Operation Pillar of Defense
Israeli gunfire at the Gaza Strip border killed a Palestinian November 23, 2012 - the first death since a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants halted eight days of deadly fighting. Palestinian medical officials say Anwar Qdeih was shot as he approached the border fence Friday with a group of Palestinians. Several others were wounded in the violence. Qdeih was said by his family to be trying to place a Hamas flag on the fence. The Israeli military said it fired warning shots at a group of people who were trying to scale the buffer zone fence just east of the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. "Trying to breach Gaza fence in order to enter Israel - is breaking ceasefire," according to IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich. A number of rockets have been fired at southern Israel from Gaza since the truce came into force, but Israeli forces have not responded.
On November 14, 2012, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas engaged in an eight-day battle staged in the Gaza Strip during which Israel launched a military attack targeting Hamas leadership, command and control centers, storage facilities including underground smuggling tunnels, and rocket launchers and launch sites that Israel judged to pose a threat. Israel called its action Operation Pillar of Defense also known as Operation Pillar of Cloud and Hamas’ Operation Stones of Shale; also known as Stones of Baked Clay.
The June 2012 victory by Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi in presidential elections in Egypt raised concern in neighboring Israel. Israel fears that Egypt will turn a blind eye to increasing terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula, and strengthen ties with the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which Israel and the West regard as a terrorist organization, welcomed the Egyptian election results as a great victory. Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza to celebrate, handing out candy and waving Egyptian flags.
There was drama on the high seas October 20, 2012 as a ship challenged Israel’s naval blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. A Swedish owned ship, the Finnish-flagged Estelle, carrying 30 pro-Palestinian activists from eight countries tried to break Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza. But the vessel was intercepted by the Israeli Navy about 60 kilometers off the Gaza coast, and it was boarded by commandos. Qatar's emir received a hero's welcome in the Gaza Strip October 23, 2012 when he became the first head of state to visit the Palestinian territory since Islamist Hamas militants took control in 2007. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh greeted Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on a red carpet after the Qatari leader crossed over from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Tuesday. In a visit lasting several hours, Sheikh Hamad inaugurated a Qatari aid program to help Gaza rebuild from the damage caused by an Israeli offensive against Hamas in 2008. Hamas turned the Gaza strip into a forward base for Iran, carrying out terror attacks and firing rockets at Israeli citizens, forcing them to live in unbearable circumstances.
A fire broke out late on Tuesday 23 October 2012 at the Yarmouk arms factory in the south of Khartoum following a series of explosions that the Sudanese authorities believe were caused by an air strike delivered by four Israeli warplanes. At least two people were killed in the incident. “The attack of Israel on the factory was carried out with the aim to deliver a strike on the military power of Sudan,” said a statement adopted at the extraordinary session of the government on late Wednesday night. The statement said that Yarmouk is not a secret facility, is not a subject to international sanctions and “specialized in manufacturing traditional weapons.” It is believed that this factility was used by Iran to support the transhipment of weapons into Gaza.
An informal truce brokered by Egypt took hold October 25, 2012 after days of rocket fire and retaliatory airstrikes. The Israeli military said Thursday that no rocket fire had been detected since late Wednesday, and that it had not carried out any airstrikes against Gaza since Wednesday morning. Two days of Palestinian rocket and mortar fire into southern Israel damaged homes and wounded several laborers working field near the border. Israel says the barrage included about 80 rockets. Israeli airstrikes against Gaza killed four Palestinians. An Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip before dawn October 28, 2012 hit two Palestinian militants, killing one and wounding the other. An Israeli military statement said its aircraft targeted a rocket-launching site where militants were preparing to fire a rocket into southern Israel. Later, Israeli officials said rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel without causing any casualties. The incidents followed a three-day lull between the two sides, bringing some respite from a recent upsurge in cross-border fighting.
On November 14, 2012 an Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed the top military commander of Hamas with Israel warning other Hamas members not to "show their faces above ground" in the next few days. An Israeli missile killed Ahmed al-Jaabari Wednesday as he drove in a car in Gaza City, shattering a tacit cease-fire that lasted less than a day. Israeli news reports say his son was also killed. The attack was part of a wave of airstrikes against Islamic militants in Gaza which Palestinians say killed seven other people, including two children. Israel's Shin Bet intelligence service said Jaabari was killed because of his "decade-long terrorist activity," including the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006. He was one of Israel's most wanted men and was the most senior Hamas official to be killed since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago.
