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Egypt made preparations Friday for an expected IDF operation in Gaza by reinforcing security along its border with the Strip.
Egyptian security forces are concerned that an IDF operation would lead to an attempt by Gazans to break through the Rafah border crossing, AFP reported.
Meanwhile, although Israel stepped up its threatening rhetoric against them, Gaza terrorists intensified their attacks, firing at least 25 mortar shells at the South overnight Thursday and early Friday, one of which hit a building in the Eshkol region. No one was wounded in the attacks, but the building was damaged.
Despite the mortar shell fire, Israel allowed humanitarian aid into Gaza on Friday morning.
The IDF said approximately 90 trucks delivered medicine, fuel, cooking gas and other vital goods into Gaza. The shipment included a large donation of goods from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's wife as well as more than 400,000 liters of fuel and 200 tons of natural gas, the military said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided Thursday to open the Kerem Shalom and Sufa crossings to allow the transfer of the humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
The shipment was originally scheduled to enter Gaza on Wednesday but was postponed due to the rocket fire. The Defense Ministry said the decision was made to permit the transfer after Barak received a number of requests from international organizations.
National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said the humanitarian shipment was meant to be a message to the people of Gaza that they were not Israel's enemy.
"We are sending them a message that the Hamas leadership has turned them into a punching bag for everyone," he told Israel Radio. "It is a leadership that has turned school yards in rocket launching pads. This a leadership that does not care that the blood of its people will run in the streets."
Meanwhile, Defense officials said Thursday that Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi were fully coordinated with regard to the need for an operation in Gaza - a limited one.
On Sunday, Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will conduct a series of meetings, together and separately, ahead of the expected IDF operation.
Army Radio reported that the discussions would focus of the preparedness of the home front, the humanitarian situation in the Strip and diplomatic initiatives required to garner international support for military action.
Diplomatic officials said Thursday that while there was broad international condemnation of the Hamas attacks on Israel, there was also a great deal of concern about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
The officials also said that the barrage of rocket and mortar attacks over the last few days had not been covered that widely in the international press, which is currently focusing on Christmas holiday stories.
Though an argument could be made that this would be a good time for a military operation, because much of the world is currently on vacation and not focusing on the Middle East, others say that because the world has not paid sufficient attention over the last two days to the pounding of the western Negev, any massive IDF attack now would seem inexplicable.
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