Gov't to weigh wide-scale Gaza incursion

Cabinet's Sunday meeting to focus on strategies against Kassam attacks.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The security cabinet meets today to discuss the ongoing Kassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and Hamas's growing military strength there. Two Kassam rockets landed in the western Negev on Sunday morning, and another landed in an open area near Sderot. No one was wounded in either incident, and no damage was reported. Despite pressure from the IDF Southern Command, there is still little enthusiasm from ministers for a wide-scale military operation that would commit infantry troops to Gaza for a prolonged period. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet last month that while ordering an IDF incursion into the Strip would be relatively easy, it would be difficult to ensure that goals were achieved before withdrawing troops. Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisen warned "that even with a full-scale military operation, Israel won't be able to stop all the rockets, and people should be aware of this." Another consideration that the security cabinet must take into account is that any large military response by Israel to the Kassam attacks could undermine the significant international support Israel's current policy of relative restraint enjoys. On Saturday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that he was not in favor of a large-scale operation inside the Gaza Strip. "An invasion into Gaza is an option that we need to keep open for when all other alternatives are exhausted," he said during a cultural event in Holon. "But that is not the situation today. To send divisions into Gaza today and take over their schools and sewage system is not something that the State of Israel should want." OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant has been pushing for several months to get a green light for a large-scale operation inside Gaza. According to Galant, Hamas has built a massive, well-trained and armed military that - if not immediately weakened - could become as powerful as Hizbullah. Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz are against an invasion of the Gaza Strip. Mofaz, a former IDF chief of General Staff and defense minister, has said that reoccupying the Gaza Strip would not achieve anything. But he has called for renewed targeted killings of terrorist chiefs there. Defense officials said over the weekend the IDF would recommend that the security cabinet approve on Sunday a plan that allowed the military to escalate its responses to Kassam rocket attacks. Some of the ideas being considered are a renewal of IDF operations in Gaza, albeit along the security fence and not deep inside the territory. Another option is to allow the IAF to renew air strikes on Kassam manufacturing plants, terrorist bases and weapons caches. With parallels being drawn between the current situation in Gaza and the developments in southern Lebanon prior to the Second Lebanon War, the security cabinet members understand the need for a thorough examination of all the available options, even if a decision is made to maintain the policy of relative restraint. staff contributed to this report.