Israel on 'Collision Course' in Gaza, Report Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - A Kassam rocket slammed into the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Thursday as a senior military source said that the nation is on a "collision course" in the Gaza Strip.

Quoting the unnamed senior source, Israel Radio reported that the army was preparing itself for the "collision," but the decision to take military action was up to the political establishment. Still, he said, political leaders must take into consideration that there is a limited window of opportunity for a broad military operation.

Some Israeli politicians have been pushing since last year for the army to carry out a large-scale military campaign in the Gaza Strip to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure there.

Many military experts agree that Israel will have to mount such a campaign at some time in the future, and the sooner, the better.

Israeli parliamentarian Yuval Steinitz told Cybercast News Service in March that if Israel did not mount a military operation soon, the Gaza Strip would become like south Lebanon.

After Israel's unilateral withdrawal from a buffer zone in southern Lebanon in 2000, Hizballah built a virtual army equipped with more than 10,000 long-range missiles and rockets. They also built a system of fortified underground bunkers and laid land mines to protect themselves from counter-attacks.

Israel also has accused Iran of giving "high-quality" military training to at least dozens of Hamas militants.

Since then, Hamas has seized power in the Gaza Strip in a violent but short confrontation against Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction and declared its intention of establishing an Islamic entity there.

Israel is the only one that can restrain Hamas at this point, the military source said on Thursday. Hamas has rejected the deployment of an international force in Gaza saying it would be considered an "occupation" force.

The military source said that Hamas had succeeded in obtaining Katyusha rockets, which have a much longer range and are far more powerful than the Kassams currently being fired from Gaza at Israel.

In the past two years since Israel dismantled 21 Jewish communities and withdrew all its troops from the Gaza Strip, Hamas has "jumped a generation" in arming itself and "continues on this trajectory," he said.

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz quoted the senior officer as saying that in one recent month, Hamas had succeeded in smuggling 20 tons of explosives into the Gaza Strip.

The army also believes that Hamas has a small quantity of anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank rockets, the paper said.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum was quoted as saying that Israel was using the accusations as a "pretext to tighten the siege on Gaza."

Meanwhile, seven Israelis were lightly wounded on Thursday when the Kassam rocket crashed between two homes in Sderot. In the past month, 60 rockets have been launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip, the army said on Thursday.

digg_skin = 'compact'

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.