Browsing Posts in Operation Cast Lead

What does it mean for a Hamas missile to strike nearby?  The person in this video is undoubtedly giving silent thanks for surviving the day.

On 19 June, a “state of calm” began between Israel and Hamas.  The goal of this arrangement was to end Hamas’s rocket fire on Sderot and to gradually open up the border crossings into Gaza for civilian goods.  You can see details of the arrangement in our previous post.   This arrangement was due to last for 6 months, with possible renewal thereafter.

As you can see from the following graphs, while rocket and mortar fire from Gaza slowed during the “lull,” it never fully stopped.  (The graphs are taken from a report published last month.)

In addition, rather than use the “state of calm” to promote peace and to build a civilian infrastructure in Gaza, Hamas took advantage of the situation to expand its terrorist capabilities.  In addition to continuing to fire rockets and mortars, Hamas also smuggled weapons and other materiel from Egypt, and expanded its tunnel network, going so far as to dig a tunnel under Israeli territory to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

When Israeli forces acted on intelligence reports and went to investigate the tunnel on 04 November, they came under fire from “Palestinian gunmen” (see news item).  The firefight resulted in the death of 1 gunman and the wounding of several others, and the wounding of 4 Israeli soldiers.  During the following two days, Hamas launched 47 rockets and 10 mortar shells against civilian areas in Israel.  Hamas declared that it had responded to Israel’s actions, and leaders of Israel and Hamas maintained their desire to prevent further escalation of the situation.  However, Hamas continued to attack Israel–mostly by rocket and mortar fire–throughout the next few weeks.  In order to protect its civilian population, Israel took occasional action against these Hamas terrorists (see the list of Palestinian casualties in November 2008 from B’Tselem–all were killed while carrying out hostilities).

In fact, as the “lull” was due to expire on 19 December, Israel still held out hope that Hamas would renew the agreement.  Instead, Hamas declared its unwillingness to renew any agreement and commenced firing rockets and mortars at a higher rate than previously.

According to Thomas Friedman’s analysis in today’s New York Times, Hamas doesn’t think so–and that’s one of the principle elements in the current conflict.  As it happens, Friedman notes, Gaza is at the center of the three existential questions that plague the region today–only one of which involves Israel.

You’ll just have to read the article for the rest of the questions, though.

Bibi Netanyahu’s opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) discusses the situation in Gaza and the nature of Israel’s repsonse to Hamas terrorism.

Imagine a siren that gives you 30 seconds to find shelter before a Kassam rocket falls from the sky and explodes, spraying its lethal shrapnel in all directions. Now imagine this happens day after day, month after month, year after year.

For the rest of the article, see the Wall Street Journal.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour has an exclusive interview with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on the Gaza situation.

If you cannot see the video, please click here to the original page.

Tony Blair on CNN

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Tony Blair, the envoy of the Quartet to the Middle East, talks with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about how to achieve a cease-fire in Gaza.

Gaza by Numbers


Israel’s Humanitarian Aid to Gaza

396 truckloads of humanitarian aid that have been delivered through Israeli crossings into Gaza since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, including basic food commodities, medication, medical supplies, blood units and donations by various governments and blood units. [3]
80 truckloads of humanitarian aid expected to arrive in Gaza on Jan. 5 [4]
20 Palestinians evacuated to Israel for medical treatment (including two children) [5]
800,000+ leaflets disseminated by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to Gaza civilians instructing them to stay away from terrorist and weapons storage sites [6]
70+ times the IDF warned populated areas before conducting airstrikes [7]
10,000 tons of aid transported into Gaza at the request of international organizations, the Palestinian Authority and various governments since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead.  The World Food Program informed Israel last week that that it would cease shipment of food to Gaza because warehouses are at full capacity, with enough food to last two weeks. [8]
0 wounded Palestinians allowed by Hamas to cross from Gaza into Egypt for treatment. [9]

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The following statement was issued by David Saranga, Consul for Media and Public Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York:

