Israeli daily, The Jerusalem Post, reported that the General Staff of the Israeli Army had instructed the Southern-Command to take all measures to be ready for the possibility of a large-scale offensive against the Gaza Strip, which could take place in the coming months.The preparations include setting all plans and scenarios of the offensive as Israel considers the ‚Äúsouthern front‚ÄĚ to be the most sensitive security situation that could deteriorate and even lead to a military conflict at any given moment, despite the current calm in the situation in the area.
Israeli political leaders did not confirm the news regarding the possibility of a new large-scale offensive on Gaza, the Palestine News Network reported, and the Army officers stressed that the Israeli Government has not ordered them to launch or plan an offensive; they are simply preparing so that they can act at a moments notice if required.
The Jerusalem Post said that the Gaza Division of the Israeli Army, headed by Brigadier General Yossi Bachar, is directing these preparations, and that this possible offensive could be ‚Äúsignificantly larger that Operation Cast Lead.’
Israel believes that the Hamas movement in Gaza has more than 20,000 fighters in different parts of the Gaza Strip.
The fighters, according to the Jerusalem Post report, are distributed in five brigades in different parts of the coastal region, and that each brigade is also divided into a number of battalions.
Also, Hamas is believed to have obtained advanced weapons including anti-tank missiles, mortar and rocket fire, shoulder-to-air missiles and even anti-aircraft missiles. In 2011, eighty longrange Grad-model Katyusha rockets were launched from Gaza, compared to just two in 2010.
Operation Cast Lead is the name Israel dubbed for its large-scale three-week offensive against the Gaza Strip that started on December 28, 2008.
During the offensive, Israel bombarded and shelled infrastructure, civilian areas, medical facilities, educational facilities and even UNRWA facilities.
Thirteen Israelis were killed during the offensive, nine of them were soldiers, and five of those were killed by friendly-fire‚ÄĚ.
Over fourteen-hundred Palestinians were killed during the offensive, and thousands were injured; the vast majority of the casualties were civilians: including infants, children, women, elderly, medics and journalists. The number of deaths increased after the war had ended as several seriously injured Palestinians died of their wounds.