Israeli aircraft attacked dozens of targets in air raids against militants in the Gaza Strip on 15 November 2012, one day after an Israeli missile strike on Gaza killed Ahmed al-Jaabari, the top military commander of Hamas. Barrages of rockets were fired back at Israel from Gaza with one killing at least three Israelis in an apartment complex, bringing the combined death toll on both sides to 15. Hamas warned Israel had opened up what it calls "the gates of hell" and vowed revenge. Israel had been hit by about 800 rockets or missiles from Gaza during 2012. Israeli tanks and ground forces continue to gather along the border. Israeli army spokeswoman, Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, said Thursday they will be used if needed. "All the options are on the table, including the possibility of a ground operation, we have alerted some of our reserve units and we are considering our next steps currently," she said. "We are striking various targets from the air, targets of either caches of rockets, storages of rockets, underground tunnels used to store rockets and other targets."
One Fajr-5 [range of about 75 km] launch site that was struck IAF aircraft was located in close proximity to a mosque and other civilian structures. The IDF targeted a significant number of long-range rockets sites (over 40 km) owned by Hamas. This deals a significant blow to the terror organization's underground rocket launching capabilities and munitions warehouses that are owned by Hamas and other terror organizations. The aim of targeting these sites is to cripple the terrorist organization's rocket launching and weapons build-up capabilities.
Sirens also went off late Thursday 15 November 2012 in Tel Aviv sparking a panic and nearly crippling mobile phone service after missiles fired from Gaza approached the city. Israeli officials say the missiles fell into the sea. Palestinian militants issued a statement claiming responsibility, saying they had fired Iranian-made rockets. It is the first time sirens had sounded in Tel Aviv since the Gulf War in 1991. Tel Aviv is about 80 kilometers from Gaza, indicating the use of the Iranian Fajr-5, which has twice the range of the rockets previously used by HAMAS.
Hesham Kandil, Egypt's prime minister, visited Gaza Friday 16 November 2012, even after the brief cease-fire that Israel put in place during his visit to the area collapsed. Israel said it honored its pledge to suspend its military offensive while the Egyptian prime minister visited but said that Hamas militants fired at least 50 rockets into Israel during that time. Kandil vowed to intensify his country's efforts to achieve a truce. as the deadly aerial volleys between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza continued Friday.
By then the two sides had exchanged hundreds of aerial bombardments, leaving three Israelis and at least 20 Palestinians dead, with one rocket landing in a field outside Jerusalem. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said that since Wednesday 14 November 2012 they had targeted 450 of what they called terrorist sites in Gaza, while over 330 rockets from Gaza had landed in Israel. The IDF said its Iron Dome missile interception system had destroyed more than 130 rockets headed toward Israel [presumably a number of rockets were not targetted once they were identified as not posing a threat to populated locations]. The IDF said it was taking early delivery of a fifth Iron Dome battery in order to bolster its defenses.
The Israeli military also deployed tanks along the border with Gaza and activated 30,000 mostly infantry reservists. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is ready for a deeper battle. "We are prepared, if needed, to broaden the operation in a significant way," he said.
Israel carried out more than 200 air strikes on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip Saturday 17 November 2012, destroying the Hamas Cabinet headquarters, while Palestinian rocket fire continued as far north as Tel Aviv. Israel's military has shut down main roads around Gaza, a sign it could be poised to launch a ground offensive. Israel's Cabinet authorized the mobilization of up to 75,000 reservists. Tanks and other armored vehicles are also positioned along the border. The Israeli military reports its new "Iron Dome" missile defense system shot down a rocket bound for Tel Aviv, one of several Hamas has fired at Israel's commercial center. Israel said "Iron Dome" had intercepted nearly 250 of the hundreds of rockets fired at Israel since the conflict began a four days earlier.
The Israeli Defense Force deployed the fifth battery of its Iron Dome anti-rocket air-defense systems to protect the city of Tel Aviv from Palestinian rockets apparently landing close by. The military and Israeli police had no firm evidence that Palestinian rockets had landed close to Israel's commercial and business capital, but such weapons may have landed in the sea nearby. Air raid sirens sounded after explosions were heard in the last two days. The other four Iron Dome batteries are in the southern districts.
