Monday, January 11, 2010

IDF preparing to suffocate Hamas

From THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 11, 2010, by Yaakov Katz:

The IDF is prepared  ...to take over the Philadelphi Corridor in the southern Gaza Strip, which is lined with hundreds of weapons smuggling tunnels, defense officials said on Sunday.

Plans for such an operation have been drawn up and would likely include the deployment of several units in the southern Gaza town of Rafah and along the 14-kilometer strip of land called the Philadelphi Corridor under which Hamas has dug several hundred tunnels that are used to smuggle weapons and explosives into the Strip.

...Such an operation would be designed to prevent Hamas from rearming following [a] larger conflict. It would require troops to go house-to-house in Rafah to search for tunnels and to destroy them. There is also the possibility that following such an operation, the IDF would retain a presence in southern Rafah to prevent the re-digging of the tunnels.

The IDF believes that since Cast Lead ended in mid-January 2009, Hamas has significantly boosted its military capabilities and has obtained long-range rockets, mostly from Iran. One of these rockets was recently tested by Hamas and has a range of more than 60 km., which means it could hit Tel Aviv.

In addition, Hamas is believed to have obtained advanced, mostly Russian-made anti-tank missiles and shoulder-to-air missiles and is reportedly trying to get its hands on an anti-ship missile that would enable it to prevent the navy from attacking Gaza from the Mediterranean.

On Sunday...In an interview with Army Radio, [IDF Maj.-Gen. Yom-Tov] Samia said that in a future conflict, Israel would take over "specific territory" in Gaza that would help reduce Hamas's "oxygen supply." Contacted later in the day, Samia refused to specify which territory he had referred to.

"We are facing another round in Gaza," said Samia, who during Cast Lead functioned as the deputy to OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant. "I am very skeptical about the chance that Hamas will suddenly surrender or change its way without first suffering a far more serious blow than it did during Cast Lead."

The blow, he said, would be "more focused with long-range results including the conquering of territory that Hamas will understand it lost as a result of its provocations. We need to create a situation which reduces its oxygen supply."

The escalation on the Gaza front started last Thursday with the firing of 10 mortar shell into the western Negev and a Katyusha rocket into Ashkelon, the first since Cast Lead. In response, the IDF bombed a number of targets in Gaza, including a smuggling tunnel, killing three Palestinians.

On Sunday, again, a number of mortar shells were fired toward Israel but struck in Palestinian territory. Since the recent escalation, the IDF has counted close to 20 rockets and mortar shells fired by Palestinians at Israel.

In response to the mortar fire, the IDF struck a Palestinian terrorist cell that was preparing to fire a rocket into Israel. The operation was conducted in coordination with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). Three Palestinians were killed and four were wounded.

The dead Palestinians were identified as senior Islamic Jihad operatives. One of them, the IDF said, was Abed Abu Nizal, a senior field commander in the terrorist group.

"We will not tolerate rocket attacks from terrorist groups against the State of Israel," the IDF said in a statement. "We will continue to operate decisively against anyone who uses terror against Israel."

Earlier, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting with a warning for terrorists and those who incite to violence against Israel, vowing to respond decisively and strongly to any attack...
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