Second Stage of Operation Cast Lead Begins

Ground Forces Enter Gaza. (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)

03 January 2009 , 20:54 -- The Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, gave a statement regarding the newly implemented second stage of Operation Cast Lead: “A few hours ago, Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Cast Lead against the Hamas terrorists, their affiliates, and their infrastructure in Gaza.

So far, the Israel Defense Forces have dealt an unprecedented heavy blow to Hamas. In order to complete their mission, we have now launched the ground operation.

I have said all along that our military activities will widen and deepen as much as needed. Our aim is to force Hamas to stop its hostile activities against Israel and Israelis from Gaza, and to bring about a significant change in the situation in southern Israel.

We have carefully weighed all of our options. We are not war hungry but we shall not, I repeat – we shall not-- allow a situation where our towns, villages and civilians are constantly attacked by Hamas. It will not be easy or short, but we are determined.

….. While we are fighting in Gaza, we keep watch on the sensitive situation on our northern border. We have no aggressive intentions there. We hope the situation there will remain calm; nevertheless, we are ready to face any unwarranted development in that area.

We are peace seekers. We have restrained ourselves for a long time, but now is the time to do what needs to be done. We are determined to afford our citizens what any citizen anywhere in the world is entitled to – peace, tranquility and freedom from threats.”

On Saturday evening (Jan.3), IDF forces began implementing the second stage of Operation Cast Lead. Ground forces have begun to maneuver within the Gaza Strip.
"The objective of this phase of the operation is to intensify the heavy blow already dealt to Hamas and to take control of area from where most of the rocket attacks against Israel originate, in order to reduce those rocket attacks," says the IDF Spokesperson, Brigadier General Avi Benayahu.

The IDF Spokesperson emphasizes that this stage of the operation will further the goals of Operation Cast Lead as communicated: To strike a direct and hard blow against Hamas while increasing the deterrent strength of the IDF, in order to bring about an improved and more stable security situation for residents of southern Israel in the long now term. "Stage two of Operation Cast Lead has been launched to support our central goals which are to deal a heavy blow to the Hamas terror organization, to strengthen Israel's deterrence, and to create a better security situation for those living around the Gaza Strip that will be maintained for the long term," states Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu

A large number of IDF forces are taking part in this stage of the operation including infantry, tanks, engineering forces, artillery and intelligence, along with the support of the Israel Air Force, Israel Navy, Israel Security Agency and other security agencies.

The operation is in accord with the decisions of the Security Cabinet. This stage of the operation is a part of the IDF's overall operational plan, and will continue on the basis of ongoing situational assessments by the IDF General Staff.

The forces participating in the operation have been highly trained and were prepared for the mission over the long period that the operation was planned. The Commander of the operation is Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, GOC Southern Command.

The IDF and the Home Front Command has taken the necessary steps to protect the civilian population. All residents of Southern Israel are requested to follow the guidelines of the Home Front Command as communicated via the media.

The IDF Spokesperson wishes to reiterate that the residents of Gaza are not the target of the operation. Those who use civilians, the elderly, women and children as human shields are responsible for any and all injuries to the civilian population. Anyone who hides a terrorist or weapons in his house is considered a terrorist.

Based on a situational analysis, The IDF is taking steps to raise the level of alert for its forces in other areas of the country.@IDF

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