Special report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts
JERUSALEM, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- Among the optimal goals the Israeli army set for the ongoing operation in Gaza Strip, one is to remove Hamas from power, local daily Ha'aretz reported Thursday.
The army's Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi ordered in March 2007, shortly after he assumed the post, that the army should prepare for a Gaza operation and military programs, which turned out to be the current Operation Cast Lead, said the report.
Optimal conditions were then set up for the army to end the assault, including steep reduction in anti-Israel rocket fire, destruction of terror infrastructure, creation of a "deterrent balance" and shrinkage of public support for the militant movement, the report quoted an official familiar with the matter as saying.
Meanwhile, the offensive was also aimed to weaken the position and organization of Hamas and to remove it from power, revealed the official, adding that then the ruling role should be taken up by a central Palestinian establishment, led by moderate, pragmatic officials.
Referring to the current situation in Gaza, where some 700 have been killed and over 3,000 wounded during the 13-day-old onslaught, senior military officers were quoted as saying that the army is far from achieving the optimal conditions to implement an exit strategy, while expressing doubt on whether military efforts alone could bring a regime change in the enclave.
"There is a discrepancy between our interests and the ability to implement these through the use of force alone," admitted the officials.
Many analysts have said that Israel's realistic goal is to force Hamas to accept a lasting ceasefire on terms more favorable to Israel. As the United States, its staunch ally, has joined the international chorus for an early truce, the Jewish state is showing signs of a softening stance.
These goals were brought to light on a day when northern Israel was pounded by several rockets fired from southern Lebanon, generating speculation that Israel might have to deal with a second front in its north. It is still unknown how the incidents would affect Israel's Gaza operation.