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Israel Attacks Gaza After Soldier Captured

Israeli troops launched air strikes against Gaza Wednesday, in response to the Palestinian abduction of a wounded Israeli soldier. Destroying three Palestinian bridges and a power station, troops crossed the Gaza border for the first time since the Israeli withdrawal 10 months ago.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Steve Erlanger, welcome. Thanks for being with us.

    What are Israeli officials you talked to telling you about how they actually think this operation will secure the Israeli soldier's release?

  • STEVEN ERLANGER, New York Times:

    Well, that's their prime goal, but some of them I think aren't necessarily optimistic that's going to happen. The operation has a secondary goal, which is to punish the Hamas government sufficiently that this sort of thing isn't going to happen again.

    And it also wants to, as Prime Minister Olmert said, destroy the infrastructure of terrorism, which in part means re-invading parts of Gaza and arresting some people. So I think all this has a way to go.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Are they concerned that this operation could actually put the soldier's life more at risk, or do they think that's — if that happens, that happens?

  • STEVEN ERLANGER:

    It is a big concern. Their efforts so far to kind of ratchet up the pressure slowly, trying to tell the Palestinians this is what can happen, please deliver him and we'll go away. But I don't think there's a lot of optimism that the Palestinians will deliver him, and so there are plans being laid for a much larger incursion.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So give us an idea. You said this could continue quite some time. How much time do you think they'll give this phase? And if this doesn't work, then what do you think is the likely next military step, when you say a bigger incursion?

  • STEVEN ERLANGER:

    Well, I think they're going to give it another day or two. It's hard to know. Israeli troops have taken up positions in southern Gaza, where they believe the corporal is being held, but they're also making preparations with shelling now of northern Gaza to move into northern Gaza, where many of these Kassam rockets have been fired into Israel.

    I think part of what they want to do is to occupy some of the land in the north to stop the Kassam fire at the same time. So there are lots of different objectives, and I think some deep political decisions haven't yet been taken about how far to take this.

    But, as you know, militaries plan for everything, and there are plans for a full occupation of Gaza, too, though no one wants to do that.