It seems like the recent calls for an expanded ground incursion into Gaza coming recently from civilians, former army officers, and politicians, will be answered soon with several planned operations in different parts of the Strip.
In recent weeks, many voices, including those of residents of Sderot and the Western Negev, and a group of over 100 retired Israel Defense Forces senior officers known as “The Movement for National Responsibility,” have been appealing to the government to decide on a large scale incursion into the Gaza Strip in order to halt the Kassam rocket attacks into Israel and to prevent Hamas from arming themselves to the point where they pose the same danger as Hizballah did in Lebanon.
Col. (ret.) Moti Yogev, a former IDF Gaza commander and head of the organization, says there is no choice but to retake at least parts of Gaza. "At the very minimum, Israel must take back the Philadelphi Route. This is the first critical action that must be taken in order to protect the State of Israel from all the arms and explosives that are smuggled into Gaza and threaten us,” he said.
With or without direct connection to those pressures, Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Defense Minister Amir Peretz have authorized several military actions in Gaza in several different sectors and with several objectives, due to be executed in the next few days.
The latest incursion of IDF troops into the Gaza Strip ended only a few days ago, when forces canvassed the Philadelphi Route separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt, where the troops acted on information to unearth tunnels smuggling weapons into the Strip from Egypt. According to reports from the area, dozens of tunnels were discovered in different stages of construction, leading to both agricultural areas and residential houses on the route.
On Monday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced at a Knesset meeting that Israel would extend its operation against Hamas in the Strip, but has no intention of remaining for a lengthy period in Gaza.
At a Foreign Affairs Committee meeting he said that the Israel Defense Forces has killed more than 300 terrorists in the past three months alone in the Gaza Strip.
Olmert said that in addition to expanding the war on terror, Israel would do everything in its power to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The prime minister added that there is no reason to add 5,000 Egyptian police officers at the border with Israel to prevent the smuggling of weapons through the Philadelphi route from Egypt into Gaza.
According to IDF officials, terror organizations are using tunnels to smuggle weapons, strengthening and arming themselves with improved and sophisticated weapons, such as antitank missiles like the ones used by Hizballah.
“We will make sure to use our judgment regarding wide-scale offensive moves in the Gaza Strip, although we will operate wherever it is needed,” said Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
Peretz affirmed that the IDF does not plan to reoccupy the Gaza Strip, but will work to neutralize the threat of tunnels.