Operation Summer Rains
On 25 June, 2006 Hamas conducted a raid near the Kerem Shalom border crossing of the Gaza Strip which resulted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of Gilad Shalit, an IDF corporal. Two Hamas militants were also reportedly killed in the attack. The raid involved the use of a 300 meter tunnel which allowed approximately 8 Palestinian gunmen to ambush a tank and an empty armored personnel carrier. The captured soldier was the gunner for the tank.
Following the capture, Hamas released a statement demanding the release of all Palestinian women and individuals younger than 18 from Israeli jails in exchange for the Corporal's release. The Israeli government responded to this action on 27 June by launching "Operation Summer Rains."
The two stated goals of "Operation Summer Rains" are to secure the release of Corporal Shalit and prevent the launching of Qassam rockets into Israel. While preliminary discussions of a prisoner exchange were proposed by Hamas and Popular Resistance Committee, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated that no negotiations would take place. The second goal of preventing Qassam rocket launching has long been an aspiration of the Israeli military.
The means of achieving these goals have been principally:
- Strikes against militant groups
- Destroying the infrastructure used by militant groups to support their actions
- Applying political pressure to against the Hamas-led government.
On the first day of operations the Israeli Air Force bombed three bridges and a power plant in central Gaza while IDF ground forces entered the southern Gaza Strip. These actions marked the beginning of the first major mobilization into the Gaza Strip since the Israeli unilateral disengagement from the area in August and September of 2005.
On 28 June Israeli warplanes buzzed the summer residence of Syrian President Bashar Assad. This move was widely perceived as a warning to President Assad of potential repercussions if he continued to support Hamas and host the group's exiled leader Khaled Meshaal. It was reported that President Assad was at the residence during the time of the over flight.
The Israeli Security Forces also conducted a string of arrests of Hamas leadership in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Among those arrested are ministers in the Hamas government, members of the Hamas legislative council, and several senior operatives who Israel accuses of being active in terror organizations and committing terror acts within their frameworks.
On 29 June the IDF distributed leaflets from the air into the southern Gaza Strip, with the purpose of warning the Palestinian citizens against staying in areas in which the IDF will operate against terror infrastructures.
On 1,July the Israeli Air Force bombed the empty offices of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of the Palestinian Authority, who is also a senior member of Hamas. The next day the Israeli Air Force widened its attacks, striking Fatah offices in downtown Gaza and sites in Northern Gaza.
On 2 July three armed Palestinians attempted to attack IDF forces located in the southern Gaza Strip near the airport in Dahaniya. The forces identified the three gunmen approaching and fired at them, as a result of which the three were killed. Upon closer inspection of the bodies, two of the gunmen were found to be wearing explosive belts.
Later on during the night the IDF carried out an aerial attack on a facility in Beit Hanun used by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to produce and store weapons. The IDF also carried out an aerial attack against an operations center of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the city of Gaza. Throughout the night IDF forces operated in the northern Gaza Strip to locate tunnels and explosives.
By 4 July, IDF aerially attacked three bridges in the central Gaza Strip, 22 locations used for terror-related activities, 26 access roads, members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and six Hamas members. In addition to the aerial attacks, the IDF had fired upward of 1,500 shells into the Gaza Strip from land-based artillery and upward of 50 from Navy ships.
During a joint operation on 4 July IDF and general security forces arrested three of the suspected murderers of Eliahu Asheri. The forces closed in on a Palestinian Police building in Ramallah wherein the three men, operatives of Tanzim, were hiding. After several hours during which Israeli forces surrounded the building and called for them to come out, the men surrendered.
On 5 July an IDF colonel reported IDF forces had been operating in open spaces in the northern Gaza Strip for the past three days along with tank forces. The Israeli Air Force also struck militants and their infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip. One strike specifically mentioned was an aerial attack against Hamas facility in the southern Gaza Strip. The institution used by Hamas as a meeting center was funded By Ahmad Yassin at the end of 1998. It was the main project for the Hamas and was opened on September 2000. The institution assisted families of Hamas members, especially the families of those who died in Hamas attacks, such as suicide bombers, and families of those imprisoned in Israel for their involvement in terror. The facility was also used as a meeting center for Hamas members.
During the same day an IDF ground force raided the northwestern Gaza Strip during the night and operated in areas from which rockets have been launched. The activities of the forces focused on organizations and the infrastructure involved in rocket firing against communities in the state of Israel. The forces are expected to remain in the strip until the completion of their mission.
As of 6 July, 23 Palestinians had been reported killed while one Israeli soldier was killed in Gaza operations.
Early in the morning of 7 July, IDF forces identified several Palestinians planting explosive devices in the city of Jenin in an attempt to detonate them against forces operating in the area. The force fired at the cell, killing one of the men and wounding another. A 24 kg explosive device and an additional 12 kg explosive device, which had been wired for remote detonation with a mobile phone, were uncovered in subsequent searches conducted by IDF forces and Border Police sappers. During an IDF activity this morning in Jenin refugee camp an IDF force uncovered a car bomb wired with explosives. The two explosive devices and car bomb were detonated in a controlled manner.
