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iaf white phosphorus airstrike gaza beautiful 311.(Photo by: BLOOMBERG)
New clash with Hamas looms – defense officials
IAF bombs three "terrorist targets" in the Strip after upsurge in mortar fire; officials say group is turning blind eye to attack emanating from Gaza.
Three weeks before the two-year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, and amid escalating rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, defense officials warned on Thursday that Israel is preparing for a possible clash with Hamas in the near future.

On Thursday morning, the Israel Air Force bombed three targets in the Gaza Strip that the IDF said were used by terrorists, in response to a mortar barrage the night before that wounded one Israeli.

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Four to five shells were fired from Gaza into the Eshkol region late on Wednesday night, injuring a community security officer who was airlifted to Soroka University Hospital in Beersheba.

Defense officials noted that since the beginning of the month, there have been over a dozen mortar and Kassam rocket attacks, more than double in the parallel period last month. In addition, an advanced anti-tank missile was fired several days ago at an IDF armored vehicle along the Gaza border, causing extensive damage.

None of the vehicle’s occupants was injured.

Officials said that Hamas was not directly behind the attacks but that it was turning a blind eye to other terrorist groups, some of which worked on behalf of Hamas.

“The IDF must be ready to operate in Gaza in a more extensive way than in the past,” Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi warned this week.

Hamas is thought to be divided regarding whether it should renew its terrorist attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip. While the organization is believed to still be deterred as a result of Cast Lead, it is assessed to have mostly completed the rehabilitation of its military and has recently obtained long-range missiles, capable of reaching Tel Aviv, as well as advanced antiaircraft missiles.

The political leadership in Gaza, headed by Ismail Haniyeh, is believed to be a restraining factor at the moment, while the Izzadin Kassam military wing, led by Ahmed Ja’abri, is said to be calling for a renewal of attacks.
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