Tuesday, December 30, 2008

IDF Preparing Ground Offensive

Hillel Fendel IDF Preparing Ground Offensive

Large Israeli forces – tanks, infantry, engineer corps, artillery and more – are waiting just outside Gaza for the order to enter. It is felt that the great successes of the three-day air campaign have begun - or are soon to begin - yielding diminishing returns, and that a ground offensive will be necessary.

The precise objectives of such an attack have not been publicized, however, other than the neutralization of rocket-launching sites. Strategic terror points, including mosques that shelter weapons and ammunition, will also be targeted.

“We will reach places [in Ga that the Palestinians never expected,” an unidentified senior IDF officer told NRG-Maariv. .
“We do not intend to bring in masses of forces,” the officer said, “which would become targets within [enemy territory The objective is rather to activate forces that will quickly and constantly move from one place to another. We have artillery, precise-fire weapons, and other surprises.” The IDF carried out a practice run for a ground offensive of this type two weeks ago.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak implied on Monday, however, that the offensive might not happen if Hamas stops firing rockets at Israel. Hamas fired some 60 rockets yesterday, including about a dozen in the evening hours.

The area around Gaza was declared a closed military zone on Monday evening – largely to prevent journalists from entering. In the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hizbullah learned much about Israel’s deployment from media reports.

A source in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said that a ground operation in Gaza would be limited in time and would have “clear and focused objectives.” These apparently do not include a total stoppage to rocket attacks – which is considered nearly impossible – and the toppling of the Hamas regime. Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who is taking part in Israel's public relations efforts, said that these are precisely the two issues that should be the declared objectives of the current fighting.

The IDF is well aware that the terrorists' fighting forces in Gaza have utilized the past two years, and particularly the six-month ceasefire that Hamas ended earlier this month, to become practically a full-fledged army. Numbering some 20,000 fighters, the terrorist army is divided into regions – northern Gaza, Gaza City, central Gaza, Khan Yunis, and southern Gaza – and has a clearly-defined chain of command. It also has infantry units, a naval force, bomb-placing and rocket-launching teams, an intelligence unit and more. Hamas has also benefited from training in Iran, as well as a steady influx of heavy weapons and ammunition from Iran and Lebanon over this period.

In preparation for an IDF ground operation, the terrorists have filled tunnels with explosives, hidden large bombs on travel routes, booby-trapped homes and more.

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