Barak: The main test is still before us

Knesset committee told Hamas has enough rockets to last for weeks.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other security officials warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that there were many challenges ahead before Operation Cast Lead could be concluded. Speaking before the urban warfare in the Gaza Strip heated up Monday night, Barak said the relatively small number of casualties on the Israeli side should not mislead anyone. He said Hamas wanted to pull the IDF deeper into the cities inside the strip. "There are still many complicated moments ahead, and it could be that the main test is still before us and not behind us," Barak said. "Hamas has suffered a severe blow, but we haven't reached all the goals we set and therefore the operations continue. We are determined to bring the people of Israel quiet and serenity." Barak said the Home Front Command's directives to remain indoors had proven themselves. He said some 40 percent of the rockets Hamas had fired had fallen in built-up areas, 10% hit buildings and only 2% hit people directly. The commander of the IDF's Gaza Division, Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, reported to the committee that in the first three minutes and 40 seconds of the air attacks, Israel attacked 45 targets with 98% accuracy. The head of the Military Intelligence Research Division, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, said Hamas still had enough rockets and mortars to last weeks. He expressed confidence that Hamas would move away from its previous positions in order to stay in power. He said Hamas had made several mistakes since the operations began. "Hamas broke the cease-fire due to its self-confidence and because it wanted to improve its position security-wise," Baidatz said. "Hamas thought Israel would react in a more measured way, but Israel's response on the ground and in the air was more than they expected. They also hid rocket supplies and assembly lines in mosques, because they did not think Israel would attack them." Likud MKs Silvan Shalom and Yuval Steinitz called upon Barak to intensify the operation, while Meretz MKs Zehava Gal-On and Ran Cohen called to stop it and seek an immediate cease-fire. "The diplomatic window is closing, so the military operations must be expedited in order to achieve a cease-fire that can remove the threat of missiles from Gaza," Shalom said. But Cohen said, "The war cannot achieve its goals, because Hamas cannot be toppled and if we toppled it, the situation would only get worse. We cannot destroy all the launchers and makers of the Kassams, so there is no point to the war."