Earlier today, upwards of 35 Palestinian civilians were reportedly killed in two unfortunate accidents in Gaza, one at a school run by UNRWA and the second at an apartment in Gaza City. These deaths are indeed a tragedy, and investigations are underway to ensure that further operations continue to avoid civilian casualties.
These initial investigations indicate that Hamas used the UNRWA school to fire at IDF forces, indicating once again that Hamas is more than willing to sacrifice Gaza citizens to promote terrorism. International law recognizes that the presence of civilians in an area of conflict does not delegitimize a military target. Israel and the IDF will continue to abide by these laws and to make every effort to avoid harming civilians in conducting further operations. We urge the international community to strongly condemn Hamas’s cynical exploitation of its citizens and firing of rockets, which remain the most effective way to ensure peace for Gazans and Israelis alike.

This is not the first time Hamas has used a school as a launching pad for weapons. See this YouTube video for further information.

In addition, Hamas has used other civilian structures to house materiel.  See our previous posts (here and here) on the subject.

The answer to this question is becoming somewhat clearer with the IDF’s operations in Gaza. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, keeping tabs on the goings-on on the ground, has put out the following updates on the situation. Since the IDF has found explosives in mosques and private homes, it’s no wonder soldiers have had to operate in these areas.

  1. January 1 : During the night the IAF attacked the Al-Khulafa mosque in Jabaliya, which was a focal point of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades’ terrorist activities. It served as an important Hamas operations room where organization meetings were held and from which operatives were dispatched to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel . In addition, it contained a rocket arsenal which included long-range standard Grad rockets. The attack on the mosque was followed by a long series of secondary explosions and burned for a long time, indicating that a large quantity of hidden weapons and ammunition had been stockpiled in it.
  2. January 1 : The IAF attacked the house of Nabil Amarin , a senior Hamas military operative who commanded a Hamas battalion in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza City . The building contained a large quantity of weapons and ammunition. The attack was followed by large secondary explosions.
  3. January 2 : The house of Hamas operative Muhammad Maatouk was attacked in Jabaliya. It had served as a weapons storehouse and also contained a laboratory with a tunnel used by Hamas operatives.
  4. January 2 : The house of Muhammad Madhoun was attacked in Gaza City . Madhoun was a prominent Hamas operative and responsible for rocket fire into Israeli territory.
  5. January 2 : The house of Imad Akel was attacked in Nusseirat in the central Gaza Strip. He was a senior weapons manufacturer and one of the heads of Hamas’s rocket division. His house served as a weapons storehouse and the attack was followed by a series of secondary explosions.
  6. January 2 : A Hamas institute was attacked in Al-Atatra in the northern Gaza Strip. It served as a meeting and hiding place for Hamas operatives and extensive rocket fire had been carried out from the area.
  7. January 2 : The IAF attacked the house of Ismail Ghanem in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. It served as a storehouse for weapons and rocket launching equipment. Ghanem is one of the most prominent operatives firing Grads into Israel.
  8. January 2 : The IAF attacked the house of Izz al-Din Hadad, a senior Hamas operator in Saja’iya, the northern Gaza Strip. It served as a meeting place and operations center for Hamas operatives.
  9. January 2 : The IAF attacked the control tower at the Dahaniya airport in the southern Gaza strip. Beneath it was a tunnel planned to be used to carry out a terrorist attack and abduct an IDF soldier.

Bret Stephens writes in today’s Wall Street Journal on ways that Israel can achieve its military aims without imposing unnecessary hardship on the residents of Gaza.  The goal, he notes, should be to make it as hard as possible for Hamas to continue firing rockets at Israel–and to make them pay when rockets are launched.  In other words, establishing a credible threat of deterrence (diminished in 2006).  Achieving this aim would not require Israel to take over large swaths of Gaza, but it would require an extended policy of smaller-scale counterterrorism operations, along the lines of the successful West Bank operations.  In the long run, it might even make peace feasible in Gaza (and it is becoming easier in the West Bank) and bring some measure of quiet to the region.