RAMALLAH, January 17 (JMCC) - Israeli army officials are preparing for an offensive in the Gaza Strip in coming months, reports the Jerusalem Post
The preparations are based on Israel's assessment that armed groups in Gaza have increased their capabilities markedly since the 2008-09 war, in which some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
The Gaza Division, under the command of Brig.-Gen. Yossi Bachar, is spearheading the preparations for such an operation, which senior officers said could be significantly larger than Cast Lead.
“Every officer will need to know where he needs to be with his troops and what his mission will be,” a senior officer explained. “Gaza has changed and the weaponry in Hamas’s and Islamic Jihad’s hands has significantly grown in quantity and quality.”
Hamas is believed to have a fighting force number over 20,000 armed men who are split into five brigades corresponding with different sections of the Gaza Strip. Each brigade is then split into a number of battalions. In addition, Hamas also has special teams for surveillance, anti-tank missiles, mortar and rocket fire and anti-aircraft shoulder-to-air missiles.
The IDF, officers stressed, has not received orders from the government to launch an operation and the preparations are being done so that it will be prepared at a moment’s notice and if needed.
“Gaza is possibly Israel’s most volatile front today,” a member of the General Staff said this week. “It is a front that can explode at any given moment.”