idf artillery great pic .
(photo credit: AP)
OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant said Friday that the IDF was preparing to reoccupy the Gaza Strip if the Hamas-led Palestinian government did not halt rocket fire from the area.
"We're talking about more aggressive military activity," Galant said in an interview to Ma'ariv. "If the price we have to pay becomes unreasonable as a result of increased [Palestinian] attacks, then we shall have to take all steps, including occupying the Gaza Strip," he continued.
He said that the move could be a full occupation or a partial occupation one and claimed that his plans had been approved by senior officials, including Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.
Israel has already made two brief incursions into the Strip to search for explosives. But, defense officials said, the odds of a large-scale operation or full occupation were slim because of financial and political constraints.
"I wouldn't want to reach that situation, but if it's forced upon us, then we have a plan to occupy the Strip," Galant warned. "We are in advanced stages of preparing forces for readiness. There is a practical plan and there are forces which are designated for specific operations and are training for them."
The senior officer added that "intolerable" nonstop attacks, or the use of longer-range and more powerful weapons such as Katyusha rockets, could prompt a large-scale ground operation.
In the wake of recent Hamas comments justifying the Pessah suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Galant said that although Israel held Hamas responsible for the violence, it was holding off direct military action against the group for the time being.
"In the new reality, the military acts against all terrorist organizations, except Hamas, which is restraining itself," Galant said.
AP contributed to this report.
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