Hot summer ahead? Gaza operation possible, says defense official

In a meeting with the chief of staff, southern regional council heads demanded that the IDF take the initiative against the terrorist heads in the coastal enclave.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The mini-confrontation between Gazan terrorists and the IDF that began Tuesday and ended early Wednesday after a 104-rocket barrage may just be the prologue to a much wider clash, Channel 13 reported Wednesday evening.

A senior defense official told the news channel, “It’s doubtful whether the State of Israel will succeed in getting through this summer without a broad round of escalation in Gaza.”

The report noted that there are three dates in the next few weeks that Arabs both in Israel and the Palestinian-held territories often mark with violence: May 15, the Georgian date of Israel’s independence, which in Arabic is called the Nakba, or “Catastrophe”; Jerusalem Day, which this year falls on May 18, when the traditional Flag March is held in the Israeli capital to mark its reunification as a result of 1967’s Six Day War; and June 5, the anniversary of the start of that war, which the Arab world commemorates as Naksa (“Setback”) Day.

But IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi went south Wednesday to meet the area’s regional council heads to warn them that this whole period is very volatile. They in turn demanded that the IDF take the initiative instead of allowing the terrorists to set the time and place of their attacks or rocket launches.

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“We missed an opportunity now,” they told Halevi, according to Channel 13. “At the end of the day, Hamas and [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad (PIJ) started this round and also said the last word…. It can’t go on like this, we must initiate action against the heads of the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.”

Hundreds of residents of Sderot, which absorbed most of the damage from the recent 104-rocket barrage, along with neighbors from surrounding villages, gave the same message to the government Wednesday night to go after the terrorists. Calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname, they also yelled in part, “Bibi, wake up, the whole South is burning, we’re not cannon fodder.”

The report added that an IDF spokesman had admitted that Israel already knew Tuesday morning that the terrorists were planning to hit the south with rockets following the death of one of a senior PIJ member in Israeli prison as a result of a hunger strike, but had done nothing to prevent it.

The air force struck over a dozen military targets in the Gaza Strip after the rocket barrages, which came in spurts, began, and some dozen people were hurt, including a Chinese construction worker, who was seriously wounded and is still hospitalized.

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In commenting on the situation, political reporter Zvi Yechezkeli said, “PIJ has learned from this round that it can fire on Israel and Israel won’t react, because it wants to keep things quiet… Islamic Jihad did not intend on starting a long round, it depended on the Israelis to say, ‘Enough,’ and that’s what happened.”

They don’t need an excuse to start up, he continued. “They’ll make up reasons, because at the end, you don’t need a reason to begin a round [of attacks] with a country that just wants to stop the round.”

In the last decade, Israel has made three major incursions into Gaza in what is dubbed “mowing the grass” operations, in that their purpose is not to uproot and destroy Hamas and its terrorist junior partners completely but just restore deterrence that is admittedly only temporary.