The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is warning that due to the current conflict with terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Israel may need to launch an operation in Gaza. Ynet reported that IDF Chief Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that in light of the recent escalation in violence and its impact on Israeli civilians, “a major offensive in Gaza” will eventually be necessary. Israel has generally used targeted air strikes to counter terror attacks since Operation Cast Lead was conducted in 2009.
Speaking with the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset (Israeli parliament), Gantz pointed out the IDF actions would be planned—not impulsive. The IDF website did not use the “major offensive” line, but did quote Gantz as saying that “Hamas alerts are still high and eventually we will have to employ to operational activity. We will not be provoked to do so; it will be… premeditated and organized. This is crucial in maintaining our security.”
Neither Ynet nor the IDF website clarified what type of operation would likely be needed. Gantz did note that the IDF wants it to be short-lived.
“For the next clash we will need to shorten the combat duration as much as possible,” said Gantz, according to the IDF website. “This depends on high quality intelligence and fast operational activity, which is why we must be prepared. Otherwise, we might deter from the progress we’ve made in the past four years.”
Another Terror Threat
The situation with Gaza has become more troubling in light of the emergence of another threat in the Strip: the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization. Gantz said an Islamic Jihad cell specifically was targeted in an air strike near the Gaza-Egyptian border. He was quoted as saying the strike “was successful in delaying the development of the Islamic Jihad’s rocket production.”
Islamic Jihad is apparently causing problems for Hamas as well as Israel. IDF spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, speaking in a conference call on Tuesday sponsored by The Israel Project, said Islamic Jihad is “challenging” Hamas.
“Hamas’ situation is deteriorating in the Gaza Strip, I would say. It’s being challenged more and more by the Islamic Jihad,” said Leibovich. She noted that the Islamic Jihad were involved in a recent round of rocket attacks.
While Leibovich did not clarify how Islamic Jihad is challenging Hamas, the threat to Hamas’ authority is potentially troubling for Israel. Hamas is the authority in Gaza and therefore held accountable by Israel for rocket attacks. But if Islamic Jihad is less willing to let Hamas dictate when and where offensives against Israel can happen, then Israel will have to combat two different groups in Gaza with conflicting agendas.
That doesn’t mean Hamas is no longer threatening Israel. Just last April, Hamas fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus, resulting in the death of the one Israeli teenager on the bus. And Leibovich said the terror group is “continuing to re-arm itself” via hundreds of smuggling tunnels between Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai.
The Rocket Threat
The organizational threat is not the only growing concern in Gaza. Leibovich pointed out that the Gaza rocket capability in the last 11 years has changed dramatically. In 2000, she said the average rocket could travel six kilometers, placing 30,000 Israelis “under immediate danger.” Today, the rockets can travel 40 km and place one million Israelis under threat.
Leibovich said Israeli civilians in that area have between 15-55 seconds to find a shelter when the rocket alarm is sounded, making the situation a genuine challenge to their ability to live a “normal life.” Said Leibovich, “This is of course not a normal situation to carry on and have a normal life like this.”
While the rocket attacks have slowed from the recent surge, that doesn’t mean they have stopped. Two more rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza on Tuesday, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Twitter feed. A press release on the IDF Spokesperson’s Blog reported that Israel responded by targeting a terror tunnel—which are intended for infiltrating Israel for terror attacks—as well as a “terror activity site.”
Said the press release, “The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers, and will continue to operate against anyone who uses terror against the State of Israel. The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, November 16, 2011)