ByTom Spender in
A day after Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, called for a regionalpeace conference with Arab states, his defence minister said his forces hadreceived authorisation to begin new military actions in
Amir Peretz said Israeli intelligence indicated that Hamas, which leads thePalestinian government, was rearming and planning attacks.
The Israeli media quoted the military as saying that between lastNovember, when a ceasefire deal was agreed, and the end of last month, 185rockets had been fired, 152 of which reached Israeli territory.
On the diplomatic front,
Hamas has so far refused to recognise
Reservist Brigadier General Tzika Fogel says such conditions of attritionleave the Jewish state no choice but to reoccupy
He says Hamas is building up a Hezbollah-style military capacity and claimedthat Western and regional countries would support an offensive to remove it.
"Hamas is working towards the point that they will be like Hezbollah.At that point they will start the war and it will not be good for
"The last thing the West wants is for Hamas to have its own country. Itwill be an Al Qaeda zone. So
Fogel, a former Israeli army second-in-command for the southern territorieswho says he is regularly called up for active duty as a reservist, believesthat the Israeli military has completed its preparations and is ready toreoccupy the Gaza Strip - except Gaza City - for up to six months.
He says the invasion of the area could begin as early as April 15.
"It will not be before April 15 because that's the end of [the Jewishholiday of] Passover, and to be on the safe side it will not be after June 15,because we want it to be finished before the winter."
"We have 200,000 Israelis living in fear of attack. Their towns aregetting more and more like bunkers. But the Palestinians don't really want tohit us with their rockets.
"They have been using the last four months just to train their people,not to damage the Israeli side."
In recent days, Israeli media quoted military intelligence reports thatHamas was rearming with advanced weaponry and boosting its defences by buildingtunnels and booby-trapping several incursion points.
But the Israeli military has declined to comment on Fogel'sremarks.
A spokeswoman said: "This officer has retired and has nothing to dowith the army any more. We don't want to talk about anything he said."
Diplomacy versus war
For their part, Palestinian officials have said that any military strikeinto the Gaza Strip would indicate the credibility of
Khaled Abu Hillel, spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry, said:"We have a unity government that unites the Palestinian people behind asingle programme. Any step
Palestinian analysts have also said an Israeli invasion of
Jehad Hamad, a professor of political sociology at Al Azhar University in
But Fogel said
"There's no other choice. Hamas is a part of real Islamism. It's a threatto
Fogel said previous campaigns against Hamas failed and the Israelimilitary would need to employ new tactics against them.
"It's like a big swamp – you have to dry it. You have to go house by houseeverywhere. We cannot simply repeat what we have done before – it leads tonothing."
Not everyone in
Zeev Schiff, a military analyst at the Israeli newspaper Haaretz,said: "I don't think Hamas wants to get into a large-scale war. It wantsto build itself up. It needs a few clashes but they prefer a kind of ceasefire.
In an interview late last week, Olmert did not rule out a militarystrike in
Meanwhile, the UN said any Israeli invasion of
David Shearer, head of the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of HumanitarianAffairs in
About 400 Palestinians died last year during Israeli incursions into
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16