On 9 July, despite the high level of Israeli operations in the area, Hamas militants launched an upgraded Qassam rocket which flew seven miles and landed in a school yard in the city Ashkelon. No one was injured but the increased range of the rocket led Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to declare the attack as "unprecedented." Throughout early July the Israeli forces pushed deeper into Gaza despite facing resistance from militant groups and Palestinian security forces.
On 10 July, an attack by an Israeli drone on a vehicle killed two members of the militant group Islamic Jihad while another air strike killed one person in the vicinity of Karni Crossing. Ehud Olmert also refused to announce when the operations in Gaza would end and Palestinian medical sources stated that about 50 Palestinians had been killed Gaza and 175 had been wounded.
19 Palestinians were killed and 15 were wounded on 11 July when Israeli air strikes targeted a car and a house which IDF officials said was being used by Hamas militants who fired Qassam rockets against Israel. Hamas denied that Mohammed Deif, the leader of the Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was injured in the attack. In a separate strike, IDF officials said they attacked an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade training camp as it was preparing to fire rockets. The IDF officials said that while the rockets and launchers were destroyed, the militants escaped.
On 13 July an Israeli air strike hit the Palestinian Foreign Ministry building in Gaza city while the military wing of Hamas claimed it launched 10 Qassam rockets into Israel from Gaza. The Israeli military said that none of the rockets caused any injuries.
On 14 July, Palestinian militants used rocket propelled grenades to blast a hole in the gate separating the Gaza-Egyptian border. The attack allowed approximately 500 people to stream through into Gaza. One Egyptian army officer was injured in the attack.
On 15 July Israeli Defense Forces re-entered the town of Beit Hanoun, Gaza. This action was carried out after the IDF conducted military search and seizures earlier in the month. Israel also launched attacks at the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy building in Gaza City. No injuries were reported
On 16 July IDF ground forces operated in the Gaza Strip during the night as part of wider operations to stop rocket fire, and to strike related infrastructure in the area. A structure assumed to be used by Hamas, in Jebalya (northern Gaza Strip), was attacked by IDF aircraft. Additionally, the Israeli Air Force attacked tunnel infrastructures in the southern Gaza Strip which were thought to have carried out raids and attacks by militant factions of Hamas. The IDF also conducted artillery fire against Qassam rocket launching grounds in the northern Gaza Strip.
18 July saw more action in Palestinian areas. During the day, IDF forces arrested two wanted Tanzim operatives in Bnei Naim, southeast of Hebron. Furthermore a brief fire-fight occurred against a security force close to the security fence in the central Gaza Strip, north of Kissufim. No injuries and no damages were reported.
On 19 July the infantry, engineering and armor forces of the IDF entered central Gaza Strip as part of the a operation to thwart Qassam rocket launches and to hurt the Hamas militant’s infrastructure. During that operation five Israeli soldiers were wounded when a grenade was thrown at them, two moderately and three lightly.
20 July saw the IDF drop leaflets in Gaza City to warn the Gaza Strip's Palestinian population of IDF operations in their area. It advised them to stay away from buildings that stored weapons, as these locations were targeted by the IDF.
According to Palestinian sources, on July 22 a Palestinian militant and four others died in an attack on a Gaza City home. Israel continued its military operation in Gaza, with the stated aim of stopping Palestinian militant attacks on Israel and recovering Cpl. Gilad Shalit captured in June. Some 19 Palestinians have been killed since July 18, Palestinian sources said.
24 July saw the IDF air force attacked a warehouse that was believed to store, among other weapons, the "Grad" rockets that had been launched at Israel at various times throughout the year. The "Grad" is a Soviet rocket of medium range. It was successfully launched at Ashkelon from the Gaza strip in March, in May it hit Nativ Ha'asara. It was reported that a number of Hamas militants active in the warehouse during the attack were injured.
On 29 July Israeli tanks pushed back into Gaza a day after a three-day sweep that killed 30 Palestinians. According to Palestinian security officials, seven Israeli tanks crossed over Gaza's northern border. Israeli forces attacked a site on the Gaza-Egypt border where it was believed militants were tunneling, the army said The army also said its aircraft attacked a building housing a weapons cache in Gaza City . No injuries were reported in either incident.
As of 29 July, it is believed that Israeli troops had killed 159 Palestinians, since they started attacking the Gaza Strip to try to rescue Cpl. Shalit and stop militants from firing rockets into Israel. Most of the dead were militants according to an Associated Press death count.
On 30 July Palestinian security forces ejected approximately 2,000 demonstrators who stormed the U.N. compound, in Gaza City, protesting the Qana attack (an Israeli attack in Lebanon that killed scores of civilians, including women children and the elderly). Also on 30 July, according to the IDF, two Islamic Jihad militants were killed in the West Bank. One of whom was the head of the group's military wing.
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