Major Offensive in Gaza Nixed, for Now

Offensive in Gaza? PM Olmert, DM Peretz and top army brass met to plan their response to Tuesday's rocket-and-shell barrage on the Negev.

Hillel Fendel ,

Following Tuesday's barrage of dozens of Kassam rockets and mortar shells on the western Negev area by Hamas terrorists, the top military and political echelons once again considered a large-scale offensive into Gaza.

Prime Minister Ehud OImert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and top IDF officers and officials met on the topic for several hours today (Wednesday).  Following the meeting, Olmert announced that the army forces in the area of Gaza had been instructed to take the necessary steps to thwart kidnappings and attacks.  "Israel will not hesitate to take sharp action against those who attempt to strike out at our sovereignty by firing rockets, attempting to kidnap our soldiers, and in other ways," the Prime Minister said.

The head of the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, senior Labor Party member Shmulik Rifman, had earlier called upon Prime Minister Olmert to "respond sharply" to the rocket attacks.  In a letter to the Prime Minister, Rifman writes, "Enough restraint in the face of the continued Kassams! I call upon you to respond sharply. Do not [despite the recent war in Lebanon] repeat the Sabra and Shatila syndrome [a reference to the fear to act militarily that overtook Israeli leaders following the events of 1982 - ed.]. The longer we wait, the more painful and complex it will be."

We must hold, forever, the area from northern Gaza to what was the Netzarim Junction - the area from which Kassams are fired at the western Negev and Ashkelon.
The IDF, whose tunnel-searching and local Kassam-thwarting operations have continued all the while, has long sought permission to carry out a stronger offensive against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.

Many military experts have long warned that a large-scale offensive in Gaza - along the lines of Operation Defensive Shield of 2002, in which dozens of terrorists in Shechem and Jenin were killed - will soon be necessary. Now, in light of Hamas warnings of additional attempts to kidnap IDF soldiers, Israel's military option has taken on increasing urgency.

Olmert did not appear ready to go for broke, however, especially in light of Mahmoud Abbas's call from both Hamas and Israel for calm. The head of Fatah, Abbas shares a contentious leadership of the Palestinian Authority with Fatah's rival Hamas. Abbas is anxious that the relative quiet that has reigned in and near Gaza of late continue, so as not to destabilize his new unity government with Hamas.

Former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, currently the Infrastructures Minister, said today that if another Israeli soldier is kidnapped, "Israel will not hesitate to abduct [PA prime minister] Ismail Haniye [of Hamas] from his home."

Col. Yogev: Take Over Northern Gaza Now!
Col. (ret.) Moti Yogev says that Israel must re-capture northern Gaza and the Philadelphi Route in southern Gaza. Writing today in the Yisraeli daily, Yogev says this is the minimum required for the protection of Israel's citizens in the south and around Gaza.

"We abandoned the Philadelphi Route as part of the Disengagement," Yogev writes, "which was an illusion devoid of any realistic thinking or evaluation; we discarded the border between Gaza and Egypt not based on intelligence, but based on fantasies... We must hold, forever, the area from northern Gaza to what was the Netzarim Junction - the area from which Kassams are fired at the western Negev and Ashkelon. We must, as quickly as possible, comb the entire area and destroy or collect all the weapons."

Back to Pre-Oslo Days
Yogev goes even further, saying that Israel must "impose a humanitarian and security administration, as there was before the Oslo Accords."

Col. Yogev blames Olmert and Peretz for endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews: "They both understand that the Disengagement was a failure, yet they continue their wanton policies..."