Exclusive: Israeli cabinet okays Hamas, Jihad Islami targets for attack

debkafile‘s military sources disclose that Israel’s security cabinet approved Wednesday, March 5, a series of terrorist targets for early attacks as part of a sustained military offensive against escalated Palestinian attacks from Gaza on Israeli civilians.
Prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak earlier obtained a quiet nod from US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice before she wound up her visit. These targets are revealed here by debkafile:
1. Chiefs and senior officers of Hamas’ and Jihad Islami’s armed wings.
2. Their senior political officials in the Gaza strip, excluding prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, but including hard-line Mahmoud a-Zahar.
3. Hamas and Jihad institutions, including police stations.
These decisions were taken at the security cabinet’s first exhaustive review of Israel’s Gaza options.
debkafile‘s sources reveal the ministers considered demolishing urban districts in Gaza which serve as launching pads for missiles after evacuating their inhabitants. No final decision was reached on this.
Our military sources report that these strikes are expected to let loose a stepped up Hamas Grad rocket barrage against Ashkelon or even points further north, such as Ashdod, both important Mediterranean port cities. Sderot, Netivot and Ofakim may also come under heavy missile attack and Hamas will make a supreme effort to bring off suicide attacks inside Israel.
Notwithstanding this expectation, the defense minister is determined to deny Hamas the ability to create a balance of deterrent with Israel. Therefore, the Israeli operation will persist even under heavy Hamas assaults.
In any case, the Palestinians launched a fresh onslaught on the heels of Rice’s departure after her talks with Palestinian and Israel leaders.
Five Katyusha rockets fired from Gaza at Ashkelon exploded on empty ground south of the city; four Qassam missiles were aimed at as Sderot and the Eshkol farming region, raising the total from Wednesday morning to eight.
Our military sources believe that the five rockets were deliberately aimed to explode harmlessly as a warning from Hamas of the violence in store if Israeli goes ahead with more military offensives. Military experts informed the cabinet that this was further proof that Hamas is now capable of precise targeting against specific locations.

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