Gaza Calm May Be Fragile and Brief, Israeli Defense Officials Warn

South calm on Monday as no rockets or mortars were fired from Gaza; Air Force plans to move two Iron Dome batteries following cabinet decision to place system near cities within range of Grads.

The south was calm on Monday as no rockets or mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. However, defense officials warned the lull may be fragile and brief.

The quiet followed a drop in the shelling and rocket fire on Sunday, totaling 10 mortar shells and one rocket, compared to about 120 launches over the weekend.

IDF soldiers near Gaza - Reuters - April 10, 2011

The Israel Defense Forces halted attacks on the Gaza Strip on Saturday night, after carrying out some 50 strikes and targeted assassinations in retaliation to the anti-tank missile fired on a school bus near Kibbutz Sa'ad on Thursday.

Despite international involvement and Hamas leadership's request for a cease fire, the calm may be fragile and brief, defense officials said on Monday.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio on Monday that working toward a cease fire with Hamas is a grave mistake and that Israel should try to topple the Gaza rulers instead.

"The aim of calm is a serious mistake because calm is used [by Hamas] to smuggle more and more arms," Lieberman said, adding that Hamas was obtaining increasingly powerful rockets. "At this rate they will also reach Tel Aviv," he said.

Hamas man killed

Israeli forces killed members of a Hamas cell who allegedly planned to abduct an Israeli in Sinai over the Passover holidays, officials said. However, they added Hamas is still determined to carry out attacks outside the Gaza Strip.

The Counter-Terrorism Bureau recently issued an urgent travel alert for Israelis in Sinai. An IDF strike against Hamas terrorists planning an attack could ensue in another round of hostilities, they said.

The Israel Air Force is planning to move two Iron Dome anti-missile batteries deployed in recent weeks near Be'er Sheva and Ashkelon as part of the system's trial period. The move follows the cabinet's decision to place the defense system near the cities within Grad missile range.

One of the batteries will probably be moved to another site for allowing the teams to practice their operation. Another battery will be used to continue the basic training of new operating teams.

The IDF plans on placing the batteries in the center and north as well, to try them out. If the south heats up again, the batteries will be placed around the Gaza Strip to protect the cities and strategic facilities in the area.

"Iron Dome was designed to be loaded and transferred from one place to another within hours," said Brig. Gen. (res. ) Ofir Shoham, head of the Defense Ministry Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure.