Soldiers stand next to an Iron Dome battery..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Rocket sirens were heard in the Gaza frontier communities of Sha'ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev on Wednesday afternoon, the first such warning alarms in over 24 hours since a tenuous cease-fire took hold between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Minutes later, however, the sirens were deemed to be false alarms.
The sirens sounded hours after the IDF completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, taking positions along the border in the event that hostilities ignite anew.
"If Hamas violates the truce, it will be making a serious mistake," OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgeman warned on Tuesday. Speaking near the Gaza border, he said residents of the area can return to their homes and that the IDF has created an improved security environment.
"We are deployed in force around the Strip and around southern communities in order to continue to secure residents," Turgeman said.
The Southern Command chief added that the coming days will shed light on whether Hamas will hold its fire, adding that its military wing had sustained "very serious damage."
Looking ahead, Turgeman said there is high potential for Israeli deterrence to take effect and for quiet to rein in the area. At the same time he warned, "the offensive is not over, and the IDF is prepared to continue the conflict if necessary." He said Israel will prevent Hamas from rebuilding cross-border tunnels and would not back away from future raids in Gaza to destroy tunnels that are built in the future.
Over the course of the past month, the IDF has destroyed Hamas's rocket production, infrastructure and tunnel network, he said, while inflicting damage on its rocket arsenal. "Every tunnel that crossed the border into Israel has been destroyed," he added.
He described combat against Hamas cells in Gaza as complex warfare in an urban setting in which close-range battles took place. "We found rows of houses and streets that were booby-trapped...It is thanks to the determination and professionalism of our commanders and soldiers that we can overcome the enemy," he said.