Jerusalem – IDF ground troops operated from Monday night through Tuesday night in the Khan Yunis area of the Gaza Strip. In the course of Operation Smell of Pines, at least eight Palestinians were killed and 14 were injured. One soldier from the Golani Brigade was injured.
IDF troops reported that Hamas terrorists have begun to operate like an organized army. “We’re talking about a Hamas force that is growing stronger. Its purpose is not for pinpoint skirmishes with the IDF but for a far broader struggle,” said one security official.
Palestinians reported that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were spotted in the air above Khan Yunis before the operation began. The UAVs were followed by helicopter gunships, which fired on terrorists. A short while thereafter, tanks and other armored vehicles entered the Gaza Strip, focusing on Abasin in the Khan Yunis area. One Hamas terrorist was killed by fire from the air and another seven were killed by ground forces.
The purpose of the operation was to “curb terrorist activity” out of the Gaza Strip. Infantry troops from the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion entered the Gaza Strip under the cover of helicopter gunships. Hamas gunmen opened fire on the troops as they entered Abasin and Farahin. Heavy exchanges of fire were recorded between IDF troops and the terrorists. At least three terrorists were killed in the exchange of fire in the urban area. In searches that were conducted inside homes, the troops found at least one bomb belt that was ready for use as well as a bomb.
The Palestinians reported that among the dead was Mohammed Abu Musmah, a 24-year-old terrorist from Hamas’ Iz a Din al-Kassam Brigades.
According to recent reports, more than 100 tunnels have been dug between Gaza and the Sinai peninsula and are used to smuggle terrorists and drugs. Arms smuggling has stopped for the time being, since the Gaza Strip is flooded with weaponry, much of which was confiscated by Hamas terrorists from Fatah soldiers and policemen.
On Tuesday morning, another four terrorists were caught after having crossed the border fence at night. This was the third case in which terrorists have tried to penetrate Israel for terroristic purposes. On Monday, four terrorists were caught by Golani troops shortly after having crossed the border fence near Kissufim.
Syria Establishes ‘Sam Missile Umbrella’
Syria has established a thick anti-aircraft umbrella around Damascus and the Golan Heights.
Israel’s military has reported that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad deployed a range of surface-to-air missile assets in southern Syria. The military said the assets were purchased over the last year from Russia and financed by Iran.
“The situation is tense,” a senior Israeli officer said.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi met at the military’s Northern Command headquarters near the Lebanese border. The three men, on the first anniversary of the conclusion of the 34-day war with Hezbollah, received briefings on Syrian military preparations.
“I don’t think it is in Syria’s interest to start a war,” Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said. “It is not in our interests to start war. This tension is unnecessary.”
Israeli military sources said Syria has been deploying short- and medium-range missiles and rockets in southern and central Syria. They said the Assad regime has been engaged in accelerated deployment of the Scud C and D missiles, with ranges of 550 and 700 kilometers, respectively.
“There are more than 100 mobile Syrian launchers in the Golan Heights,” a source said. “This means that within an hour, they can fire at least 400 missiles into Israel.”
The Syrian military has also accelerated training in commando and anti-tank weapons tactics. The sources said Syrian commando units have been receiving Russian-origin AT-14 Kornet anti-tank missiles.
Syrian procurement includes the Pantsir-S1 air defense system, also ordered by the United Arab Emirates. Damascus has also upgraded its SA-3 and SA-6 systems and plans to purchase the S-300. Israeli military sources said Iran plans to fund huge Syrian weapons purchases over the next year. The sources said Damascus has already ordered a large quantity of SAMs and anti-tank missiles, most of which have not been delivered.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007