Vilna'i: We must recapture rocket-launch zones

Deputy defense minister says mortar shells from Gaza still major threat to South; OC Home Front Command: Another Gaza op not unrealistic.

yair golan 248 88  (photo credit: IDF [file])
yair golan 248 88
(photo credit: IDF [file])
The IDF should take control of areas inside the Gaza Strip from which mortar shells are fired at the South, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i said Sunday evening. Vilna'i, speaking at a conference at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies on lessons for the home front from Operation Cast Lead, said the mortar fire remained a principal threat. "We must occupy places from which mortar shells are being fired," he said. "They are within a limited range of five to six kilometers [inside Gaza], and we simply need to be there." Vilna'i also said that the Iron Dome anti-missile system would become operational in the winter of 2010, and would be able to shoot down missiles headed for population centers. The Iron Dome is one layer of a tri-layered anti-missile umbrella the country is developing, and is designed to shoot down rockets with a range of 70 km. or less. Regarding the performance of the home front during the recent Gaza offensive, Vilna'i said the situation was much better than during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when "almost everyone fled from the municipalities, including the government ministry workers." OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan also spoke at the conference, and addressed allegations that soldiers did not live up to the army's ethical standards during the fighting in the Gaza Strip. Golan said he visited the forces during the fighting and was impressed that the war was being waged in a moral manner. He siad that testimonies to the contrary were exaggerated. "The moral standards of the army are high," he said. "There were clear directives to maintain the distinction between civilians and fighters. "We are not the ones who chose this battlefield," he said. "We know who cynically exploits the [civilian] population." Turning to the home front, he said that the lessons from the Second Lebanon War had been learned. "Whoever thought that the age of the siren was over, was mistaken," Golan said, adding that the warning sirens proved effective during Operation Cast Lead. He said that while in the past the assumption was that a siren was needed for every 1,000 meters, now - with air conditioners and sealed windows - there was a need for a siren every 500 to 700 meters. Millions of shekels would be spent over the next two years improving this situation in the center of the country, he said.