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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07TELAVIV1213 2007-04-25 09:03:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

MOD DECLARES IDF HAS "FREEDOM OF ACTION" IN GAZA

Tags:   PREL PTER MOPS KWBG IS 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001213 

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C O R R E C T E D C O P Y ((TXT CHANGE IN PARA(3)))

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/25/2017
TAGS: PREL PTER MOPS KWBG IS
SUBJECT: MOD DECLARES IDF HAS "FREEDOM OF ACTION" IN GAZA
STRIP


TEL AVIV 00001213 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones. Reasons: 1.4 (b)(d).



1. (C) SUMMARY: Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Sneh
publicly announced April 25 that the IDF now has "freedom of
action" in the Gaza Strip as a result of Hamas taking
responsibility for firing rockets and mortars from Gaza April


24. He added that Israel is not interested in seeing an
escalation in the Gaza Strip, but will conduct necessary
anti-terrorist activities. Israeli MOD Chief of Staff Herzog
told the Ambassador April 24 -- after a significant barrage
of Qassam rockets and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip -- that
the IDF views the cease-fire as over. PM Olmert is meeting
with his security and defense chiefs this morning, but it
appears that the Israeli response will likely be limited air
strikes at this point. END SUMMARY.



2. (C) In an early morning radio interview on April 25,
Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said that, as a
result of the barrage of rockets, the IDF now has "freedom of
action" in the Gaza Strip to carry out anti-terrorist
activities. He clarified that this had not been the case as
long as the Palestinians respected the cease-fire, saying,
"There is no way that Israel will allow a situation in which
the terrorists have freedom of action, and the IDF does not."
Sneh also stressed that Israel does not seek an escalation
of IDF activities in the Strip. Sneh added that because of
the IDF's high degree of readiness, it foiled an attempt by
terrorists April 24 -- on Israel's Independence Day -- to
infiltrate green-line Israel from the Gaza Strip and kidnap
an IDF soldier under the cover of Qassam rocket and mortar
attacks. Israeli radio also reported on April 25 an
interview in Gaza with Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesman
Ghazi Hamed, who allegedly said that the April 24 Qassam
rocket and mortar barrage was retaliation for the previous
week's killings of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al-Aksa
Martyrs Brigades members in the West Bank. Hamas said
publicly that it fired 28 rockets and 61 mortar shells into
Israel. We cannot confirm the numbers of rockets and mortar
shells fired, but Herzog told the Ambassador the number of
known impacts within Israel was an order of magnitude less.



3. (C) On April 24, around 0645 local time, multiple Qassam
rocket launches and significant mortar fire from the Gaza
Strip were observed. According to Israeli media reporting,
the military wing of Hamas claimed credit for the barrage of
28 rockets and 61 mortar shells. In a discussion with
Ambassador Jones shortly after the barrage, MOD Chief of
Staff BGEN (Res.) Michael Herzog told the Ambassador that as
far as the IDF is concerned, the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip
is over. He anticipated a formal GOI announcement to that
effect, and argued that this latest round of Qassam rocket
launches and mortar firings differed from previous
"violations" of the ceasefire not only in scope, but also in
terms of the open involvement of Hamas. Herzog's view was
that the events of the previous weekend -- which he
characterized as particularly deadly for the Palestinians --
had tipped the balance of opinion within Hamas toward those
who believed the ceasefire was a mistake. Also on April 24,
10F Chief OF Stsff MGEN (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi told USSC LTG Dayton to
expect larger-than-normal IDF activity in the Gaza Strip in
the next 48 hours.



4. (C) Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu told
Israeli radio on April 25 that he had met the day before with
PM Olmert. While not disclosing the subject of their
conversation, Netanyahu said on the radio that a full closure
should be imposed on the Gaza Strip -- excluding the supply
of water, food and medication -- in order to halt the Qassam
rocket fire and "oust" the Hamas-led PA government.
Netanyahu added that if such a measure proves ineffective,
Israel should prepare for a broad-ranging military operation
in the Gaza Strip. Within Olmert's security cabinet, several
ministers (e.g., Rafi Eitan, Eli Yishai, Zeev Boim and
Avigdor Lieberman) advocated re-occupation of the Philadelphi
corridor between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in their comments
to Israeli reporters on April 24. PM Olmert is scheduled to
meet with defense chiefs on April 25 to discuss a response to
the barrage of Qassam rockets and mortar shells fired the
previous day.



--------------------------


COMMENTS


--------------------------





5. (C) Israeli security services have been regularly
conducting counterterrorist operations in the West Bank. On
April 21, the GOI Press Office reported that two PIJ
terrorists and a Tanzim terrorist were killed in a joint IDF
and Border Police Force operation earlier in the day in

TEL AVIV 00001213 002.2 OF 002


Jenin. On April 22, the GOI Press Office reported that the
IDF killed a PIJ terrorist, and a Tanzim terrorist during
arrest operations in Nablus.



6. (C) Prior to the Memorial and Independence Day holidays,
Israel imposed a general closure on the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, per normal practice. On April 25, the GOI Press
Office reported that the closure had been lifted.



7. (C) Earlier in the month, Israeli DefMin Peretz announced
that the IDF's rules of engagement in the Gaza Strip had been
revised, allowing the IDF to strike at Qassam rocket teams
approaching the fence around the Gaza Strip in order to carry
out rocket launches. Embassy Tel Aviv's assessment is that
the DefMin's statement did not signify anything substantially
new, as the IDF had already been carrying out limited strikes
against launch teams and suspects approaching the fence
surrounding the Gaza Strip.



8. (C) Barring any substantial surprise terrorist attack,
Qassam hit on a civilian center causing deaths, or successful
abductions of IDF soldiers, we anticipate that the GOI is
likely to act only in a restrained manner against potential
threats from the Gaza Strip, or to retaliate after the fact.
Civilian contacts within the MOD over the last several months
have stressed to emboffs and visitors that Israel has no
desire to re-occupy the Gaza Strip and many question the
potential gains from a new ground incursion into the Strip.

********************************************* ********************
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You can also access this site through the State Department's
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