Gazans celebrated a “victory” over departing IDF forces today, but Israel warns that the operation has not yet concluded — and probably will not for the foreseeable future. After destroying a number of suspected rocket-manufacturing sites, the Israelis pulled back out of Gaza to consider options and targets. Meanwhile, rockets still landed in Sderot and Ashkelon:

A government spokesman said after the troops pulled back on the ground: “We will continue with our defensive actions against those who fire lethal rockets at our civilians.”

Another Israeli official said Hamas should view the latest operation as a hint of future Israeli action against rocket fire.

“This very limited (Gaza) operation was intended to show Hamas what could happen, what you may call a ‘prequel’,” he said.

“If they decide they’ve seen enough and stop the rockets, if they get the message, then we may get into a period of quiet. If they continue to fire the rockets, then there will be more operations like this one or worse,” the official said.

Military sources said that the intention of the operation had not been to bring rocket fire to a complete halt, but to clarify to Hamas that the IDF would continue to attack its militants if the group did not change its policy and act against the rockets itself.

Prime minister Ehud Olmert warned that the operation was not a “one-off”, but the first in a series of actions intended to disrupt Hamas and put an end to the rocket fire into Israel. If so, Hamas has not gotten the message. Dozens of rockets flew into Israel after troops withdrew from Gaza, including at least one into Ashkelon.

The explanation regarding “hints” and “prequels” seems rather clueless. This action wasn’t a “prequel”, it was a re-run. The Israelis have conducted these incursions before, and they have a drearily predictable pattern. Gazans fire rockets, the IDF invades for a few days, the global community somehow concludes that the Israelis are the aggressors rather than the aggrieved, and the IDF withdraws to “consider its options”.

At some point, the Israelis have to get serious with Gaza. They have to press a little harder to impress Hamas and the rest of the terrorists there. The IDF needs to make decapitating strikes, they need to drive farther into Gaza, and they need to conduct the war that Hamas keeps forcing on them. The Israelis cannot allow the terrorists to keep raining rockets down on their civilians forever without their civilians deciding on better leadership that will take effective steps to end the rainstorm of Kassams and Katyushas.

Meanwhile, Hamas may claim victory, but Gazans know better. They lost over 110 people in this raid, most of them armed militants, while only two IDF soldiers died in the battles. Their only “victory” in this mess was their ability to outlast the IDF, but that will only be a temporary lull. If this Prime Minister doesn’t have the stomach to slug it out in Gaza, their rockets will produce one who will.

Tags: Israel