"The situation in Gaza is complex and very troubling. The attack on Sderot yesterday, the injuries of the youths and the continuous Qassam (rocket) fire is very troubling and obliges the consideration of the continuing operations in the Gaza Strip," Air Force Commander, Brig. Gen. Eliezer Shkedi said on Sunday during a visit to the Druze village of Julis in the Western Galilee.
Shkedi estimated that the scope of IDF operations in the Palestinian enclave would be increased. "The continuing fire will at the end of the day obligate us (to carry out) a wide scale operation in the Strip. Terrorists on the (separation) fence and ongoing rocket fire is intolerable. This is unacceptable from our point of view," the IAF chief.
He also noted that current IDF activities against terrorist groups in the Strip are insufficient: "I won't get into political considerations, but (from a) military standpoint, we're operating in Gaza around the clock – combined – from the ground and the air."
During the event, the Air Force head also discussed goings-on in Lebanon and confirmed that Hizbullah is renewing its strength on the northern border, but refused to elaborate on a possible solution to the matter.
The brigadier-general met with Druze youths about to be drafted into the military and stressed that all Air Force positions are available to Druze draftees – including pilots' training course.
He emphasized that there is currently a Druze navigator in one of the Air Force's combat squadrons and other Druze are presently in various stages of the training course. Some of these Air Force cadets were present at the talk.
'Good connection with Druze'
Brig. Gen. Shkedi said - in response to a Ynet question about the recent downturn in Jewish Druze relations in light of the Peki'in riots and its effect on relations with Druze in the Air Force – that there had been no effect at all. "The atmosphere and connection between the Air Force and members of the ethnic group is good.
"There is real partnership in all areas. There is an amazing responsiveness on the side of young members of the group to participate in the Air Force's challenges as combatants as well as technicians," he said.
During Shkedi's visit, the Air Force chief met with Druze leaders, including the spiritual leader of the ethnic group, Sheikh Muwaffaq Tarif. The leader hosted Shkedi at one of the group's holy sites, the burial grounds of the late Sheikh Amin Tarif. The two men later met with Druze soldiers and officers who serve in the Air Force.
The brigadier general noted that 235 Druze are currently serving in the Air Force, many of them as technicians. Sheikh Tarif remarked that many non-commissioned officers and discharged soldiers "return to their homes and suffer from employment, difficult financial situations and housing problems."
He appealed to Shkedi to make these problems known to those who make policy on the matter.