Israel’s ongoing onslaught on the sealed off Gaza Strip, marketed to the world as a response to Palestinian rocket-firing, has been planned six months ago and is Israel’s version of America’s "shock and awe" campaign against Iraq, Haaretz reported on Sunday, December 28.
"Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public – all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces "Cast Lead" operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip," the Israeli daily wrote.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the army to plan for the offensive more than six months ago, even as Israel was negotiating an Egyptian-brokered truce deal with Hamas and other factions.
He ordered a comprehensive intelligence-gathering about permanent bases, weapon silos, training camps and homes of senior officials in Hamas and other factions, sources told Haaretz.
Israeli warplanes targeted a fuel truck traveling outside Rafah near the Egyptian border early Sunday, killing and wounding several people.
Aircraft had staged several air strikes throughout the night, including against a mosque near Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and Al Aqsa TV station, the Israeli army confirmed.
Two bodies were retrieved from the mosque rubble.
Israeli public radio said some 20 air strikes had been staged overnight.
Israeli warplanes hammered targets in the Gaza Strip, the world’s most densely populated areas, on Saturday, killing at least 290 people in the bloodiest day of the decades-long Middle East conflict.
Shock & Awe
Israel warned Sunday that it could send ground troops into the overcrowded enclave.
"We are ready for anything. If it’s necessary to deploy ground forces to defend our citizens, we will do so," a Barak spokesman said.
Hundreds of infantry and armored corps troops headed for the border in preparation for a possible ground invasion, military officials said.
Major General Yoav Galant, the commander of the Israeli Southern Command, said the aim of the Operation Cast Lead is to "send Gaza decades into the past" and inflict "the maximum number of enemy casualties."
He added that Israel wants to significantly damage Hamas’ leadership and tactical capabilities.
"Under no circumstance can we accept a norm that leaves missions unmet."
Haaretz said the onslaught as Israel’s harshest on the Gaza Strip since the 1967 War.
"This was a massive attack much along the lines of what the Americans termed ‘shock and awe’ during their invasion of Iraq in March 2003."
It quoted sources as saying that 40 targets were destroyed in a span of three to five minutes in simultaneous, heavy bombardment.
"Like the US assault on Iraq and the Israeli response to the abduction of IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser at the outset of the Second Lebanon War, little to no weight was apparently devoted to the question of harming innocent civilians," said Haaretz.
(IslamOnline.net and newspapers)