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Gaza 'Kornet' Triggers Escalation

Deadly Palestinian Anti-Tank Missile Penetrated Israeli Tank Triggering Escalation Along Israeli - Palestinian Border

If Russian Produced Missile Had Killed Or Wounded Tank Crew, The Gaza-Israeli Border Area Would Have exploded Into a Bloody Battle Zone

IsraCast Assessment: After Retaliating To Palestinian Provocations, Israel Now Warning Hamas Its Their Call On What Happens Next

IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi

 After two years of relative quiet along the Gaza-Israeli border, recent Palestinian attacks have seriously escalated the situation. In fact, it's only by chance that the area was not turned overnight into a major battle zone. At a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, IDF Chief Of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi disclosed that on Dec. 6th, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired a Kornet anti-tank missile across the border hitting an IDF tank. Fortunately, the missile did not explode inside the tank after penetrating its armor. IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi warned: "The situation with Gaza is tense and fragile and could turn explosive if fresh Palestinian attacks injure Israelis".

 On Dec.6th, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza launched a Kornet anti-tank missile at an Israel tank inside Israel. The sophisticated Russian missile sliced through the tank's armor but failed to explode inside the tank. If it had, most of the crew if not all, would have been killed or wounded and the Gaza-Israel border would have flared into a bloody battle zone. It was the first time since Israel's 'Cast Lead' Operation into Gaza two years ago, that an anti-tank missile had been fired from Gaza - in fact aside from the occasional Qassam rocket or mortar, Hamas has exerted its power over the other terror groups for fear of triggering another Israeli response. As a result, the IDF has gone into a strictly defensive mode without conducting any major retaliatory strikes into Gaza. It can be described as a 'zero tolerance' policy- whenever terrorists launch a rocket or mortar Hamas knows they will be paid back in kind. However the launching of the Kornet sounded a warning, marking an escalation that Israel could not ignore.

The IDF sent Merkava (Chariot) tanks protected by an advanced system to defend against the Kornet, which Chief of Staff Ashkenazi called 'most dangerous'. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah surprised the IDF when it used the Kornet missiles to knock out a number of Israeli tanks. This prompted the IDF to devise a protective system against the Kornet which Gen. Ashkenazi called 'most dangerous'. Israeli aircraft have also hit terror targets inside Gaza. Then one Qassam landed near a kibbutz kindergarten injuring a sixteen year old girl. When Israelis, be they civilians or soldiers, start getting hurt the IDF drops its 'tit for tat' retaliation and responds by hitting manned Palestinian targets in Gaza. Now the ruling power in Gaza, Israel holds Hamas responsible, even if some other group carried out the attack. Ge. Ashkenazi described the situation along the border with Gaza as ' tense and fragile that could explosive, if more Israelis are injured'.

What more can be said about the current situation along the Israel-Gaza border? First, the fact the IDF did not immediately reveal that the Palestinians had fired the Kornet at an Israeli tank indicates that Israel first wanted to ascertain if this was a Hamas approved action or perhaps an attack by a splinter group. Israel could have immediately escalated the situation by hitting back hard but did not do so. Rather the IDF chose some low key responses and indeed the Kornet proved to be an isolated case. But the Qassam that landed near a kindergarten was too much, so IDF air strikes hit manned Palestinian targets.

Second: The last two years since the Cast Lead operation indicate if there is no Palestinian provocations the IDF does not take major offensive actions and the area remains relatively quiet. But if Hamas has turned a blind eye to fresh terror attacks does this portend another Cast Lead operation by Israel. Maj.Gen.(res.) Tomtov Samia, a former commander of Southern Command, does not believe this is now the case. Interviewed on Channel 10 TV, Samia said that not every Qassam or mortar indicates a new trend. And the former Gaza commander added:"Although Hamas may have turned a blind eye to the launching of the Kornet, Hamas has been deterred by Cast Lead. Only that explains why a terror organization like Hamas has remained quiet over the past two years." Samia felt it had been a mistake for Israel's political leaders not to allow the IDF to completely cut off Gaza from Egyptian controlled Sinai, from where the terrorists continue to smuggle in weapons and explosives. The Egyptians were doing more now to block the smuggling and 'although camels can no longer pass through big tunnels without lowering their heads but weapons are still getting through to Gaza". Samia, who serves as deputy commander of the Gaza border area during his reserve service, added that if there is a 'next time' this should be the objective of an Israeli military operation.

David Essing

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