Grad rocket which hit Ashkelon, Saturday
Photo: AP
IDF strike in Rafah area
Photo: Reuters
IDF: Hamas taking advantage of Israeli vacuum
Government promises 'disproportionate response' to ongoing rocket fire after Gaza offensive, but in practice only Philadelphi route bombed. 'Failure to respond could have implications on Israel's power of deterrence on other fronts as well,' senior military official tells Ynet
As the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip continues even after Operation Cast Lead, Israel Defense Forces officials fear that the fighting's achievements will lose their value and that Israel's deterrence will suffer.


A senior military source told Ynet on Sunday morning that "the Israeli failure to respond to the rocket fire could have implications on Israel's power of deterrence on other fronts as well. This is not the reality we would like to see a month and a half after the operation."


Palestinian gunmen fired a Grad rocket towards Ashkelon on Saturday night, following two rockets that hit the area in the morning hours. According to the official, the IDF is on high alert and waiting for the political echelon's "green light" to launch a significant response to the ceasefire violations.


The source claimed that as time goes by, not only does the IDF not receive the approval to respond forcibly, but a "vacuum" is being created and used by the terror organizations.


Senior officials who took part in the Gaza operation have reported of feelings of frustration and fear that the achievements made during the offensive would lose their value.


"A failure to respond in an appropriate manner plays into Hamas' hands," the military source said. "The organization suffered a heavy blow like it never suffered before, and is doing all it can in order to cover up the damage. As part of these attempts, it continues firing all kinds of rockets, and on the surface it appears that nothing has changed after the operation."


More than 100 rockets, mortars

The IDF is aware of the harsh feelings of residents in the Gaza vicinity communities and in Ashkelon, because as far as they are concerned, as long as the rocket fire continues, the blow suffered by Hamas is worthless.


Military officials have refrained from directly criticizing the political echelon, but say that the feelings that the IDF would be allowed to respond forcibly to any attempt to target Israel is nonexistent.


"In practice, this doesn't happen," a military source said. "We have a basket of tools, not just one or two, in order to make the other side understand that it should not be doing what it's doing, but this requires orders from above."


More than 100 mortar shells and rockets have been fired at Israel since the end of Operation Cast Lead. In addition, several attempts have been made to carry out terror attacks near the border fence.


The IDF's main response included attacks on tunnels along the Philadelphi route. Some 30 tunnels and several other Hamas targets were bombed.


"From the moment the operation ended, it was clear that Hamas would try and test Israel. First by limited firing, and then by increasing it according to developments. In the situation created, it continues pushing the gas pedal, covering up the severe blow it suffered during the operation, creating a difficult situation among the citizens," the source said.


IDF officials believe that the calm could be restored, even temporarily, in the Gaza vicinity, even without a wide-scale military operation. They admit, however, that time is running out, and that as it goes by the achievements of Operation Cast Lead are worn out.


"The operation did not deal with damaging abilities, but rather with creating deterrence," a senior officer clarified. "We never claimed that the organization's abilities were significantly damaged, but we believed that the operation created deterrence. With the situation created in the past few weeks, we fear that deterrence is growing weak, and this should be considered."


פרסום ראשון: 03.01.09, 09:27
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