Israel Considering Military Operation in Gaza
November 14, 2008<br />
Israel has closed the border in retaliation, preventing shipments of food and supplies into Gaza. And an official said Israel may send the military deep inside the Gaza Strip if Hamas rocket fire on its southern communities does not stop.
A six-month Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, which started in June, is due to expire in December, but there are signs that it could end sooner.
Israel does not want an escalation. It wants the ceasefire to continue, but it says it cannot tolerate any Palestinian attempt to hit Israel, dig tunnels or plant bombs along the security fence where Israeli forces patrol, a Foreign Ministry spokesman told CNSNews.com.
No decision has been made yet about a military operation in the Gaza Strip, but the “idea is being considered,” said the diplomat, who asked not to be named.
In the past, it has taken a civilian death or a high-profile attack for Israel to launch a large-scale military operation inside Gaza.
Hamas resumed its rocket fire on southern Israeli communities 10 days ago, after the Israeli army blew up a building that was covering a tunnel entrance. Terrorists planned to use the tunnel to abduct Israeli soldiers, the army said. Four Palestinian gunmen were killed in exchanges of fire.
More than 90 rockets have been launched at southern Israeli communities since then, the army said, including eighteen on Friday. At least four of them were Grad rockets that slammed into the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. Another two rockets hit Sderot, lightly injuring an 80-year-old woman.
The Grad rockets have a longer range and were likely smuggled into the Gaza Strip through tunnels dug under the border with Egypt.
Early Friday, Israel carried out an aerial strike against a rocket launching squad, the army said.
Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees have claimed responsibility for the rocket launchings.
Two separate statements on the Web site of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for firing a number of the rockets and threatened to double the response if Israel continued “its aggression” against the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Thursday that the state of calm is fragile and that the question is not if but when there will be a confrontation.
Meanwhile, Israel kept the crossings to the Gaza Strip sealed on Friday following the renewed rocket attacks.
A planned shipment of 30 trucks of food aid due to enter the Gaza Strip on Thursday was cancelled after Israel received intelligence warnings of a planned terror attack against a crossing, said Peter Lerner, spokesman for the army’s civil administration.
The United Nations Relief Works Agency said it had to suspend food distribution to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees due to the closure because its warehouses were empty.
The sole power plant in the Gaza Strip said it had to shut down on Thursday because it had run out of fuel.
According to Lerner, Israel pumped fuel into Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday but the transfer was halted on Thursday due to the situation. Lerner noted that 70 percent of Gaza’s electricity comes from direct lines from Israel and Egypt. That supply has continued uninterrupted, he said.