'We can't avoid another Gaza confrontation'

3 years after Cast Lead, IDF commander warns that new operation is inevitable, says IDF must be prepared.

December 12, 2011 20:25
Kassam rockets being fired from Gaza Strip [file]

Kassam rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip 311 (R). (photo credit: Nikola Solic / Reuters)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


After a volatile weekend of rocket fire and air strikes, a senior IDF commander warned on Monday that a military incursion against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip is inevitable.

“I think that we can’t avoid another confrontation,” said Col. Yonatan Branski, deputy commander of the Gaza Division. “There are a lot of weapons inside the Gaza Strip. There are terror groups and they try to hit civilians. They do it all of the time," he added. "Just in the past days we have had 39 rockets and mortar shells fired into Israeli territory trying to hit Israeli civilians. Of course, that’s something we cannot [allow]. I guess there will be a confrontation. When and where exactly I can’t say.”

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

IAF strikes terror targets in Gaza in response to rockets
Hamas to Egypt: Pressure Israel over Gaza strikes

Speaking at the spot where Palestinians fired a rocket into a yellow school bus in April, killing one student, Branski told foreign reporters that the three years since the IDF’s last incursion into the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead were used by Hamas to double its arsenal and bolster its forces.

“Our duty as an army is to be ready all the time for every kind of operation. If there’s an escalation we are ready for it and we know exactly what to do and where to hit Hamas and the other terror groups in the Gaza Strip," he said.

The latest flare up erupted last Thursday after an IDF air strike assassinated the leader of a terrorist group who had dispatched a squad to attack Israel. Palestinians retaliated by firing salvos of rockets into cities in the South. Most of those rockets landed in open fields and one was intercepted by the new Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries.

The flare-up came at a time when the economy in the coastal zone is flourishing. Ironically, this could be the result of Israel’s blockade, which it imposed after Hamas seized control of the enclave from Fatah in a bloody coup in 2007.


After Israel barred exports, tunnels that had once been used to smuggle weapons from Egypt became the main conduit for commercial merchandise. According to Palestinian figures, unemployment has fallen to 25 percent, compared with 45% just three years ago. There is currently a building boom underway and even skilled construction workers are hard to find.

“There are not enough skilled workers in Gaza right now, can you believe that,” said one senior IDF official involved with Palestinian economy. The official indicated with frustration that Hamas had used the Israeli policy to slowly gain control over the Gazan economy.

Israel changed its policy 18 months ago – after nine Turks died aboard the Mavi Marmara in a botched operation by the IDF to prevent them from breaking the blockade – and started to allow more items into Gaza as well as agriculture exports out to Europe through Israeli ports. In 2010, the Palestinians exported 400 tons of strawberries, cherry tomatoes and flowers.

Currently some 4,187 trucks from Israel and the Palestinian Authority cross into the Gaza Strip per month, generating an annual trade of about $1 billion. Conversely, another $1 billion in goods comes in through a clandestine network of over 1,000 tunnels running under the Egyptian-Gaza border.

“Hamas is gaining in strength and also the Islamic Jihad,” said a senior IDF commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’ll never be strong enough to be a serious contender against the IDF, but right now they are 100% more ready than before Cast Lead,” he said.

The army assessment is that Hamas wants quiet to prevail until at least the conclusion of a prisoner release later this month. The release is the second phase of a prisoner exchange that began in October with the return of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit for 479 Palestinian prisoners.

“Hamas is leading Gaza in the direction which we see will lead it to dire straits,” said the IDF officer closely involved with Palestinian trade. He repeatedly warned that Hamas’ “very aggressive and autocratic” rule was edging out private businesses and taking over the economy. It has replaced 70,000 civil service workers of the Palestinian Authority with 40,000 of its own and is investing heavily in military build up.

“Gaza is moving away from Israel and toward Sinai and Egypt. The markets are over stocked and everything is available in Gaza. Whoever says there is a blockade there is not in touch with reality,” the officer said. “In its mind, Hamas sees itself connected to the Arab economy and disconnecting from Israel.”

The problem, the officer explained, is that Egypt is much poorer than Gaza and there is no demand for Gaza produce in Egypt. Also, water and electricity are two areas that Gaza has failed to develop to keep pace with its rapidly growing population.

The officer said because Islamists have been in power since 2006, he views Gaza as five years ahead of the Arab Spring countries, like Egypt and Tunisia, which are only now electing Islamists. He warned that Islamist rule bode ill for these countries. 

“They [the Gazans] are now paying the price of an Islamic extremist government in control,” he said. “I’m not sure if elections took place now that Hamas would do as well as it did in 2006. Hamas is creating a lot of antagonism in Gaza and sowing the seeds of future problems.”

“The reality in Gaza is that Hamas is not addressing the general needs of the population and they will at a certain stage become a critical problem for Hamas. It is putting Gaza on a collision course with the population,” he said.

“The Hamas regime is driving Gaza people to a calamity and not providing the needs the street wants. The people of Gaza know that they must be connected with Israel. There is no other way. We are waiting for a change of heart in Gaza,” the senior Israeli officer said.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Supreme Court President Asher Grunis
August 28, 2014
Grapevine: September significance