IDF ready for more fighting with Hamas in Gaza
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IDF ready for more fighting with Hamas in Gaza

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Just three months after Operation Guardian of the Walls, the Israeli military remains prepared for another conflict with the Gaza Strip IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi said as tensions between the two sides continue to rise.

“At the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls, the IDF prepared, with a concerted effort, for the possibility of another operation in Gaza,” he said.

Though there has been relative quiet in southern Israel since the end of the 11 days of fighting, there have been numerous incendiary balloons and even rockets launched towards southern Israel from the blockaded coastal enclave.

Violent riots last week led to 41 Palestinians being injured and a Border Police officer was critically injured after being shot in the head at point-blank range by a Hamas operative. He remains in critical condition at Soroka hospital in Beersheba.

“We do not accept, nor will we accept, any violation of our sovereignty, no matter who stands behind it. Hamas is responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip,” Kohavi said.

Israel has warned that “what was would no longer be” when dealing with the Gaza Strip and has retaliated to all attacks, except for one rocket attack, with intensive airstrikes on Hamas targets.

Israeli fighter jets carried out strikes against four Hamas targets following the violence on Saturday and the IDF has warned that it is prepared for several days of fighting with the terror group should the violence lead to rocket fire and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes.

Israel’s military has understood that the issue of Gaza cannot be ignored and that there remains only two options regarding Gaza, and none of them unlikely to occur: overthrowing Hamas and reoccupying the Gaza Strip, or overthrowing Hamas and turning the enclave into Dubai 2.0.

The best option for Gaza, senior brass have decided, is to live with the waves of violent rounds of conflict like Operation Guardian of the Walls.

The IDF has said that while they struck dozens of Hamas targets during the operation, including weapons manufacturing plants and multi-barrel rocket launchers during the fighting, they were not able to destroy the group’s rocket arsenal.

The military has admitted that while they viewed the operation as a success which restored deterrence along the southern front, due to a lack of precise intelligence, only part of the terror group’s rocket stockpile was hit, giving the group ample opportunity to fire thousands of missiles towards Israel in future rounds of fighting.

The 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls saw over 4,360 rockets and missiles fired into Israel from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, around 400 munitions daily- almost four times the daily average of rockets fired per day during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge and 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Of the 4,360 launches, some 1,100 of them heading towards populated areas were intercepted by the Iron Dome. A total of 12 civilians and one soldier were killed during the fighting. While most of the rockets, mortars and missiles landed in open areas in southern Israel, 120 rockets were fired towards central Israel including Tel Aviv.

And while the groups were struck by extreme force over the course of 11 days, Kohavi has warned that “we need to be modest about what deterrent effect it will produce.”

Speaking at a June event in memory of former IDF chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, the chief of staff said that deterrence is “an elusive concept subject to the cruel judgment of the time,” he continued, adding that it must be translated into “strategic and political achievements, and we have all said – the prime minister, defense minister – that whatever was will not be, both in our reactions and our attitude toward Hamas.”

Israel has linked the reconstruction of the Strip and its economy to the release of the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2014 war with the group as well as two Israeli civilians who entered the Strip and are being held by the group.

Meanwhile, Hamas has said that the reconstruction of the Strip and a prisoner exchange are two separate issues.

Both Hamas and the IDF are refusing to budge on their demands.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz told foreign ambassadors on Wednesday that “the actions of Hamas in Gaza, harm the Palestinian people. Israel has only two interests in Gaza: security and the return of the Israeli civilians and soldiers held hostage by Hamas. The development of Gaza is conditioned upon these two requirements.”

During a situational assessment in the Southern Command later in the day along with the Head of the Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano and the head of the army’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Ghasan Alyan, Gantz warned that any violence would stop aid from entering the Strip.

“Israel has no interests in Gaza other than peace and quiet, and the return of the civilians and soldiers that are held hostage by Hamas. The true obstacle preventing Gaza from developing and flourishing is Hamas, led by Sinwar. A heavy price will be paid for harm done to our civilians, soldiers or sovereignty,” he said,

Gantz warned that Israel’s “‘toolbox’ is filling – we have increased capabilities in terms of aid and development of the Gaza Strip for the benefit of over 2 million Gaza residents, and also in terms of the military plans that we are developing, should we be required to take action. The reality on the ground will determine which of these tools we will choose to employ.”*

Ahead of rallies planned by Palestinians set to take place along the Gaza perimeter fence, the IDF sent reinforcements to the Gaza Division including two units of special forces, an armored company, and snipers.

“IDF forces will act vigorously in the face of terror attempts at the fence,” the military said on Tuesday.

The Palestinians have called the rallies“the Sword of Jerusalem shall not be sheathed,” a reference to Hamas’s name for the fighting that took place in May between the two sides.

The military has been preparing for a variety of scenarios, including violent riots along the perimeter fence, the launching of incendiary balloons, and rocket fire towards Israeli communities.

“The IDF will respond strongly to terrorist attempts and holds the Hamas terrorist organization responsible for everything that is happening in the Gaza Strip,” the military said.

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