Ministers say IDF prepared to widen Gaza operation

Ya'alon: IDF preparing for ground offensive; no partner in Hamas

Prime Minister Biyamin Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370 (R) (photo credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Prime Minister Biyamin Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370 (R)
(photo credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Sunday the IDF is continuing to call up soldiers in order to broaden the scope of the Gaza operation and prepare for a wide ground offensive.
"We are satisfied by the mobilization of the reservists. They are ready, keen to participate," he said.
Ya'alon said Israel did not see any partner for political settlement with Hamas, and accused the terrorist organization of hiding behind civilians to shoot at Israeli citizens. "Israel tries to avoid hitting civilians, but it is hard to do so," he said.
However, Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) said that there were "dozens of targets to attack" before a ground operation in Gaza.
Speaking during a tour of Ashkelon, Mofaz said: "Israel's main goal is stopping the rocket fire on the residents of the south. Our situation today is that the firepower of Hamas and its various factions has not been played out at a satisfactory level, therefore we cannot rule out limited and measured ground activity."
Air Defense commander Shahar Shohat told Channel 2 on Sunday evening that the Israeli Air Force is ready to deploy a sixth Iron Dome battery if it is necessary to defend the country.
Speaking to Channel 2 Shohat said IAF soldiers could continue operating the Iron Dome battery for "as long as necessary."
Echoing the ministerial stance, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet at its weekly meeting Sunday that Israel is continuing with Operation Pillar of Defense to halt Gaza rockets and is prepared to expand it.
“The IDF has attacked over 1,000 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip and continues to do so in these moments,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel "is prepared to expand its operations in Gaza."
Netanyahu said the IAF's air strikes in the Strip have inflicted a heavy toll on Hamas and other terrorists organizations, significantly harming their ability to launch rockets against Israel.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also commented on the possibility of extending the Gaza operation at a visit to the Iron Dome battery placed in Gush Dan, saying the IDF is "primed and ready to do whatever it takes to remove the [rockets] threat, strength Israeli deterrence and hit Hamas and the Islamic Jihad hard."
Barak said the IDF will not hesitate to send ground forces into Gaza if it is necessary, but that Israel is also prepared to stop the operation if Hamas stops firing rockets at Southern Israel.
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While the prime minister did not publicly discuss a ground operation, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar told Israel Radio Sunday morning that the cabinet was indeed discussing the pros and cons of such a move.
Sa'ar also revealed that negotiations towards achieving a cease fire had not yet progressed to a point that would justify halting military operations in Gaza.
Accordingly, he said, the IDF would continue its current course of action.
Likewise, Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau on Sunday said that now was not the time for a ceasefire as the IDF had not yet achieved all of its objectives.
Landau said the IDF has a lot of work in front of it to destroy the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and prevent weapons smuggling.
He said that if necessary, the IDF should launch a ground operation in Gaza to achieve these aims.