Palestinian officials say nearly 40 people have died in Gaza since the Israelis began their airstrikes earlier in the week. Hamas rockets have killed three Israeli civilians. Tunisia's foreign minister visited the Gaza Strip Saturday. Rafik Abdesslem is the second high-profile visitor to Gaza since the latest wave of violence. Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil visited on Friday. Kandil said Egypt "will make sacrifices and every effort to achieve a truce." In Cairo, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called the Israeli assault a "blatant aggression against humanity."
The Israelis Iron Dome missile defense system is demonstrating a 90% success rate in operations against HAMAS rockets, according to Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Levin was appearing on "This Week", the ABC News Sunday morning chat show. This is the first public claim of an effectiveness rate for Iron Dome in the current operation, and is higher than the 80% or 85% effectiveness rate previously attributed to Iron Dome. Levin's claim of effectiveness was not qualified, so it is not known whether Iron Dome is attempting to engage all threatening rockets, or only some subset of threatening rockets.
It is evident that not all rockets are being engaged, as the number of successful intercepts is significantly smaller than the number of rockets fired. The IDF reported at 4:30 p.m. [local time] that since Operation Defensive Pillar began on Wednesday, November 14th, as many as 544 rockets launched from the Gaza Strip had struck Israel. In addition, the Iron Dome system had intercepted over 300 rockets headed towards densely populated areas. When tracking a rocket's trajectory, the Iron Dome radar can quickly determine whether the incoming rocket poses a threat to a populated area. There would be no point in wasting an interceptor in defending uninhabited ground.
Israel carried out more air strikes against militant targets in Gaza on Sunday 18 November 2012. Israeli warplanes also attacked two media centers in Gaza City, wounding eight journalists. Militants fired more rockets, including two that targeted the Israeli commercial capital of Tel Aviv, triggering air raid sirens in the city for a fourth day. Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile shield intercepted those rockets. Sixty-four people, over 20 of them children, have been killed in Gaza during Israel’s ongoing military campaign, Gaza’s health ministry said on Sunday. As many as 11 people died in an Israeli airstrike was on the house of Mohamed Dalou, an official with the Hamas Islamist. Four of the dead were children, the Palestinian Ma'an news agency said. Palestinian rocket attacks have killed three Israeli civilians. At the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel has attacked more than 1,000 targets in Gaza.
Sudnay saw a decrease of 40% in the number in rockets fired on our territory from the day before, continuing a downward trend. Since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, 546 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip have struck Israel. The Iron Dome system has intercepted an additional 302 rockets. Furthermore, over 100 rockets fired from Gaza have landed within the Gaza Strip, injuring their own civilians.
Over the course of Monday, 19 December 2012, the IDF caused severe damage to dozens of targets, including underground rocket launchers, a training facility, ammunition storage facilities, Hamas police stations and several terrorist squads that were responsible for firing rockets at Israel. Additionally, a vehicle that was used for transporting rockets belonging to Hamas was targeted in the northern Gaza Strip. A direct hit was identified In the southern Gaza Strip, over 50 smuggling tunnels were targeted. The sites that were targeted have been positively identified by precise intelligence over the course of several months. Today, 67 rockets fired from Gaza have struck Israel. Since the beginning of the operation over 650 rockets have struck Israel. The Iron Dome system has intercepted over 340 additional rockets, all on their way towards densely populated civilian areas, achieving a 90% success rate.
Israel and Palestinians officials Tuesday issued conflicting statements over whether a Gaza cease-fire deal has been reached. Hamas officials said that a Cairo-brokered truce to end seven days of cross-border volleys would take effect late Tuesday. "An agreement for calm has been reached. It will be declared at nine o'clock (1900 GMT) and go into effect at midnight (2200 GMT)," Hamas official Ayman Taha told Reuters from Cairo. But Israel spokesman Mark Regev told reporters that the announcements were premature. Israel had put a planned ground operation in Gaza "on hold" as diplomatic efforts swelled Tuesday to halt cross-border aerial strikes between Israel and Hamas militants, now in their seventh day.
