Don’t test us. Barak
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

Barak: Israel not gearing for another Gaza op

Defense minister tells Ynet military will not be launching sequel to offensive in Strip despite rocket fire on south; says 'we have to wait and see' if ceasefire takes effect Thursday

Israel is not gearing for a second offensive in the Gaza Strip, said Defense Minister Ehud Barak Sunday night, shortly after the Israeli Air Force struck six targets in central and south Gaza.


"We have no intention of embarking on Operation Cast Lead number two. We said there would be a response (to the rocket fire) and we responded.


"I don’t know whether or not Hamas would really hold fire on Thursday; we'll have to wait and see," he added.


Earlier, security sources confirmed the strikes in Gaza, citing that targets included a Hamas stronghold, and several tunnels on the Philadelphi Route. According to the sources, the fire triggered several explosions, indicating that Hamas as resumed its arms smugglings. No casualties were reported.


Palestinian eyewitnesses reported of hundreds of Palestinian who were digging tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, fleeing the area.


"We have to act in order to make the message clear to the other side," said the defense minister. "Hamas has received the most massive blow ever dealt to it. It was left in shambles, dazed and trying to pick up the pieces. It wants peace, and if it really wants peace, there is a chance we can have it. Still, I can't say that with 100% certainty."


As for the delay in the Israeli reaction, which coincided with repeated warnings of a harsh response to the continued rocket fire, Barak said that "it would be unwise to say why we waited to respond to the rocket fire, since Hamas is probably reading this as well."


The defense establishment, he told Ynet, has not been biding its time: "Our deterrence is intact. Hamas is barely picking up the pieces and is looking for a lull. If we play our cards right and prevent further escalation than we have a good chance of some peace and quiet."


As for whether the talks with Egypt will yield a ceasefire come Thursday, Barak remained cautious: "I don’t know. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. I don’t know for sure if we are heading for a ceasefire."


Barak also addressed reports suggesting he, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni disagreed on recent security issues: "In those meetings… it's not about being friends. At the end of the day, we will be the ones shouldering the real responsibility. We do what needs to be done. The prime minister is kept abreast of everything. I briefed him on tonight's actions. He was aware of it, but I don’t think he should deal with such things."


As for the recent Hizbullah threats, Barak added that "We see the big picture and the northern sector is part of our overall concerns. There is a certain tension in the north because of the anniversary of Imad Mugniyah's assassination. We are aware of the situation and a ready for any contingency. I suggest they don’t test us." 


פרסום ראשון: 02.02.09, 01:10
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