IDF in Gaza, Four Terrorists Dead

For the first time since the withdrawal from Gaza, IDF forces acted openly and massively deep inside Gaza, killing four Kassam-launching terrorists, & pounding Kassam-launching areas with artillery.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 10:22

The IDF force comprised Givati Brigade infantry troops and armored forces, covered by Israel Air Force helicopters.

Around 1 AM, aided by intelligence information, the force identified a Kassam rocket launching cell in northern Gaza engaged in preparing rockets for firing. The Israelis opened fire, an exchange of gunfire ensued, and the four terrorists - some reports say three terrorists and a photographer nearby - were killed by a helicopter-fired rocket.

IDF forces have operated in Gaza in recent months, but not so openly or in such a large configuration.

The operation was approved by Defense Minister Amir Peretz. His underling, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, has said publicly of late that he rejects the need for ground operations against the Kassam launchers. He even mentioned the efforts he is investing in attempting to convince defense figures to "get down from the tree" and stop pushing for a ground operation in Gaza.

Though Peretz had his way in this case, he lost face in another political hurdle today at a Labor Party meeting when he opposed the half-billion shekel cut in the defense budget. This marks a major zig-zag on his election campaign promises, in which he promised to divert funding towards social spending.

At today's Cabinet meeting called to vote on the 2006 budget and the defense budget cuts, the 7 Labor Party ministers abstained. The budget passed with the support of the other 18 Cabinet ministers.

In other defense news, Israeli artillery pounded northern Gaza following the firing of a Kassam rocket towards Sderot this morning. No damage or injuried were caused by the rocket. A second Kassam was fired towards Ashkelon in the afternoon, causing damage but no casualties in the Jewish community of Carmiyah.

IDF forces also operated in the Jenin area overnight and this morning, arresting seven terrorists while being attacked with explosive devices. One leading wanted terrorist was killed, and two others were wounded, in the accompanying gunfights.