Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, will convene with the Israeli political-security cabinet on Wednesday to decide the possibility of expanding the military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Yet, the operations would not be expanded before Olmert returns from his planned visit to the United States in two weeks.
Olmert's visit will be arranged by the American envoys David Walsh and Daniel Abrams, who will arrive in the country on Wednesday.
Olmert intends to discuss the army’s policy in Gaza, which he claims is retaliation for several dozen homemade shells fired into the Israeli desert over the past several months (which have caused no injuries), and arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Palestinians counter that these are mere excuses by Israel for an ongoing military operation in Gaza that has resulted in over 250 Palestinians killed since June.
Peretz and Halutz, according to senior Israeli military sources, approved on Sunday a series of new operations to be carried out in the Gaza Strip in the coming days.
The sources added that the new operation will be a continuation of the current attacks.
Meanwhile, Israeli Army GOC Southern Command, Yoav Glant, claimed that the Hamas movement could possibly establish a division of 10.000 soldiers with an operational force similar to Hezbollah if it continues to strengthen as its current pace, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported. Sources on the ground find the claim ridiculous, given the current state of chaos in Gaza and the severe impoverishment of Palestinians.
Glant said during the meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Hamas “could increase its capacities, form anti-tank divisions, and could obtain access to advanced weapons system including night-vision apparatus”, Haaretz added. But Glant did not explain how Hamas would be able to obtain such sophisticated weaponry, given that their current cache consists of World War II era guns and homemade pipes with dynamite attached pretending to be ‘rockets’, and all borders are sealed by Israeli military forces.
Glant stated that the army is planning an increase of its attacks in the Gaza Strip, but it needs the approval of the politicians.
The operations will be carried out in several places at the same time; troops will invade several areas and carry out short operations there in order to avoid being an “easy target for the resistance”.
A senior Israeli military source said that in spite of the relative calm in the Gaza Strip, arms smuggling and the firing of homemade shells continued.
The source added that Israel should not “remain calm in front of what is happening in the Gaza Strip” in order to avoid another Lebanon in Gaza. But political analysts have called such a claim alarmist, bordering on hysteria, given the evidence on the ground in Gaza, which points to a defeated, tired populace with a small “resistance” force made up mainly of youth strapping dynamite onto metal pipes – with not even one-thousandth of the capacity of Hezbollah.
Glant also claimed that Hamas is forming commando units, and that if it continues to build its capacities and forces it will become similar to Hezbollah.
“Hamas is training its fighters, rebuilding its military capacities, and being reinforced with advanced weapons”, Glant added, “We have plans to stop it, so far, Hamas is still in the building process of its forces and did not reach an advanced level”.