Chief of Staff Ashkenazi: Cease-fire With Hamas Will Be 'Short and Brittle'

Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi expressed skepticism regarding the long-term prospects of the truce being negotiated between Israel and Hamas yesterday at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The calm currently being negotiated between Israel and Hamas will be "short and brittle," Ashkenazi told the MKs, adding that it is important for Israel to make the most of the expected lull in hostilities to prepare for a ground offensive.

"We're on a collision course," he warned. He claimed that the surmounting pressure of repeated IDF attacks played a part in making the cease-fire possible.

Discussing the situation in Lebanon and Hezbollah, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, head of the research division of Military Intelligence said that "they are playing a game of cat and mouse with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon."

Some 2,500 Hezbollah militants are operating south of Lebanon's Litani River, in violation of the terms of the cease-fire that ended the Second Lebanon War, Baidatz said.

Speaking to the MKs at the meeting, Baidatz told lawmakers that the Shi'ite Islamic group has armed its men with thousands of guns and rockets, which are distributed among 30 villages spread across the south of Lebanon.

He added that Hezbollah has built a series of bunkers up to 20 meters below the earth. Each bunker is said to be equipped with a number of rooms, showers and gun holes, so as to allow militants to remain underground for an extended period of time. Such facilities allow gunmen to launch surprise attacks and then immediately disappear underground. He added that an elaborate system of elevators allows rocket launchers and mortar guns kept in the bunkers to be raised above ground and fired by remote control.

At the same meeting, Ashkenazi said the army was prepared for any option against Iran. "Besides the actions and sanctions against Iran, it is important we remain ready for any options," he said.

Baidatz added that Hamas does not see itself as responsible, during the expected calm, for preventing attacks by other militant Palestinian organizations. One of Hamas' goals during the anticipated calm will be to dig tunnels into Israeli territory that will enable it to to carry out future attacks.