Barak: 'Large scale operation in Gaza will be inevitable'

Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed Wednesday night that Israel was nearing a large-scale operation in Gaza.

Barak: 'Large scale operation in Gaza will be inevitable'

When we really look at the Kassam challenge it might be that we are getting closer to the point that we will need a large-scale ground operation in Gaza to stop the rocket fire and the military buildup there," Barak said during a Rosh Hashana toast with Defense Ministry staff, just hours after a Cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided not to retake control of Gaza, at least for the time being.

Barak was not the only government official to voice such sentiments.

"No air strike will work; we need to conquer the area from which rockets are fired and keep a presence there," opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

Another top official was quoted by Channel Two as saying that "everybody knows we are on the way to a large military incursion but this is not the right time for it."

Earlier, Olmert convened the security cabinet meeting to discuss the latest wave of Kassam rockets. Pressure has been mounting for a tough response since a rocket landed near a crowded nursery school in Sderot on Monday.

A number of senior officials have endorsed the idea of cutting off basic supplies to Gaza, which relies on Israel for water, power and fuel.

Israel Radio reported Wednesday afternoon that the military was instructed by the Cabinet to decide on a "price tag" that Palestinians would pay for each rocket launching.

One of the suggestions floated was to stop electricity for two hours following each rocket launch.

But some ministers were reluctant to support the idea, doubting its legal ramifications in Israel and abroad.

However, vice premier Haim Ramon said that since Hamas was controlling Gaza, Israel had no legal commitments there. "In Gaza, there was a military coup and the only partner we deal with was expelled from there. What commitment do we have towards Gaza [now that Hamas is in control]?" Ramon said.

Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin took a stand similar to Ramon's, emphasizing that Hamas was trying to solidify its control of the Gaza Strip. "We need to hurt Hamas's ability to govern in Gaza," Diskin said.

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said targeting terror leaders - a technique which worked in the past, should be brought back into use. "Terror leaders are on the IDF's crosshairs," Mofaz said.

Meanwhile, Golani and engineering corps soldiers discovered seven Kassam launchers in northern Gaza, only hours after troops found and destroyed four launchers.

"I believe there is a range of steps Israel can take without creating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, in order to send a message to Hamas and the rest of the terror groups," said Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who left the security cabinet meeting to attend a news conference with the visiting Italian foreign minister. Livni already said on Monday morning that "means other than military means" could be used to good effect, thus hinting at hurting Palestinian infrastructure.

Islamic Jihad carried out this week's rocket attacks. But Israel says it holds Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in June, responsible for ensuring quiet there.

Meanwhile, thousands of Sderot residents made their way to Jerusalem to protest in front of the Knesset against the government's anti-Kassam policy.

Sderot parents boycotted the city's schools on Wednesday, demanding that all school buildings be adequately protected against Kassams before sending their children back to classes.

Jerusalem Post

Last Mod: 06 Eylül 2007, 14:41
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