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Deadly attack on Sderot
Photo: AFP
IDF suggests 'security zone' in north Gaza
Army preparing for possibility that political echelons will give order to boost offensive against terror cells in Gaza. One option being considered is entering north Gaza to create security zone, distance Qassam cells from border
The security establishment is prepared to expand it offensive against terror cells in the Gaza Strip in case the political echelons should decide to give the order to boost operations.

 

The government is considering the possibility of deploying troops into the northern Gaza Strip to create a security zone and distance Qassam cells from the border.

 

At the moment the army is not changing the scale of its assault, but military sources have admitted that a long operation is necessary to significantly damage the Palestinian terror organizations. Just Monday a lethal rocket attack killed a Sderot woman, shortly after the IDF had expressed relative satisfaction with the military offensive in Gaza.

 

Thus far over 40 terror operatives have been killed in Southern Command and Air Force strikes, army officials said.

 

IDF officials noted that in light of the change of policy after two months of nearly complete restraint, the current offensive would have a cumulative effect on the terror groups, but it would take time to see results.

 

"Even now, after the tragic incident (in Sderot), we're continuing the same operation," military officials said. "Right now we're operating at a certain scale, and we're prepared to increase and expand the operation according to the decisions that are made."

 

The IDF is waiting for instructions from the political echelons whether to boost operations, although the assessment is that operations will continue in their current format: Air Force strikes together with minimal land assaults focused on north Gaza.

 

In the next few days, according to assumptions, the IDF will expand the operation, especially via the Air Force, and will target Palestinian terror commanders of military rank.

 

"It won't stop the Qassams tomorrow, but in the long run we'll achieve what we want. A lot of patience is necessary," security officials said.

 

Regarding the Philadelphi Route along the Gaza-Egypt border, security officials said the issue has troubled the defense establishment since the IDF withdrew from the area, and "maybe it is time to deal with the problem."

 

Fear of terror attacks from West Bank

The Central Command is also keeping a close watch on developments in the southern region. The main fear is that terror organizations elsewhere will boost their activities in light of the situation in the Strip.

 

"The terror organizations don’t need excuses to operate. They will use any opportunity to carry out a terror attack," a senior military source told Ynet.

 

"They are being influenced by what is happening in Gaza. A lot of pressure is being exerted from Gaza, as well as instructions and money transfers. We estimate that as the situation in Gaza escalates, the situation in the (West Bank) territories will also escalate, and there will be more and more attempts and plans to carry out terror attacks."

 

In order to prevent such a scenario, security forces are operating in the northern West Bank. A special police unit arrested Waal Shatiwi, an al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades member, on a Nablus street.

 

The IDF reported that Shatiwi was responsible for shooting attacks in the area and was a member of the cell which carried out a terror attack at the entrance to the settlement of Kedumim on March 2006, in which four Israeli citizens were killed. He was taken in for questioning by security forces.

 

Sources in Nablus said that Shatiwi was low on the list of wanted Palestinians and was never involved in planning terror attacks.

 

"We were even surprised that Israel sent a special force to arrest him," a senior al-Aqsa official told Ynet. According to the official, Shatiwi was only involved in marginal activities which had nothing to do with terror attacks.

 

Hamuda Shatiwi, the detainee's brother, was a senior al-Aqsa commander in Nablus and in the Balata refugee camp and was assassinated last year after the IDF besieged the house in which he was hiding with another fugitive.

  

Efrat Weiss and Ali Waked contributed to the report

 

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