Smoke from explosion in Gaza Strip [file].
(photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)
The IDF is closely monitoring developments in Gaza, and senior military officials believe Hamas and Islamic Jihad intend to implement the cease-fire and prevent other terror factions from firing into Israel.
Terrorist organizations are due to hold damage evaluations across the Strip and discover the considerable damage incurred to them during the week-long operation to repress rocket fire on southern Israel.
A senior IDF source noted that the bulk of Hamas’s long-range rocket threat had been destroyed, as well as a chunk of its medium-range Grad rocket arsenal. Air strikes killed 30 senior Hamas officials, and wrecked dozens of terror tunnels and command and control outposts.
“There will be all sorts of ‘victory’ celebrations, in Gaza,” the source said. “These can be interpreted in many ways.”
The IDF believes that – contrary to the triumphant public stance of Hamas – the Gaza regime is privately shocked by the level of damage it sustained.
“We will follow all developments in Gaza, and we must be prepared for ‘days of rage’ that could be held on Friday in Gaza and the West Bank after prayers,” the senior source added.
The IDF remains on standby for any cease-fire violations, but is set to gradually reduce the size of the ground forces deployed on the border with the Strip.
“Any attacks will result in immediate responses,” the source warned.
Meanwhile, an IDF Ordnance Corps reserve soldier critically wounded on Wednesday by a rocket in the Eshkol region died on Thursday.
He was named as Capt. Boris Yarmulnik, 28, from Netanya. His funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday in the coastal city.
Four other soldiers were lightly wounded in the attack and airlifted to the hospital.
Speaking to commanders at the Southern Command, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Pillar of Defense (in Hebrew, Pillar of Cloud) saw air strikes directed against senior terrorist figures and infrastructure, while defensive measures to protect the home front were largely successful.
He added that Israeli society and the reserves “know how to report for duty, as proven by Operation Defensive Shield [in 2002], the Second Lebanon War [in 2006], Cast Lead [in 2009], and Pillar of Defense.”
“I passed through all of the brigades, went over all the programs, met your friends, and left with the impression that the level of readiness for carrying out the mission, if we are required to send you [into Gaza], is high,” Gantz said.
His comments came amid some disgruntlement among rank-and-file soldiers, who have expressed disappointment with the fact that they were not allowed to take on Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists inside the Gaza Strip.
Addressing the sentiments, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio that if Israel needs to, it would send troops into the Gaza Strip, but added, “The problem is not occupying Gaza, it’s leaving.
“I do not miss Israeli control over Gaza. It is no way a simple thing, and I don’t miss it,” he said.
The defense minister clarified that the cease-fire was not an agreement with Hamas but rather a document of understandings between Israel and Egypt, and between Egypt and Hamas. A document detailing the understandings was published by Hamas in order to boast its achievements, he said.
“There is no agreement. I am holding the paper in my hands,” Barak told Israel Radio. Quiet will be met by quiet, he said.