IDF soldiers walking to Gaza during Operation Cast Lead 311R.
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
The IDF General Staff has ordered the Southern Command to prepare for a possible
large Gaza operation that could occur within the next few months, The Jerusalem
Post has learned.
Preparations include finalizing operational plans and
distributing them between the various units that would be deployed inside
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During Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s anti-Hamas ground incursion
launched in late 2008, the IDF established brigade-level units that combined
armor, infantry and combat engineer forces.
A similar model would likely
be applied in a future operation in Gaza as well.
The Gaza Division,
under the command of Brig.-Gen. Yossi Bachar, is spearheading the
preparations for such an operation, which senior officers said could be
significantly larger than Cast Lead.
“Every officer will need to know
where he needs to be with his troops and what his mission will be,” a senior
officer explained. “Gaza has changed and the weaponry in Hamas’s and Islamic
Jihad’s hands has significantly grown in quantity and quality.”
believed to have a fighting force number over 20,000 armed men who are split
into five brigades corresponding with different sections of the Gaza Strip. Each brigade is then split into a number of battalions. In addition, Hamas also has
special teams for surveillance, anti-tank missiles, mortar and rocket fire and
anti-aircraft shoulder-to-air missiles.
The IDF, officers stressed, has
not received orders from the government to launch an operation and the
preparations are being done so that it will be prepared at a moment’s notice and
“Gaza is possibly Israel’s most volatile front today,” a
member of the General Staff said this week. “It is a front that can explode at
any given moment.”
While the situation along the Gaza border is currently
relatively quiet, a single attack by Hamas or another Palestinian terrorist
group – by a Katyusha rocket or an anti-tank missile – could force Israel to
retaliate in a way that would lead to a broader escalation.
In April, for
example, Hamas fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus, killing 16-year-old
Daniel Viflic and just moments after it dropped off a group of
In 2011, 680 rockets and mortar shells were fired into
Israel, including 80 longrange Grad-model Katyusha rockets in comparison to just
2 Grads in 2010.
Currently, the IDF believes Hamas’s interest is to
retain quiet in Gaza as it works to stabilize its control over the
At the same time though, the IDF is extremely concerned with
the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry into Gaza – such as the Russian-made
Kornet anti-tank missile and shoulder-to-air missiles that were stolen from
Libyan military storehouses.
The IDF believes Hamas and Islamic Jihad
currently have just a few hundred advanced anti-tank missiles in Gaza but that
the number will continue to increase reaching close to 4,000 by 2017.