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Israel masses troops, tanks near Gaza, denies war aim
Published Friday 16/11/2012 (updated) 18/11/2012 01:52
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An Israeli flag is seen atop a tank at an area near the border with the
Gaza Strip Nov. 16, 2012.(Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israeli tanks and troops massed outside Gaza and the military said on Friday it was calling up 16,000 reservists, signs of a possible imminent invasion of the Palestinian enclave after 48 hours of air strikes.

Israel's warplanes, drones and helicopters appeared to shift focus from suspected Palestinian rocket sites to the northern Gaza frontier, where their bombs created incursion corridors by clearing landmines or guerrilla gun nests.

The mobilization was anything but secret and details put on social media by the Israeli military appeared to be a clear warning to the Hamas Islamists that govern Gaza to push for a truce.

"It is not our intention to go to war, and we are hopeful that this operation will not take a minute more than required," Israeli President Shimon Peres said.

Since being fought to a standstill in its 2006 war against Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, Israel has been honing the training of its regular troops and could mount a land invasion of Gaza at short notice.

Public statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggest such an escalation has preliminary cabinet approval.

Among units already garrisoned outside Gaza is Israel's paratrooper brigade whose commander, Colonel Amir Baram, said last month that in planning tactics he had studied World War One skirmishes in Gaza between British forces and the Ottoman Turks.

Should his troops be ordered in, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Channel 2 television, "they will need to go house-to-house, and then we will need the lessons of the past".

Relief creates risk

Among those lessons learnt has been that Gaza's impoverished population of 1.7 million is vulnerable to humanitarian crises, which could spell international controversy for Israel.

Since the last Gaza war, of 2008-2009, the army says it has assigned some of its regiments with Arabic-fluent "relief officers" to direct Palestinian civilians away from danger.

To judge from the pace of the previous offensives in Lebanon and Gaza, it could take several more days for Israel to train and equip reservists for action.

The military declined to give details on where the reservists would serve, but Israeli media said they included personnel from homefront units that sound sirens during rocket attacks from Gaza and advise the public on where to shelter.

The reservists being called up on Friday were among a total of 30,000 whose draft was authorized by the Defense Ministry.

The scale of the potential mobilization prompted one commentator on Israel's Army Radio, who half-joked on air that so many troops would risk "falling over each other" in Gaza.

Interviewed by the station, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom was asked if Israel was preparing the military for possible flare-ups on other fronts, such as Lebanon, which Israel has watched with concern given conflict in neighboring Syria and furor over the nuclear ambitions of Hezbollah's patron Iran.

"We are taking everything into consideration," Shalom said, without elaborating.

Veteran commanders say around 30,000 troops altogether took part in the 2006 Lebanon war and 20,000 in the 2009 Gaza invasion. The number of garrisoned troops always stationed outside Gaza is a state secret.

'Quiet for the south'

Yossi Peled, a recently retired cabinet minister from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and a former army general, said Israel did not seek to topple Hamas or even to crush its outgunned guerrillas in "victory" battles.

"Quiet for the south (of Israel), that is the objective of the operation, writ big," Peled told public television, referring to years of sporadic rocket and mortar salvoes by Hamas and other Gaza factions that surged in the last two weeks.

Though at least 340 of the missiles have been fired since Wednesday's flare-up, the Israelis say they have made strategic gains by destroying, on the ground, around 20 Fajr rockets with 75 km ranges - capable of hitting deep inside Israel.

"They (Palestinians) may have a few left, but it is no longer the menace that it was," said one security official, even as Hamas and its allies managed to fire rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Friday, causing no damage or casualties.

Both cities had previously been beyond the reach of Palestinian rocketry.

Israel's saturation air strikes - which peaked on Thursday, with a rate of one every five minutes, according to the chief military spokesman - have also razed a large number of suspected munitions factories and caches, the official said.

Another target has been fields where, the Israelis believe, Hamas and other Gaza factions positioned rocket "silos" - buried launch tubes, pointing across the border, that could be detonated remotely.

Those rockets that survived Israel's pre-emptive attacks and are fired have to get past Iron Dome, an air defense system that uses small radar-guided interceptor missiles.

Israel has four Iron Dome batteries deployed and its Defense Ministry said on Friday it had rushed forward production of a fifth so that it could be deployed as early as the weekend.
1 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
16/11/2012 19:43
We sure as hell are not going to do it while the Egyptians are there and no one is going to come out of this damn, insane "war" with any success. Unless our government can make amends with Egypt for us betraying its devoted diplomacy it spent arranging the last "ceasefire" and find a way out of this horror, Israel will have hell to pay, esp. Netanyahu. He wants to stop the Palestinian U.N. upgrade ??? ... After this fiasco, he's just guaranteed it.

2 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
16/11/2012 20:01
Despite all our troop strength, air strikes, bombings, Iron Dome defenses and Arabic-fluent "relief officers" to direct Palestinian civilians away from danger, none of this employed at gaining us "victory" (a worthless term in this situation) is going to mean a damn thing for the better in the long-term. Despite the lessons and experience learned from 2006/2008-09, it will do us little good and we absolutely hate sending in ground forces into Gaza. It's a hell-hole for us and them. (cont.)

3 ) Carlos / USA
16/11/2012 20:16
israeli lies are all through this. israel has never had concerns for civilian casualties. History is a witness to the fact israel targets civilians. I remember the murder of 9 unarmed activists on the Mavi Marmara. One of which was a US citizen, Furkan Dogan. Furkan was shot in the back of the head at point blank range while lying wounded on the ground, unarmed and helpless. He was 19 years old and brave. Unlike the cowardly israely. I remember him on the anniversary of his murder every year.

4 ) Carlos / USA
16/11/2012 20:17
The Iron dome appears to be made of wax!

5 ) No Doubt / USA
16/11/2012 20:18
... 'the [Israeli] army says it has assigned some of its regiments with Arabic-fluent "relief officers" to direct Palestinian civilians' into houses which they can then drop bombs on, as they did during Cast Lead.

6 ) carlos / usa
16/11/2012 20:24
Maybe it should be called swiss cheese dome.

7 ) reasons / terrorist israel
16/11/2012 20:40
elections coming up for bibi israhell threatened the palestinians about their UN bid israhell now killing a population under international siege no one cares because palestinians are goyims

8 ) ABE / USA
16/11/2012 21:45
Hey #7 it is amazing that we are no longer talking about what is going on in Syria and Iran. Do you think that maybe that was the intent of Iran to make their puppet do their bidding!! By the way Pals are not considered Goyim, they are semites just like Sabra ISRAELI's, Get your facts straight.

9 ) gabi / australia
17/11/2012 01:55
"Israel massing of troops "denies war aim"? That's what they said in 1967 just before the invaded Egypt in their pre-emptive strike. So don't believe them. #8 - Palestinians are indeed Semites - it just that the Israelis treat them as goyim. Or rather as Semitic peoples "but not like us - the chosen ones". Whichever way, it means the same thing - "we are entitled to treat them like shit. And we do."

10 ) Mel / USA
17/11/2012 21:31
In Israel there are good Jewish people who rationally KNOW,that whatever they allow their Zionist-led radical Govt to do,to Arabs/Muslims,will soon BLOW BACK on ALL Israel!It's up to Israel to remember that it wouldn't EXIST w/out OUR US tax bucks &"research"funds for WMD's. U only need listen to these conflicting protesters to know where Israel's security lays!The Israeli fascists sound like the Nazi's in Germany.So far RIGHT,they are OFF the planet.Israeli's must turn left to B rational! http:
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