IDF troops Gaza
IDF troops stand on an APC near the border with Gaza. Photo by AP
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Israel's response to the kidnapping of another soldier into the Gaza Strip will be no less severe than Operation Cast lead, a senior General Staff officer warned on Sunday. The statement came in the footsteps of assessments that Hamas may be planning to attempt to capture more soldiers.

The senior Israel Defense Forces officer said Hamas now resembles less a terrorist group than a "militia with semi-military order," which gets help from Iran and Syria in training and equipping its forces.

However, the officer said that "it is easier for the IDF against military-like groups and Hamas now has all the shortcomings of a large organization, and the IDF is using this to its advantage."

The officer said that in the coming years there will be fewer clashes between Hamas and the IDF, and that the Islamist Palestinian group will try to avoid any escalation in the Gaza Strip.

"I see less an initiated attempt by Hamas to escalate the situation," he said, "but if they see that they have a chance to get hold of a strategic asset, through a kidnapping, they will do it."

The officer commented on Operation Summer Rains, a series of ground operations in the Gaza Strip carried out after the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in June 2006, and said that "it must be made clear to them that a kidnapping will come at a very high cost. The price that Hamas will pay for such incident will be very high. The cost will have to be of the magnitude of Operation Cast Lead."

Meanwhile, Yoav Galant will be replaced on Thursday in his role as GOC Southern Command by Maj. Gen. Tal Russo. Galant is scheduled to become the 20th Chief of Staff of Israel in four months.