpl. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and two other soldiers killed, is an extensive operation whose purpose is to "cleanse" the town of terrorists and central caches of weaponry.
In particular, the operation was aimed at destroying the Qassam rocket infrastructure, namely production, transporting, and firing cells.
IDF forces near Kibbutz Mefalsim (Photo: Reuters)
The IDF has yet to make its final summation, yet senior officers in the Southern Command have stated that the operation significantly damaged the terrorist organizations operating in the northern Gaza Strip, particularly the Qassam infrastructure.
Upwards of 50 terrorists were killed in a series of aerial and land attacks carried out by the IDF during which at least eight Qassam cells – some before firing, and some after.
The IDF forces discovered large stockpiles of weaponry among which were sophisticated explosive devices, unlike those already familiar to the IDF, marking the technological advancement of the terror organizations.
Soldier killed, one other seriously injured
During the operations, thousands of men were questioned and a few dozen were transferred to Israel for intensive interrogation. It is fair to assume that the information revealed is likely to shed light on other terror infrastructures in the northern Gaza Strip.
The IDF noted that though the operation took place in built-up and populated areas, the forces made sure to avoid hurting civilians and that the scope of civilians injured during the operation is less than ten.
During the operation a soldier of a canine unit was killed and another soldier from an elite unit was seriously injured and is still hospitalized at Soroka University Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.
Mere hours before the Palestinians started reporting that the IDF forces are starting to leave the area, a suicide attack was thwarted thanks to the alertness of Givati soldiers who took note of a suspicious woman planning on blowing herself up next to the soldiers. The woman was a suicide attacker from the Islamic Jihad.
The attack was thwarted also in part because of intelligence the Shin Bet provided the IDF a short time before the terrorist arrived in the area.
The IDF is looking to carry out similar operations in other areas, given the success of Operation Autumn Clouds. This means the deployment of large forces in a defined area while carrying out a widespread operation in the same area.
"We still haven't wrapped up the current operation, but there is no doubt that the IDF has proven here that it is possible to operate within the Gaza Strip against central terrorist hubs in a qualitative manner. The results of such an operation will be before our eyes when we plan the next operations in the Gaza Strip," said a senior military source to Ynet.
The IDF notes that while the Qassam rockets have not completely been halted in the current operation, their frequency is expected to lessen soon. There are a number of additional areas in which the IDF is expected to carry out deep operations, mainly Khan Younis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Ali Waked contributed to the report