debkafile Exclusive: Olmert administration tells additional southern Israeli towns to get set for Gaza bombardment. Military operation again deferr

Hamas has extended the range of its missiles from Gaza to as far afield as the towns of Ashkelon, Netivot and Ofakim and blocs of smaller locations such as Magen, Miftahim, Kerem Shalom, Habsor, Gevulot, Tzeelim and Urim. This brings another 175,000 inhabitants who have so far escaped Palestinian missiles within Palestinian sights.
On Dec. 6, deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai made the rounds of this region and warned local authorities to prepare their towns and villages for bombardment. He had no answers on any military response or how their citizens were to be protected from this new peril. debkafile‘s sources reveal that prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi have again decided to defer a major military operation for wiping out the Hamas war machine in Gaza. Its long postponement has left the Islamist terrorists free to greatly enhance their capabilities.
The range of their new missile acquisitions has been extend up to 25 km. Even fired from Gaza City, they can still reach a broad swathe of southern Israeli civilian locations, and not just those close to the border. Liquidating this new capability would necessitate Israel’s conquest of Gaza’s largest town.
Defense officials disclosed on Dec. 7, that Hamas now has long-term storage facilities for up to 100 Qassam missiles, which enables them to fire multiple bursts at Israeli targets. Officers in the IDF southern command report they repeatedly warned the government that this multiple-fire capability, comparable to that used in the Hizballah’s blitz of northern Israel last year, was under development. They are unable to explain why no orders came down to root it out.
The officers report Hamas has further set up special units of fighters clad in the same uniforms and camouflage gear as Israeli troops. They are even armed with the same M-16 rifles and their vehicles painted in the same camouflage colors.
These units are disguised as Israeli troops for cross-border terrorist attacks. They are trained to execute incursions overland or through tunnels and use the confusion to storm Israeli locations, before they can be identified as the enemy and challenged by Israeli ground or air forces.
The only directive received, say the IDF officers, is to limit their sorties in Gaza against Palestinian mortar crews, bomb-layers and RPG firing squads to a depth of up to 2 km. Many of the missile launchers are out of bounds because they can shelter in the heart of the Gaza Strip out of IDF reach from this narrow strip of land.
The Palestinians terror groups are also reported to have streamlined their operations by unifying the Hamas and Jihad Islami commands. This enables them to deploy joint teams of terrorists against Israeli civilian targets.

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