Halutz threatens major ground operation to stop Kassams

Three more rockets land in Sderot; Peretz: "We will take action against anyone involved."

kassam disposal 298 88 (photo credit: AP)
kassam disposal 298 88
(photo credit: AP)
Rocket barrages continued in Israel's south on Thursday morning as three Kassams, fired from the Gaza Strip, landed in the Sderot area. One of the rockets fell in a Kibbutz chicken coop, and another hit a public building; the third landed in open territory. No one was wounded in the attack, but the two structures were damaged. Meanwhile, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz threatened the Palestinians with a massive, widespread ground operation in the Gaza Strip to stop the Kassam rocket attacks and curb the buildup of Hamas forces in the Palestinian territory. Defense Minister Amir Peretz convened an emergency meeting of security officials Wednesday afternoon and said, "We will take action against anyone involved in Kassam rocket attacks, from the terror chiefs until the last of the terror operatives. The terror organizations will pay a heavy price." The IAF carried out overnight air strikes against terror targets in the Gaza Strip. First, IAF planes attacked a building in Gaza City. The army reported that the structure had functioned as a weapons storehouse. The occupants were given warning by telephone prior to the strike, and there were no reports of wounded. Approximately an hour later, two Palestinians were reported wounded when the IAF struck two Hamas-owned structures in the Jabalya refugee camp. As in the Gaza City strike, the army alerted the occupants of the impending action, and warned them to leave the premises. The army said that one of the buildings was used as a weapons storehouse, while the second functioned as a headquarters for planning terror attacks against Israeli targets. On Tuesday, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin told a Knesset committee that the IDF must prepare for a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. One option being considered by the defense establishment is the launching of a widespread operation on the scale of Operation Defensive Shield, launched in the West Bank in 2002 in an effort to curb a wave of suicide attacks inside Israel. If given the green light by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government, such an operation would involve calling up several reserve divisions as well as reoccupying a large section of the densely-populated northern Gaza Strip. "There is no doubt that the terror is building up in the Gaza Strip," Halutz said. "We have not ruled out the possibility of a large-scale operation there." OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant visited Sderot and told reporters that the army planned to continue its operations against the Kassam terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. "We will get those responsible for the attacks in the ways we know how," Galant said as he toured the scene of the early morning attack with Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal. Hamas and Islamic Jihad both claimed responsibility for the fatal Sderot attack, calling it retaliation for the deaths of 19 civilians last week in an IDF shelling in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun.