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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

IDF confirms preparations for extensive future Gaza military action

  • Published 01:23 29.12.11 Latest update 01:23 29.12.11

Border heats up as IDF prepares for possible incursion into Gaza Strip; three rockets fired Wednesday from Gaza into Israel.

By Yanir Yagna and Gili Cohen 

Three rockets were fired Wednesday from Gaza into Israel, with two landing in open areas in the Eshkol region and another landing in the Sha'ar Hanegev region without exploding. There were no reported injuries or damage. 

The strike followed a targeted killing in which two sorties by the Israel Air Force killed three terrorists and wounded another nine overnight Tuesday in communities surrounding the Gaza Strip. 

AP An airstrike on Gaza.
Photo by: AP

The rocket fire comes as the Israel Defense Forces' Gaza Division is preparing for a possible large-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip, now three years after Operation Cast Lead. "We are preparing and in fact are ready for another campaign, which will be varied and different, to renew our deterrence, if we are called on to restore full quiet to the communities [in the south]," said the head of the division's Southern Brigade, Brig. Gen. Tal Hermoni. 

"But I wouldn't eulogize Operation Cast Lead just yet," Hermoni added, in a briefing for military reporters. "On a daily basis, it's pretty quiet here. The mild response [to Tuesday's targeted killings] is evidence that they don't want to feel the IDF's fists." 

Under a plan overseen by Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the next Gaza operation would be shorter than the one launched in late 2008, but would employ far greater firepower. 

The IDF notes, however, that Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, including Islamic Jihad, have more weapons now than they did in 2008. The Kornet anti-tank missiles have since become a threat to Israeli tanks, and this year rockets were fired for the first time at IDF troops. 

Since the terror attack on the road to Eilat in mid-August, there has been a rise in targeted killings in Gaza. Southern Command officers cite a policy of attacking terrorist cells planning to strike Israel, even at the risk of rockets being fired at southern communities in response. 

The officers also noted an increase in terror activity coming from Egypt, which they attribute to the weakening of government control in the Sinai Peninsula. 

"We know the Gaza Strip," said an officer who is active in the region. "But over the last year there have been changes in the Middle East that brought new challenges and new realities. The loss of control in Egypt has led to an increase in hostile activity and to a different deployment of our forces." 

The changes in deployment are evident in a tour of the 60-kilometer section of the Egyptian-Israeli border under the Gaza Division's authority. IDF armored personnel carriers are positioned in the area, and work on the new border fence is proceeding at a record pace. 

Rather than stationing a single company of combat soldiers in the region, Battalion 932 of the Nahal Brigade is now patrolling the area and providing security for the fence work. 

But it's not just terror keeping soldiers busy along what was once considered a godforsaken frontier. As work on the border fence has picked up steam, the number of infiltrations has risen sharply, with three times as many attempts recorded this year as the last. 

Large sections of the border are not yet fenced, some as long as 120 kilometers, and the army is on constant alert lest hostile elements make their way into Israel from Egypt. 

Meanwhile, the Gaza Division is also fighting smugglers. In recent months, it has even dug an anti-tank trench in an effort to block Israeli smugglers trying to make their way west to the Egyptian-Israeli border.

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