Gaza Sealed Off, IDF Buildup at the Border

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert officially sealed off the Gaza Strip on Monday in the wake of Sunday’s terror attack which resulted in the capture of 19-year-old IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit.

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Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 21:48

“By my order and that of the Defense Minister, the Gaza Strip is closed by sea and by land,” proclaimed Olmert.

Olmert had given the kidnappers a 48 hour deadline to return their hostage. Terrorists said Monday that they would not provide any information about Shalit unless Israel agreed to release PA prisoners who were under age 18 or female.

Shalit was abducted Sunday morning in a terrorist raid on an IDF outpost at the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza and Egypt. The attack left two soldiers dead and four wounded in addition to Shalit's capture.

The Israeli navy imposed a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip to prevent the terrorists holding Shalit from smuggling him out of the Gaza Strip. In addition, Israel requested that Egyptian authorities close the Philadelphia corridor to prevent Shalit from being smuggled out across that route.

Navy ships are patrolling the sea coast to insure that no vessel leaves Gaza. Usage of speed boats by Arabs has been banned. Arab fishermen are only permitted to use boats with limited speed.

A senior intelligence officer reported Monday that Hizbullah is prepared to open a second front against Israel in the event that Israel launches a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip.

"Hizbullah is getting ready on the northern border in case Israel enters Gaza and they would want to open a second front. We are ready to absorb [an attack] and respond," said the source. The officer was speaking after a gathering of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Meanwhile, dozens of IDF tanks and other armored vehicles are gathering at a site near northern Gaza in preparation for a possible ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. Thousands of soldiers from the Golani and Givati brigades are also converging on the area as well as tons of logistic equipment, mobile toilets, showers, and food.

Morale is reported to be good. “We are prepared for anything,” said one soldier, “and if we have to go in and bring the soldier home we will do it.”