tanks city in distance.
(photo credit: AP)
In a move that would add a second front for Israeli forces in Gaza, IDF tanks, bulldozers and APCs carrying Givati Brigade soldiers were still preparing Thursday to move into the northern Gaza Strip. The incursion would be the second phase of "Operation Summer Rains," launched Tuesday night with the goal of retrieving kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
In a meeting with Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the delay of an IDF incursion into northern Gaza Thursday evening. Government sources emphasized that the order was not a cancellation, but rather a postponement.
The delay is related to an undisclosed development on the diplomatic front.
The forces had amassed near Kibbutz Mefalsim as early as Wednesday morning, waiting tensely for an invasion order that never came. Their mission was to take control of the northern Gaza Strip, including Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya, preferred sites for firing Kassam rockets at the Western Negev.
Palestinian sources warned against the move Thursday morning, saying that terror cells in northern Gaza had laid roadside bombs, readied suicide bombers, and had strapped explosives to donkeys to thwart the IDF ground assault.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz approved the orders to enter northern Gaza late Wednesday night. IAF planes dropped thousands of flyers over Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanun shortly afterward, warning residents that they would be endangering their lives if they remained in their homes.
The ultimate goal, Peretz said, was to retrieve Shalit and to stop the incessant Kassam fire, not to reoccupy Gaza.