Over the course of the morning of 20 November 2012, the IDF targeted eleven terrorist squads who were involved in promoting terrorist activity including the planting of explosive devices and the firing of rockets towards southern Israel. In addition, the IDF targeted 30 underground rocket launchers, as well as a senior terror operative's hiding place which was used to store weapons and ammunition. As a result severe damage was inflicted upon the rocket launching capabilities and weapon storage facilities owned by terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip.
Kerem Shalom opened this morning to allow the transfer of 120 trucks humanitarian aid. However, in the morning's rocket volley, the crossing was targeted. The IDF was forced to temporarily close the crossing to ensure the safety of all those working at the crossing and passing through it. IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordechai attributed the morning's volley of rockets to Hamas, as opposed yesterday's rocket fire that was attributed to Islamic Jihad Popular Resistance Committees. Explanation for this morning's relatively heavy rocket fire could come from the severity of the air strikes in Gaza during the night or it could be a show of strength ahead of negotiations for a cease fire.
Late Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the volatile situation for two hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israel officials. Netanyahu said before the meeting he prefers diplomacy to halt cross-border attacks. But he again pledged that Israel will take every action to protect its citizens, adding that no country can tolerate attacks on its citizens.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr announced on Wednesday 21 November 2012 that a cease-fire in Israel-Gaza hostilities would take effect at 9 PM local time. He made the announcement in Cairo with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at his side. The truce came after hours after intense shuttle-diplomacy involving Clinton, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Before word of the truce, attacks rocked both sides of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip end the violence that has killed more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis. Inside Israel, a bomb blast on a bus in central Tel Aviv injured at least 20 people, some seriously. In Gaza City, the bombing met with approval from Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, who called the bombing revenge for civilian deaths in Gaza in recent days. "Hamas sends congratulations for this operation which occurred in Tel Aviv and confirms that this is the normal response for targeting the Daloo family and Palestinian women and children," he said. "We will use all means to protect our Palestinian people whilst facing aggression which is targeting Palestinian women and children."
New rounds of missile and air attacks rained down on Gaza following the Tel Aviv attack. Palestinians medics say so far Wednesday at least 10 people were killed, including a young boy. In Tel Aviv, Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau accused Hamas of putting all of Israel under siege. "The whole state of Israel is a front line," he said. "There is no front and back, we are all in the front, and if someone hesitated, if this is true, the bus today in Saul Hamelech Boulevard is the best proof."
Iran supplied Gazan militants with weapons, Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Islamist group Hamas, said on Wednesday. “The weapons of Palestinian resistance were partially manufactured inside the Gaza Strip, and the rest was supplied by certain countries, including Iran,” Meshaal told journalists in Cairo after a ceasefire was agreed between Israel and Hamas. The Hamas political leader said Tehran had supported Gaza militants with arms “even despite differences between Iran and Hamas on issues connected with the conflict in Syria.”
After Israel and Palestinian militants agreed to a cease-fire, residents of the Israel and the Gaza Strip enjoyed their first peaceful night in a week. More than 150 Palestinians and five Israelis were killedin the eight-day conflict. Hundreds more were wounded. The conflict choked daily life on both sides as schools, offices and shops were closed and people stayed indoors for their safety.
Netanyahu declared the Israeli offensive a success, saying Israel dealt a painful blow to Hamas, destroying thousands of rockets and killing many “terrorist commanders.” Hamas is also declaring victory, and it says the ball is in Israel's court. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said that if Israel complies with the cease-fire, the Palestinians will also comply. If not, Meshaal said, "our hands are on the trigger."
Israeli and Palestinian militants agreed to end all hostilities. For Israel that included attacks by land, sea, and air, and operations targeting individuals. For Palestinian factions in Gaza that included rocket and border attacks. After 24 hours of calm, crossings into Gaza were to be opened and the movement of people and goods is to be allowed.
Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power five years ago. Under the ceasefire agreement, Israel and Hamas are to negotiate an end to the blockade. Gazans hope this will end all fishing restrictions and reopen closed land border crossings. The blockade crippled Gaza's economy and decimated its fishing industry. The blockade has also hurt agriculture. Gaza's farmers are prevented from working land within two kilometers of the border. Israel says the blockade is meant to protect Israelis near the border from attacks and prevent arms smuggling. Palestinians say it is meant to punish Hamas, which does not recognize Israel and has called for its destruction.
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