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All Options Open On Gaza

Defense Minister Ehud Barak: 'The IDF Will Stop Qassam Rocketing Of Sderot One Way Or The Other'

'Major Ground Operation Into Qassam Is Closer But Not In A Matter Of Days'

Barak Refuses To Rule Israel's Targeting Of Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh'

Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is feeling the heat of the continuous Palestinian rocket attacks on Sderot from Gaza. This after two Sderot brothers were badly injured on Saturday when Qassam rockets slammed into the town from Beit Hanun less than a mile away. One of the boys had his leg amputated, the other is still in serious condition. That was the background to Defense Minister Barak's closed door briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. After talking with several committee members, IsraCast is of the view that Barak will now be forced to consider more drastic steps to halt the rocketing - this could include giving the green light for a major ground offensive into Gaza, if there is no halt to the Qassams.

This could be a defining moment in the war between Hamas controlled Gaza and Israel. Hundreds of angry Sderot residents traveled to Jerusalem to demand that the government put a stop to the rocketing attacks that have terrorized their town for seven years now. Public rage in Israel has reached a new peak after the serious wounding of the two brothers in Sderot and Defense Minister Ehud Barak was feeling the heat when he briefed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in Jerusalem. Later he told reporters: 'A major IDF ground offensive into Gaza is closer today but this is not a matter of days'. It appeared as if Barak was warning the Palestinians that all options are open if they keep firing rockets into Sderot. This could include the targeting of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh who has reportedly gone underground. Other Hamas leaders have also gone into hiding. When asked if Israel might now try and assassinate Haniyeh, Barak replied : 'I'm sure you understand that I am not going to discuss operational plans with you - the IDF and the Shabak Security service are fully informed of the government's order of priorities'. Barak was adamant: 'We will halt the Qassam rocketing but it will not happen tomorrow or the day after - it will take time but we will do it!'

Sderot

Why is the Israeli government so reluctant to reconquer Gaza and topple the Hamas regime which calls for Israel's destruction and aids and abets the Qassam rocketing? After totally withdrawing from Gaza two and a half years ago, it would be a government admission that this was a big mistake. Hamas and the other terror organizations have been preparing for such an invasion with the explosives smuggled in from Egypt, so there is also concern about high casualties. This is still fresh in everyone's mind after the Second Lebanon War against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. By moving into Gaza, Israel would also have to take responsibility again for the 1,500,000 Palestinians living there.Would Israel get bogged down inside Gaza without any exit strategy and no one to hand over control? After horrendous suicide bombing attacks from the West Back in 2002, the IDF launched the 'Defensive Shield' operation to eliminate the terrorists threat and was able to hand over control to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Although Abbas does nothing to crack down on the terror activity on the West Bank, he does not support it and is engaged in peace contacts with Israel. This of course would not be the case with the fanatic Islamists of Gaza who are working hand in glove with Iran.

Barak has orchestrated policy of stepped-up counter-terror strikes combined with economic pressure to try and weaken the Hamas regime in Gaza. Although some 200 terrorists have been killed in recent months, the Qassams keep coming. Neither have the economic steps, designed to turn the civilian population against Hamas, paid off. Israel finds itself in a tight corner. Even the harshest critics agree that the Jewish state has the right of self defense against the Palestinian rocketing of its towns and villages. But when Israel employs non- violent measures, such as cutting off 1% of Israeli power to Gaza, the U.S. State Department and the British Foreign Office start preaching about violating international law. As if any other country would be called upon to keep supplying electricity to a neighbor who is deliberating rocketing its civilians. Then there is the proportionality argument - Israel's response must be in proportion to the aggression! But how should Israel respond to the Palestinians using the village of Beit Hanun as cover for rocketing Sderot just seven hundred meters down the road?

After hearing Barak in committee, Likud Knesset member Silvan Shalom said that time's up and Israel has no choice but to order the IDF back into Gaza. Shalom told IsraCast that waiting will only cost more casualties in the future.

David Essing

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