11 Months Later, IDF Re-enters Former Jewish Towns in Gaza

IDF forces penetrated into Gaza, taking up positions in and near the three former Jewish communities of northern Gaza: Dugit, Nisanit, and Elei Sinai - from where Kassams have been fired at Israel.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 09:32

The offensive has a new name - Bashan Oaks - but it is a continuation of the few-days old Summer Rains offensive. Officials say it is open-ended in time, and in fact no one can say with certainty whether the forces will remain in Gaza for days, weeks, or even longer. MK Tzachi HaNegbi, head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that it could be "years." Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), on the other hand, said that Israel would go in and go out at will.

The immediate objective of the mission is to stop the Kassam attacks by taking over the areas from which the rockets are fired. However, Kassams continued to be fired througout the day - one towards the IDF forces in Gaza, another one towards Sderot, and a third that landed near Netiv HaAsarah, just north of Gaza.

Ashkelon, a city of 110,000 which suffered its first direct Kassam hit on Tuesday night, was the target of two more Kassams last night. One of them hit the city, sending eight people into a state of shock, and the other one fell short, landing near Kibbutz Zikim and causing no damage.

Some 16 Arabs have been killed in the fighting so far. Arabs in Gaza fired at least seven anti-tank missiles at the IDF forces. One soldier was lightly hurt, but another one was taken to Barzilai Hospital in very critical condition.

At the same time, the Karni Crossing has been re-opened for the passage of goods into Gaza. It has not been announced how long the crossing - which has been closed because of warnings of terrorist attacks originating there - will remain open.

The IDF's Golani Brigade entered northern Gaza after 2 AM, and continues to advance. Some of the units have already reached their destinations, such as in El Atatra, just south of Dugit, from where Kassams were fired at Ashkelon, a crowded built up area. Over the past few days, the forces have penetrated only as deep as 600-1000 meters into Gaza, but they have now already gone as far as 5-6 kilometers.

The forces have a non-offensive demeanor, in that they are very carefully protected from explosives and mines - which may have been placed there over the months that Israel was not in the area. In addition, the soldiers have been warned not to harm civilians.

"Our top priority is to protect and assure our soldiers' safety," Golani Brigade Commander Col. Tamir Yadai said. "Our second goal is to exact a price from the other side, and third, we want to make sure not to hurt civilians."

The IDF also attacked terror cells, buildings and access roads in northern Gaza last night.