The IDF probably has a broad range of options to choose from if it wishes to escalate its response to ongoing Palestinian rocket fire on southern Israel.
As of now, the military has limited its response to air strikes on rocket-launching cells after they have been identified on the ground and are preparing to fire projectiles, or after they have fired the rockets and given their positions away.
Air strikes could target figures higher up in the chain of command within Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and other terror groups. Rather than wait for rockets to be fired, targeted assassinations of these commanders could be employed. This would place the commanders of the terror factions under pressure, and would result in them investing energy in seeking cover for themselves, leaving them little or no time to fire rockets at Israel.
Additionally, the air force could strike figures even higher up, such as Hamas’s military commander, Ahmed Jabari, and his counterpart in Islamic Jihad.
For years, the IDF’s Southern Command has built up a list of hundreds of targets in Gaza.
These targets may include official Hamas buildings and regime properties, such as government offices and nerve centers. These too could become targets in a stepped-up IDF response.
The next stage could involve a limited ground offensive into Gaza – a scenario for which the IDF has been training itself for years.
In Operation Cast Lead, Hamas was surprised by Israel’s limited ground offensive, and Hamas fighters dispersed in the face of the advancing military. This time around, Hamas and associated factions are likely to be far more ready for a ground offensive, and the IDF will have to face bombladen tunnels, booby-trapped buildings, snipers and underground command centers.
The most drastic step would involve a wide-scale ground offensive, which could topple the Hamas regime and see IDF soldiers reach deep into Gaza City, where house-to-house fighting and intense urban combat would ensue.
Such an offensive would place soldiers at the greatest risk, and could have major regional repercussions – including the jeopardizing of the peace treaty with Egypt.
In any stepped-up IDF response, Israel would have to take into account the threat of long-range rocket attacks on greater Tel Aviv from Gaza.
Such a development would, however, likely prompt an even harsher military reply.
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