Two soldiers lightly wounded in Gaza

Hamas claims hit on armored bulldozer; Peretz: IDF ready for any eventuality.

Peretz soldiers 298.88 (photo credit: Defense Ministry)
Peretz soldiers 298.88
(photo credit: Defense Ministry)
In the first attack on IDF troops in the Gaza Strip since operations began there on Friday, two soldiers were lightly wounded Saturday afternoon by shrapnel after an anti-tank missile hit an armored bulldozer operating near Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip. Both were evacuated to a hospital in Ashkelon for treatment. Hamas claimed the attack, but said it had thrown a grenade, not fired a missile. According to the IDF, Givati and armored forces have been operating a few hundred meters inside the Gaza Strip in an attempt to target Kassam launch squads and infrastructure. Earlier, Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Israel Radio that a large-scale land incursion into Gaza "did not serve Israel's security." Peretz also rejected the option of striking infrastructure facilities in the Gaza Strip, such as electricity, fuel, water and communications, saying such an operation "would cause the entire Palestinian population to unite around Hamas." However, he added that the IDF was ready for "operation in any scope that the situation would demand." Peretz said the latest IAF strikes in Gaza, targeting Hamas and focusing primarily on Kassam launch pads, manufacturing facilities and operatives transferring rockets in vehicles or traveling to the launch sites to fire them, were all planned attacks initiated by Israel, and that Israel had not been "drawn into" the situation against its will. While Israel was not planning to re-enter Gaza, Peretz stressed that limited operations would continue in the coming days. "We intend to continue to initiate operations...we will not turn down any operative proposal that would help prevent any of our enemies from harming us," the defense minister said. Asked whether Israel was avoiding large scale operations because the government was afraid to act following the release of the Winograd Committee partial report on the Second Lebanon War - a report that found both Peretz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert responsible for what was publicly perceived as a military failure - Peretz said that "the difference between what happens today and what happened [less than] a year ago is that each IDF unit knows precisely what is its operative mission, the army is well-prepared for any development in the North as well as the South." Peretz also attacked former prime minister Ehud Barak - who orchestrated the IDF's unilateral retreat from Lebanon in 2000 - and former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, for neglecting the development of a system that would finally solve the Kassam threat from the south and the Katyusha threat from the North. Neglecting to develop an adequate anti-rocket system was recently cited in the comptroller's report of the state as one of the IDF's most significant failures over the last several years. "People forget the reality I was forced to cope with as I entered the defense ministry. Three days after I was on the job, I decided to renew the development of the anti rocket system. I realized early on that the Kassam threat on Sderot is not a 'statistical' threat as some former IDF heads and defense ministers think, but a strategic threat." Asked whether Israel was planning to actively assist Fatah in its inner struggle with Hamas, Peretz said Israel had "an interest that the moderates would win," but declined to elaborate any actual measures Israel might take to advance such an outcome.