Iron Dome shoots down several rockets; defense officials say Israel not interested in a large-scale operation inside the Strip, but options include ground offensive, expanded air strikes and targeted killings.
Israel’s government was considering on Saturday night the possibility of escalating its military response to the continued rocket fire from Gaza.
At least one man was killed and dozens of others were wounded by the more than 80 rockets that pounded southern Israel over the weekend.
Defense officials said Israel was not interested in a large-scale operation inside the Strip, but it would respond strongly to the continued rocket attacks – particularly in light of the growing number of casualties in Israel.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz held security consultations throughout Saturday to draw up potential responses and courses of action.
“We will continue the current operation for as long as needed,” Gantz said on Saturday during a visit to one of the Iron Dome batteries in the South. “I hope those responsible understand Israeli lives are not worthless.”
The IDF’s options vary, and could include an expansion in airstrikes, similar to the first week of Operation Cast Lead, which started in December 2008 with the bombing of hundreds of targets throughout the Gaza Strip.
The government will also consider a possible ground offensive inside Gaza, including small and isolated operations.
Other possibilities could include the use of targeted assassinations against leaders of terrorist organizations based in Gaza.
On Friday and Saturday, the Israel Air Force bombed a number of targets throughout Gaza, killing at least 15 terrorists.
Palestinian medical sources said three children – aged two, five and 13 – were also killed in the strikes, which were targeted against arms depots, weapon-production plants and rocket squads.
“We have a policy of exacting a very heavy price on anyone who attacks us, and this policy is being implemented,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Friday.
On Friday night, the IAF deployed a second battery of the Iron Dome counter-rocket defense system in the South, outside Beersheba. Another battery has been deployed near Ashkelon.
By Saturday night, soldiers from the IAF’s Air Defense Division had intercepted several rockets fired at Beersheba and Ashkelon with the Iron Dome system.
The IAF was, however, reviewing the use of the Iron Dome after some rockets landed inside Beersheba, killing a man and injuring several others. Several other rockets were intercepted by the system during the same deadly barrage.
In one attack on Saturday afternoon, the IAF bombed 15 different targets throughout Gaza, including terror bases and tunnels used to smuggle weapons from the Sinai Peninsula into the Gaza Strip.
On Friday afternoon, the IAF hit a terror cell in northern Gaza just moments after its members fired mortars into Israel.
In another strike, the IAF bombed a motorbike being driven by Samed Abdul Abed, identified as a senior commander in the Popular Resistance Committees, the organization behind Thursday’s terror attacks near Eilat.