Halutz: IDF Reoccupation of Gaza Won't End Qassam Rocket Fire

IDF chief dismisses suggestions disengagement harmed Israel's security, cites lower casualty rate.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is currently opposed to a ground force operation in the Gaza Strip, as it would not necessarily end the firing of Qassam rockets at targets within Israel.

"We were in Gaza for 38 years. In all the years of fighting in Gaza, we never managed to cut the number of Qassams to zero," said Halutz in an Independence Day interview to Haaretz.

"There is one school of thought in the defense establishment that argues that we need to reenter Gaza to curtail the Qassams. I oppose this. The army is not the main advocate of this approach. Others within the defense establishment are touting it. They believe that this is the only solution to the Qassams, and they fail to understand the price that this would entail."

Halutz refused, however, to specify who in the defense establishment was advocating the reoccupation of Gaza.

"I think it would be futile to reenter Gaza at this point if we don't want to find ourselves back in the quagmire," he added.

That said, Halutz is in favor of declaring the Palestinian Authority an enemy and attacking from a distance targets identified as belonging to Hamas.

Halutz also rejects claims that the disengagement from Gaza harmed Israeli security and lead to Hamas' rise to power.

"The question is what you count. In terms of the dry statistics of casualties, it can be said that our security situation in Gaza has been changed entirely for the better. Since the withdrawal there has been no one killed on the Israeli side as a result of terror from the Gaza Strip. This is no small matter compared to dozens of people killed every a year in past. People are counting rockets, but before the disengagement thousands of mortars were fired, which hit Gush Katif."

"I don't think that Hamas came into power because of the disengagement," he added. "The elections, after all, were supposed to have been held in July 2005. Hamas would have received the same result then, perhaps a bit less."