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Operation Cast Lead Expanded

(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)

A short while ago IDF forces began to implement the next stage of Operation Cast Lead. Land forces have begun to maneuver within the Gaza Strip.

The objective of this stage is to destroy the terrorist infrastructure of the Hamas in the area of operation, while taking control of some of rocket launching area used by the Hamas, in order to greatly reduce the quantity of rockets fired at Israel and Israeli civilians.

The IDF Spokesperson emphasizes that this stage of the operation will further the goals of Operation Cast Lead as communicated till now: To strike a direct and hard blow against the Hamas while increasing the deterrent strength of the IDF, in order to bring about an improved and more stable security situation for residents of Southern Israel over the long term.

Large numbers of forces are taking part in this stage of the operation including infantry, tanks, engineering forces, artillery and intelligence with the support of the Israel Air Force, Israel Navy, Israel Security Agency and other security agencies.

The operation is in accord with the decisions of the Security Cabinet. This stage of the operation is a part of the IDF's overall operational plan, and will continue on the basis of ongoing situational assessments by the IDF General Staff.

The forces participating in the operation have been highly trained and were prepared for the mission over the long period that the operation was planned. The Commander of the operation is Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, GOC Southern Command.

The IDF and the Homefront Command have taken the necessary steps to protect the civilian population. All residents of Southern Israel are requested to follow the directives of the Homefront command as communicated via the media.

The IDF Spokesperson wishes to reiterate that the residents of Gaza are not the target of the operation. Those who use civilians, the elderly, women and children as "human shields" are responsible for any and all injury to the civilian population. Anyone who hides a terrorist or weapons in his house is considered a terrorist.

On the basis of a situation analysis, The IDF is taking steps to raise the level of alert for its forces in other areas of the country.

IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Avi Benayahu: "The objective of this phase of the operation is to intensify the heavy blow already dealt to Hamas and to take control of area from where most of the rocket attacks against Israel originate, in order to reduce those rocket attacks."

"Stage two of Operation Cast Lead has been launched to support our central goals which are to deal a heavy blow to the Hamas terror organization, to strengthen Israel's deterrence, and to create a better security situation for those living around the Gaza Strip that will be maintained for the long term."

Reserve troops drafted

As part of Operation Cast Lead the IDF has begun to draft numerous reserve units, in order to allow the expansion of the operation.

The majority of the reservists called up belong to combat units, some form part of the Home Front Command and the remainder belong to various other military units.

The reserve units are being drafted in accordance with the law and will be reporting for duty after having undergone extensive training over the past two years. At a number of the recruitment centers the IDF is already implementing a project that is designed to replenish and renew emergency stores and military equipment. A special emphasis is also being placed on logistic support for the reserve units.

IDF enforces naval blockade on Gaza

In accordance with the decision of the Defense Minister and current security assessments, as of Saturday January 3rd, 2009, the IDF has begun enforcing a naval blockade for 20 nautical miles from the Gaza Strip.

The length of Gaza's shore is used by the Hamas terror organization, and the presence of its operatives on the shoreline and in the open sea constitutes a threat against the citizens of southern Israel.

Source: Operation Cast Lead Expanded, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (January 3, 2009).