Israel must strengthen its deterrence and strike Hamas hard, but not reoccupy Gaza, which would be a strategic mistake, former Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin said on Sunday.
Yadlin – who is the director of the Institute for National Security Studies – made the comments on the INSS’s Facebook page following a weekend in which 30 rockets fired from Gaza slammed into southern areas of Israel, and Beersheba came under Palestinian rocket fire for the first time since Israel’s clash with Hamas in November 2012.
The rocket fired on Beersheba Saturday was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.
“Reoccupation of Gaza would be a strategic mistake. It would not be right to resume control of a million-and-ahalf Palestinians,” Yadlin said.
“Hamas today is weak politically and on this level has in fact deferred to Abbas. Israel should not replace Hamas or the Palestinian Authority- controlled Gaza. Hamas, however, has not dismantled its military capabilities. It attacks the Negev, prepares kidnapping operations, and threatens populated areas in Israel with its long-range rockets,” Yadlin added.
“Therefore, if Hamas continues to shell our civilian population and to launch rockets, Israel should neutralize the threat through a broad military move,” he stated.
The IDF should target Hamas’s military wing, its leadership, and the terror organization’s weapons and rocket production centers, Yadlin said.
“Such a move should integrate intelligence, firepower [especially aerial] and ground maneuvers to reach key points and strategic areas in the Gaza Strip,” Yadlin said.
“Such an operation is not without cost and might include damage to the fabric of life, the economy and even fatalities. But it is necessary,” he added.
“The price of not undertaking an operation in Gaza might well be higher than the price of the operation. Prolonged shelling of the Negev, and the continued strengthening of Hamas will force us eventually to launch such an operation in the near future – and at a less favorable time, facing an enemy with intensified capabilities that exceed the capabilities it possesses today,” he concluded.
Hamas’s weapons production program in Gaza is moving ahead at full speed, with local rocket production centers churning out thousands of projectiles, according to Israeli security evaluations communicated to The Jerusalem Post in June. Terror groups have collectively amassed 10,000 rockets in the Gaza Strip. Of those, some 5,000 to 6,000 are in Hamas’s possession, and an additional 2,000 to 3,000 are in the hands of Islamic Jihad.
Hundreds of projectiles are believed to be able to strike greater Tel Aviv.
Since taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007 in a violent coup that forced Fatah out of power in the enclave, Hamas has restructured itself into a military- like combat entity, complete with territorial divisions.
Hamas’s combat divisions are made up of approximately 16,000 gunmen, while Islamic Jihad has built up a fighting force of 5,000 armed guerrillas, with the aid of Iranian funds and training.
According to Israeli evaluations, there are about 4,000 members of the smaller Gazan terror groups, each armed with their own mini-arsenals of rockets, bombs and assault weapons.