Growing evidence Israel is preparing for massive ground operation in Gaza. Here’s the latest.

Israeli tanks heading towards Gaza.

Israeli tanks heading towards Gaza.

UPDATED: (Washington, D.C.) — On Day Four of “Operation Protective Edge,” there are growing calls by Israeli security experts, political leaders and commentators for a massive ground operation inside Gaza to arrest thousands of terrorists, capture weapons and ammunition, and bring the rocket fire to an end.

Let us pray this isn’t necessary. There enormous risks and downsides for both sides on so many levels. But it’s important to understand this is being actively discussed.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Cabinet have made no decision to do so thus far.

But clearly preparations are being made. The IDF has called up 40,000 reservists. Tanks and other mechanized units are moving towards the border of Gaza. Palestinians living near Gaza’s border with Israel are being told by Israel to leave the area at once.

This could be a bluff, a way to convince Hamas and Islamic Jihad to stand down or risk being overwhelmed by Israeli forces. In November 2012, I was in Israel when another rocket war occurred. Netanyahu deployed IDF forces to Gaza’s border and threatened invasion, and Hamas backed down and stopped firing rockets.

However, this is the third major round in the rocket wars in the last five years. There was 2009’s “Operation Cast Lead,” and 2012’s “Operation Pillar of Defense.”

Now there is a growing sense in the Israeli military and political establishment that air power alone won’t be enough, and that ground operations may be the only way to truly quiet things down for the long haul.

For example:

  • Avi Dichter, the former internal security and homefront defense minister‎, Shin Bet security agency director, and Knesset member, today argued that the time has come for a “strategic campaign” against Hamas that will likely last a year or two. “Without destroying the terrorists’ military infrastructure in Gaza we will continue living from one round of shooting to the next, as the time in between rounds decreases and the range of the rockets increases,” writes Dichter. “They have already dragged half of our population into a war of attrition. Our airstrikes are approaching the point of decreasing effectiveness, when they will no longer stop or reduce the amount of shooting at Israel. Hamas terrorists and their leaders are acting according to their capabilities, not according to our logic. The time is ripe to switch from tactical operations (Pillar of Defense, Cast Lead, Protective Edge) to a strategic campaign which will dramatically diminish the terrorists’ ability to hurt us. This campaign is not something that should last for just a month or two — rather a year or two. There is absolutely no reason to abandon the Israeli public to more years of living under fire. We defeated suicide terrorism and we will be able to eradicate rocket terrorism. Arresting thousands of terrorists in Gaza and continuing the airstrikes will produce the intelligence required to reformat terrorism in Gaza. This is what our civilian and military leaders need to do.”
  • Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, a former IDF deputy chief of general staff and former head of the National Security Council, writes: “Is it possible to defeat a terrorist group? Can these objectives be achieved using military force? The answer to both questions is yes. A terrorist group with a territorial base can be deterred by threatening its hold on that base. The destruction of Hamas governing infrastructure and the targeted killing or expulsion of Hamas leaders are attainable goals. Will this require a ground operation? Will such an operation involve the loss of troops? Yes and yes. Every military commander knows the challenge is to fulfill the mission and protect soldiers, in that order. Our sensitivity regarding the lives of soldiers is an asset, but when it becomes the main consideration, this undermines the main mission of the IDF — providing security to the citizens of Israel.”

Please keep praying for calm, for the Lord to protect Israelis and Palestinians on both sides, and for the Lord to draw people in the epicenter to Himself. Please pray, too, that a ground operation won’t be needed and that the fighting will stop soon.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep you posted on the latest developments on this blog, and on Twitter.

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