A search-and-destroy mission
Photo: AP

IDF gears up for Gaza op

Operation Warm Winter concludes first stage, as IDF forces target rocket firing grounds in Gaza over weekend. Second stage to include urban patrols on search-and-destroy mission for hidden weapons

Operation "Warm Winter" has finished its first stage – targeting terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip neighborhoods of Sajaiya and Jabalya, the IDF said Saturday.


The operation's first stage also targeted ditches and similar places used as firing grounds by launchers, which were blown up. The second stage of the operation includes patrolling urban areas on a search-and-destroy mission – a hunt for hidden weapons.


Warm Winter's weekend resulted in dozens of Palestinian fatalities; as the Israeli side suffered two fatalities, and seven casualties.


"The military operation against all ranks responsible for Qassams will continue. The gloves are off and we have no intention of sitting on the sidelines while rockets are being fired," said a security source. The massive strikes, he added, will continue and may even increase.


IDF forces in the field reported most of the Palestinian casualties were affiliated with Hamas. The IDF denied the Palestinians' claims of mass casualties among innocent residents, citing only a few such incidents were known.


Hamas, said the IDF, often states false casualty claims in order to generate sympathy in the international community.


Senior defense establishment officials held a security briefing Saturday night in which it was decided that the IDF will continue its operation, as means to foil Hamas' plan to have a large-scale ground incursion claim many innocent lives in the Strip.


Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin, Israel's military intelligence chief, Major-General Amos Yadlin and other officials attended the briefing.


"The operation in Gaza is ongoing," said Barak. "Hamas will be held responsible… we are not happy Gaza residents are hurt, but the responsibility lies with Hamas and those firing rockets. Our responsibility is to keep the residents of Sderot, Ashkelon and the Gaza vicinity communities safe, and that we will do."

The IDF's main concern continues to be Warm Winter's final price tag: Hamas has fortified its strongholds and has snipers war-ready. "Overall, our forces are doing admirable work," said the officers present at the briefing.


The IDF operation in Gaza is currently engaging combatants from the Givati Brigade, the Ninth Armor Battalion, IAF forces and Engineers Corps' combatants; and while no large-scale operation was launched during the weekend, a lot depends on the coming developments.


IDF officials did not rule out a possibility of the operation leading to yet another escalation, which in turn lead to a large-scale operation; but some believe several in-depth pinpoint operations may cause Hamas to rethink the ceasefire.


According to the IDF, some 130 have been fired at Israel since Wednesday. 


פרסום ראשון: 03.02.08, 01:58
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