Exactly a decade ago, on Dec. 27, Hamas staged a show of power in the Gaza Strip, parading hundreds of terrorists in Gaza City. A surprised Israeli airstrike, which fired five missiles on them, killed about 90 terrorists, triggering the beginning of “Operation Cast Lead,” which saw Israel strike all Hamas headquarters in Gaza, as well as its rocket-launching systems and hundreds of terrorist assets and sites.
On the Israeli side, ground, air and naval troops fought for three weeks with aim of eradicating key terrorist hubs across Gaza.
The operation was launched following three years during which some 10,000 rockets and mortar shells were fired on Israel’s south, and dozens of terrorist attacks were carried out nationwide.
The Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command was tasked with attacking terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, inflicting significant damage to Hamas and bolstering Israeli deterrence, and this mission was accomplished in full: More than 700 terrorists were eliminated and all Hamas headquarters were destroyed.
As the commander of the operation, I recommended to my superiors that Israel should make the most of this success and expand the campaign by allowing Southern Command forces to seize control of Gaza City, and bring Hamas to its knees by either eliminating terrorist or capturing them. My recommendation was denied.
The main factors that rendered “Operation Cast Lead” successful were careful and secret preparation, operational integration within the IDF, cooperation between the military and Shin Bet security agency, the force demonstrated by the troops on the ground, quality intelligence, accurate aerial strikes, operational and logistical continuity, and a resilient homefront.
But above all, it was IDF fighters and commanders, who acted with determination, dedication and professionalism, and courageously carried out their missions. Ten soldiers and three civilians were killed in the operation, and we all owe them a great debt of gratitude.
A decade later, everyone recognizes the important contribution “Operation Cast Lead” had to the south’s security, as it dealt Hamas a crippling blow. We may still have that advantage, but the war for our home is not over.
In recent years, Hamas’s terrorist routes have been shuttered, one by one, via restrictions on land movement, a maritime blockade, counter-tunnel warfare and the effective protection provided by the Iron Dome air-defense system. “Operation Cast Lead” and the reality that followed on the ground have forced Hamas to rethink its strategy.
The balance of power between the IDF and Hamas is 1,000 to 1, meaning that in any future confrontation, Israel will overcome Hamas. In view of the numerous security challenges Israel faces, it is our duty to act responsibly and discreetly.
Knowing the enemy Israel is preparing for future campaigns, but if we are forced into battle, we will be the ones to determine its timing.
We are a peace-loving nation but at this time, we cannot afford to lay down our sword. We remain vigilant and ready to defend ourselves, on every front, at all times.
Yoav Gallant is the construction and housing minister.