debkafile Reports: Barak orders military to expand Israel’s counter-terror operations in Gaza Strip but delays major operation
Twenty mortar rounds struck the Kibbutz Nahal Oz area Sunday night, Dec. 2. Earlier, Defense minister Ehud Barak informed the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that he had ordered the expansion of IDF operations in the Gaza Strip, from which 25 missiles and 70 mortar rounds were fired in the past last week.
debkafile‘s military sources: This is far short of the major military operation which long-suffering Israeli civilians and southern command officers say is well overdue for halting daily Palestinian missile-mortar harassment and cutting down the Hamas build-up of smuggled weaponry and war machine.
The Olmert government has repeatedly postponed the major Israeli operation, which it admits is necessary, on various pretexts, including last week’s conference at Annapolis, even while security in the Gaza environs continued to deteriorate.
In recent weeks, Hamas-led teams have focused on breaching the Gaza-Israel border barrier while deploying extended range missiles against Israeli locations in a wider radius. Mortar units massed at the northern and southern ends of the Gaza had been pounding Israeli targets at the rate of 20 rounds a day. Last week, Barak reported, 22 armed Palestinians were killed in a series of Israel air and ground counter-strikes and preventive raids, including five in a direct attack on a Hamas southern base near Khan Younes.
Last Wednesday, Chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi approved deeper IDF counter-terror thrusts into the Gaza Strip up to 3 km, to ward off the increasingly aggressive Palestinian battering on the fence and escalating cross-border mortar and missile attacks.
However, senior officers of the Southern Command led by Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant explained, according to debkafile‘s military sources, that these makeshift measures were of no avail.