'IDF accomplished goals of Gaza op'

Paratroopers cmdr: "No one really believed Gaza would be completely clean of rocket launchers."

idf troops inside gaza nice 248 IDF (photo credit: IDF)
idf troops inside gaza nice 248 IDF
(photo credit: IDF)
Paratroopers Brigade Commander Col. Herzi Halevi said Friday that the IDF accomplished the goals of Operation Cast Lead. "No one really believed that Gaza would be completely clean of rocket launchers and tunnels," Halevi told Israel Radio. "The IDF hit numerous Hamas operatives and a lot of its infrastructure, and now the other side understands that a second round won't be such a good idea," he added. During the three-week operation, the IDF destroyed 80 percent of the 300 tunnels that Hamas is believed to have dug under the Philadelphi Corridor, the 14-kilometer stretch of land separating Gaza and Egypt. Nevertheless, since the end of the operation Hamas has seized control of all the remaining tunnels and has been moving additional arms into the Strip since Operation Cast Lead ended on Sunday morning. Halevi went on to say that during the Gaza operation, the IDF came across large amounts of explosives, booby-trapped houses and attempts to kidnap troops. Regarding the Palestinian casualties, Halevi said that the soldiers made great efforts not to harm innocent civilians. He also expressed hope that the operation had created better conditions for securing the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, but stressed that he was not involved in the matter. In related news, a Jerusalem official told Reuters on Friday that Israel should show more flexibility in a deal for Schalit and should even release Palestinian inmates responsible for large-scale terror attacks. According the official, Hamas had been severely weakened by Operation Cast Lead and therefore, a prisoner swap wouldn't significantly strengthen the group. Also Friday, some 50 demonstrators gathered outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Jerusalem residence, calling on him to act to secure Schalit's release before the end of his time in office. Yaakov Katz contributed to this report