December 29, 2008

Tanks Deployed at Gaza Barrier; Barak: War to the Death

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

( The IDF positioned hundreds of tanks along the Gaza separation barrier Monday as the Air Force resumed aerial attacks on terrorist targets throughout Gaza. Israeli gunboats fired several missiles towards the Gaza coast. Arab sources said that several people were killed or wounded, including several terrorists who were hiding in mosques.

The IDF also declared the area near Gaza Belt communities a closed military zone, leading to speculation that a ground invasion is near. Israel ordered journalists out of areas abutting the Gaza Strip border on Monday, citing the risk of terrorist rocket fire, but the move also keeps the media from reporting on troop movements.

The IDF issued emergency "Tzav 8" orders to 7,000 reservists to be prepared for an immediate call-up. The government and military have tried to refrain from a ground invasion into Gaza, which is booby-trapped with hundreds of Hizbullah-like underground bunkers that foiled the IDF in the Second Lebanon War two years ago.

Shmuel Bar, director of studies at the Institute for Policy and Planning at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, told Bloomberg News, "It is clear to everyone that there is no way to end this without some sort of ground offensive."

Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Brigadier-General Dan Harel said, "We are hitting not only terrorists and launchers, but also the whole Hamas government and all its wings. We are just at the beginning of the battle, this will not be hasty. The worst is not behind us – it is still ahead of us."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated,"This operation will expand and deepen as much as needed. We went to war to deal a heavy blow to Hamas, to change the situation in the south."

He told a special Knesset meeting Monday, "We have nothing against the people of Gaza, but we are in a war to the death with Hamas. We are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies."

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has asked Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik (Kadima) to cancel the meeting, saying it was ill-timed. He did not attend.

Israel is continuing counterterrorist operations as Hamas escalated rocket attacks on Israel on Monday. A Bedouin construction worker was killed and several others were wounded in a Grad Katyusha attack on Ashkelon.

More than 40 rockets exploded in Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot and the Eshkol region Monday, sending more than two dozen people to the hospital for treatment for shock. Damage was extensive in Sderot, where one rocket hit in the center of town while another struck next to a house.

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