Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, visiting an IDF base in Samaria for the first night of the Chanukah holiday, gave the soldiers an upbeat message. "I know you will carry out your mission to protect Israel with the same dedication and courage that the Maccabees had many years ago," Olmert said. "The strength and self-sacrifice that the Maccabees had then is your strength today. Be strong and watch over us."
Gaza to be Attacked?
Though the soldiers may be prepared, the government has yet to give the orders to crush terrorist infrastructures in Gaza. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said several times of late that the time is nearing for a large-scale offensive in Gaza - but that the time has not yet come. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, speaking with Army Radio on Wednesday, said, "The IDF is ready for a ground operation [i.e., an invasion] in Gaza, if we are called upon. Until we are so ordered, we must find other ways to operate day and night to bring security to the citizens of Israel."
Cabinet Minister Ami Ayalon, a political rival of his fellow Labor Party member Defense Minister Barak, criticized him for repeatedly talking about Israel's readiness to attack. "If you're going to shoot, then shoot, don't talk," Ayalon said, paraphrasing a popular movie line. "A threat is good if you can carry it out. But to repeat a threat over and over sounds weak."
Release Drops Motivation
In light of this week's release of 429 Palestinian terrorists as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas - the third and largest such release in less than five months - some soldiers in the IDF are saying they're less motivated to arrest terrorists. Officers in the Givati Brigade, stationed in the Shechem region, told their commanding officers on Tuesday that it is hard for them, ethically and otherwise, to work so hard and endanger themselves to arrest terrorists merely to see them freed shortly afterwards.
"It's not a political or ideological issue," Givati sources were quoted as saying, "but simply that they feel stupid working so hard to make the arrests, only to find that their prisoners will soon be released."
Kassams and Rocks
Four Kassam rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel Wednesday - two towards Sderot, one that exploded between Gaza and Ashkelon, and a fourth one that caused heavy damage and light injuries; see separate story.
At least six cases of Arab stonings of Israeli vehicles in Yesha (Judea and Samaria) have occurred over the past two days. Cars were stoned near Ariel, Maaleh Amos, Carmei Tuzr, Otzrin, and Shilo, and a bus was hit between Hevron and Kiryat Arba. Some arrests have been made.