Chief of Staff Dan Halutz
Photo: Haim Tzach
Defense Minister Amir Peretz
Photo: Gil Yohanan
IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that the decision to declare a ceasefire in Gaza has been accepted after only a partial consultation with the army.
Throughout the recent months, senior defense establishment officials have consistently stated that a ceasefire will only serve the Palestinian side, and not the IDF. Members of the committee said that the army chief's statement could be interpreted as criticism of the political echelon's decision on a truce.
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During the meeting Halutz also said that following the ceasefire, the Palestinians have attempted to create a new equation on the ground, according to which military operations in the West Bank will result in retaliation in Gaza through Qassam rocket fire on Israel.
Halutz said that the IDF reserves the right to operate freely in the West Bank, and that it has "broken" the supposed equation through a series of operations in the West Bank Monday.
The army chief also addressed the situation in Lebanon, and said that the smuggling of arms to Hizbullah continues, and that the Lebanese army has been cooperating with the Shiite group. However, Halutz stressed that there was no visible action of Hizbullah south of the Litani.
Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said upon leaving the Knesset committee's meeting that "when the IDF declares that the ceasefire is not dealing with the main problem, which is the strengthening of Hamas, the ceasefire is a blatant diplomatic and military failure."
"The heads of the defense establishment are telling us once and again that the Qassam fire is only a symptom of the problem and that the main problem is the strengthening of Hamas and the establishment of a Hamas army in Gaza," MK Steinitz said.
Peretz: Truce violations to be met with harsh responseDefense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday morning that Israel was interested in giving the ceasefire a chance, but that there are radical factions which want to drag Israel to an escalation.
According to Peretz, "We want to give a chance for these extreme factions to be restrained by those who committed to the ceasefire, and if the situation continues, we will consider how to react severely."
Speaking during a tour of Gush Etzion and the area surrounding Jerusalem, Peretz added that: "Under no circumstances would we agree to a continuation of the rocket attacks against Israel. Those who commit to the ceasefire need to know how to enforce it… any violation will be met with a harsh response."
Referring to the IDF's future operations in the West Bank, Peretz clarified that the basic understandings regarding the ceasefire apply only to Gaza.
"IDF forces are operating in Judea and Samaria against attempts to launch terror attacks into Israel – and this is a legitimate preventive action," the defense minister said.
Efrat Weiss contributed to the report