>The Israeli-Hamas cease-fire, barely 10 days old, is effectively over. According to Arutz Sheva, the Israeli Defense Forces sent their tanks and infantry back into the Gaza Strip this afternoon to avenge the death of a soldier killed by Hamas in a rocket-propelled grenade attack. Three other Israeli soldiers were wounded in the incident. Within hours IDF troops reached Khan Yunis in central Gaza. “This is a serious attack,” rumbled Defense Minister Ehud Barak (pictured above), who was present near the Tzeelim army base where and when the attack occurred. “We cannot accept it and we will retaliate. I do not think there is any point in saying how.”
Ground Troops, Tanks Return to Gaza; Hamas Attacks Negev
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
January 27, 2009
(IsraelNN.com) IDF tanks rolled back into Gaza along with foot soldiers Tuesday afternoon following an early morning roadside bomb explosion and a rocket-propelled grenade attack that killed one soldier and wounded three others, one seriously.
Hamas warned that it has not agreed to a “calm” and that its previous ceasefire announcement is dependent on Israel’s re-opening Gaza crossings to all commercial traffic.
“This is a serious attack,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told soldiers during a visit near a base close to the scene of the attack and at the same time it occurred. “We cannot accept it and we will retaliate. I do not think there is any point in saying how.”
He carried out his threat within hours as troops reached Khan Yunis in central Gaza. Local residents reported tank fire and Israel Air Force jets over the area. Arab sources also reported that the Air Force struck a terrorist target on a motorcycle, killing or wounding two people. The IDF say the cyclist was responsible for the morning attack.
Hamas responded with mortar fire on the Eshkol region, causing no damages or injuries but returned the area to the status quo of the days before the Cast Lead operation against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.
The attack on the IDF patrol occurred around 8 a.m., after two or three terrorists were seen by local Arabs to be planting the roadside explosive that was detonated as an army vehicle passed.
Troops opened fire immediately, and one Arab was killed. His identity was not confirmed, and Gaza sources claimed he was a farmer. The attack came at the same time United States Middle East envoy Sen. George C. Mitchell was scheduled to confer with Egyptian officials prior to his arrival in Israel later this week.
In related story, reported by the Jerusalem Post below, the US and Egyptian navies have intercepted the Iranian-owned Cypriot-flagged Nochegorsk in the Red Sea. The former Russian freighter is laden with arms apparently destined for Gaza’s terrorist regime. Troops from the USS San Antonio, namely, Combined Task Force 151, first boarded the ship on January 19 and 20. The international naval task force discovered artillery shells but amazingly, according to Fox News, was legally unable to confiscate the arms–despite the violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution that prohibits Iran from selling arms–because there is no enforcement mechanism in place. Now the Egyptian Navy is holding the vessel at a Red Sea port just to the south of the Suez Canal. The article below reports that “. . . since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, large quantities of explosives, machine guns and other weaponry had arrived in the Sinai peninsula, but the Egyptians were taking measures to prevent them from being smuggled into Gaza, including erecting road blocks near Rafah and increasing patrols in the area.”
Cairo intercepts Iranian arms ship
Jan 26, 2009 23:43 Updated Jan 27, 2009 16:11
Israel is closely tracking an Iranian freighter believed to be carrying weaponry for Hamas that is currently docked in the Red Sea outside the Suez Canal, after Egypt refused to permit it to cross the waterway to the Mediterranean.
According to a report received at the Defense Ministry from the Pentagon, the US Navy recently boarded an Iranian vessel that was carrying artillery shells and other weaponry.
“This is a big test for the Egyptians,” a senior defense official said. “So far the Egyptians have prevented the ship from crossing the Suez and we hope it will stay that way.”
Defense officials said that Iran is trying to supply Hamas with new Grad-model Katyusha rockets and to replace high-grade explosives that were exhausted or destroyed by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead.
“There are two main smuggling routes,” one official explained. “Some of the weaponry comes by ground from Somalia, Sudan and then into Egypt and through a tunnel into Gaza, while some comes by boat.”
The boats sometimes unload the shipments in the Sinai’s Port Said, where it is smuggled into Gaza by land. Other times, the shipments are dropped overboard in waterproof containers and are picked up by Palestinian fishermen or divers.
As reported in The Jerusalem Post last week, the IDF is concerned that Iran will supply Hamas with long-range Fajr missiles that are capable of reaching Tel Aviv.
According to the London Times, Combined Task Force 151 of the US Navy, which is fighting pirates in the Gulf of Aden, has been instructed to track Iranian arms shipments to Gaza.
Last week, the report claimed, troops from the USS San Antonio boarded a former Russian cargo vessel that was flying a Cypriot flag and was reportedly carrying weaponry destined for Hamas.
In addition to the US, the French have also dispatched a frigate to the Mediterranean to participate in the clampdown on the Gaza Strip and to prevent weapons shipments from reaching Hamas.
The frigate is carrying a helicopter that can support reconnaissance missions off the Gaza coast.
Israeli officials said they are impressed with the international community’s efforts to curb the flow of weapons to Gaza, but also expect Egypt to take practical steps along the border with Gaza to uncover and destroy the smuggling tunnels.
Head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau Amos Gilad will head to Egypt in the coming week to continue discussions on the new mechanism established to counter the smuggling.
The new mechanism Israel has set up with the Egyptians consists of three layers – intelligence cooperation, obstacles in Sinai and the deployment of new tunnel-detection technology along the Egypt-Gaza border.
Defense officials said that, since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, large quantities of explosives, machine guns and other weaponry had arrived in the Sinai peninsula, but the Egyptians were taking measures to prevent them from being smuggled into Gaza, including erecting road blocks near Rafah and increasing patrols in the area.