Defense Minister Amir Peretz held a security meeting on Friday afternoon with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, intelligence officials and Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, on the subject of IDF operations against Kassam fire in the Gaza Strip. At the meeting, Peretz ordered the IDF to continue with its current policy of pinpointed airstrikes against Hamas terrorists and Kassam infrastructure. Peretz also said the infantry force that had taken up positions in Gaza on Thursday would maintain its presence in effort to assist in identifying Kassam squads. Earlier, a high-ranking IDF officer said Friday that the goal of the current operation in Gaza was to "make Hamas pay" for its continued terror attacks against Israel.
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Predicting that Kassam rocket fire would continue over the next few days, the officer said that the IDF planned to continue its current policy of bombing Kassam manufacturing plants, warehouses, Kassam rocket squads and other Hamas infrastructure involved in terror attacks.
He also hinted that the IDF operations could continue even if Hamas stopped firing rockets.
Israel is not "conducting a dialogue" with Hamas, he said, and added that IDF operations were not necessarily dependent on the continuation of rocket attacks.
"We're not just attacking real estate. We want to make Hamas pay for the terror," he said.
Nine Kassams were fired at Israel on Friday. Two scored a direct hit on a home, lightly wounding several people.
Referring to calls by ministers in the government to escalate IDF operations on the ground and to begin striking at Palestinian infrastructure such as power plants, the officer said that at the moment, the army plans to continue with its current policy of pinpointed strikes from the air and on the ground.
On Thursday, IDF tanks and infantry units took up positions in northern Gaza in an effort to minimize Kassam rocket fire.
The officer said the IDF would present plans for the continued operation to the cabinet on Sunday.
The officer also noted that improvements had been made recently to the Kassams' range, and that while a year ago the homemade rocket had been capable of reaching targets within a five-kilometer range, it could now strike 12 kilometers into Israel.
Regarding the ongoing clashes between Hamas and Fatah, which have killed 69 Palestinians so far, the officer asserted that despite the infighting, kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit's life was not in danger. Schalit is currently being held by Hamas in Gaza.
The officer also predicted that the infighting between the two rival Palestinian factions would continue. "The leaders are not succeeding in stopping the chaos and the tension is high," the officer said.
The officer pointed out that Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was pulling the strings and was setting policy for the movement within Gaza.
He added that the crossings into Gaza, both Karni and Erez, were open on the Israeli side, but due to clashes between Fatah and Hamas, the Palestinians were unable to utilize them.
Earlier Friday, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland said that Israel did not have the military capability for a direct assault on Kassam fire.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Eiland predicted that Hamas's capabilities would only improve, including the range of their rockets.
"Gaza is a clear and hostile Hamas state in every sense of the term," he said. "The Palestinian Authority and [PA Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas are pathetic and irrelevant."
Meanwhile, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel had not determined what its goals were for the IDF operations in Gaza.
Speaking to Army Radio, Lieberman said that Israel must send ground forces into the Gaza Strip, take control of the Philadelphi corridor, split Gaza in three parts, and after calm was restored, hand over control to a multinational force of NATO troops.
He added that "the target is not the Kassam cells. The state of Israel decided in its time that the goal was to achieve peace with the Palestinians. This is an illusion. It's impossible to reach a peace agreement."