(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Incoming Defense Minister Ehud Barak is planning an attack on Gaza within weeks to crush Hamas, it was reported on Sunday morning.
Britain's Sunday Times quoted senior IDF sources as saying that the planned Gaza assault would require 20,000 troops to destroy the bulk of Hamas's military capability in a few days.
The raid would be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks or a resumption of suicide bombings, said the British newspaper.
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Barak, who is expected to become defense minister on Monday, has already demanded detailed plans to deploy two armored divisions and an infantry division, accompanied by assault drones and F-16 jets, against Hamas, claimed the Times.
The IDF would expect to be confronted by about 12,000 Hamas operatives with arms captured from Fatah in last week's fighting in Gaza.
A senior Hamas official in Gaza City said Saturday that his men had captured more than 50,000 rifles and pistols during raids on the headquarters of the Fatah-controlled security forces.
Hamas also seized dozens of vehicles and "important" military equipment, according to the official.
IDF officials believe troops would face even tougher resistance in Gaza than they encountered during last summer's war against Hizbullah in south Lebanon, asserted the newspaper, quoting a source close to Barak as saying, however, that Israel could not tolerate an aggressive "Hamastan" on its border and an attack seemed unavoidable.
"The question is not if, but how and when," said the source.