Barak: Large-scale Gaza operation near

Terror chief Muhammad Deif says Hamas will soon strike "deep inside Israel."

muhammad deif 298 channe (photo credit: Channel 2)
muhammad deif 298 channe
(photo credit: Channel 2)
A large-scale IDF operation against Palestinian rocket squads in Gaza was drawing near, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday. "Every day that passes brings us closer to a broad operation in Gaza," Barak told Army Radio. "We are not happy to do it, we're not rushing to do it, and we'll be happy if circumstances succeed in preventing it," he said. "But the time is approaching when we'll have to undertake a broad operation in Gaza." Meanwhile, Hamas terror chief Muhammad Deif was quoted as saying that Hamas would soon strike "deep inside Israel." Hamas official Sheikh Ahmad Hamdan of Khan Yunis said Tuesday that he recently met with Deif in the fugitive's hiding place. According to Hamdan, Deif, leader of Hamas's Izzadin a-Kassam armed wing, told him that in the next few weeks, his group would initiate an attack against the "Israeli occupation, and not remain on the defensive." Deif, wanted by Israel for planning and executing numerous terror attacks, has eluded capture for years. In July 2006, he was wounded in an IAF strike on a house in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City. Palestinian sources reported that nine members of the same family were killed in the attack, including seven children. Deif has survived at least two other targeted assassination attempts. The report of the Izzadin a-Kassam leader's alleged plans comes after Brig.-Gen. Moshe (Chico) Tamir, head of the Gaza Division, said Monday that Hamas was trying to establish a bunker system as well as fortified rocket-launching and surveillance positions along the security fence with the Gaza Strip. Tamir said that Hamas was "building an army" in the Gaza Strip and had obtained unprecedented capabilities through smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. Also Monday, head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Yuval Diskin said that since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, the Palestinians have smuggled over 112 tons of explosives into the Strip. "They are trying to dig tunnels, build surveillance positions and mortar-fire stations along the fence," Tamir told reporters during a briefing concerning the death of IDF reservist Ehud Efrati during clashes with Hamas gunmen early Monday morning. "They are trying to build this up and we are trying to stop them." Tamir said that Hamas was studying Israeli tactics during the IDF's daily operations along the fence and was trying to use this knowledge in its fighting methods.