Gaza War


Gaza War
Gaza War
Part of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and Arab–Israeli conflict
Gaza conflict map.png
Map of Gaza
Date December 27, 2008 – January 18, 2009
Location Gaza Strip and Southern Israel
Result
  • Israeli tactical military victory.[1][2][3]
  • Israel declared unilateral ceasefire, 12 hours later Hamas announced a one-week ceasefire.[4][5]
  • Humanitarian crisis and deterioration of infrastructure and basic services in Gaza.[6]
  • Number of rockets being fired from Gaza reduced.
  • See results
Belligerents
Israel Israel (IDF, ISA) Palestinian National Authority Gaza Strip
Commanders and leaders
Israel Ehud Olmert
Prime Minister

Israel Ehud Barak
Minister of Defense
Israel Gabi Ashkenazi
Chief of General Staff
Israel Yoav Galant
Southern Command
Israel Ido Nehoshtan
Air Force
Israel Eli Marom
Navy
Israel Eyal Eisenberg
Gaza Division
Israel Yuval Diskin
Internal Security Service

Flag of Hamas.svg Khaled Mashal[8]

Flag of Hamas.svg Ismail Haniyeh
Flag of Hamas.svg Said Seyam (KIA)
Flag of Hamas.svg Mohammed Deif
Flag of Hamas.svg Abu Zakaria al-Jamal (KIA)
Flag of Hamas.svg Ahmed Jabari
Flag of Hamas.svg Tawfik Jaber (KIA)[9]
Flag of Hamas.svg Osama Mazini
Flag of Hamas.svg Nizar Rayan (KIA)[9]
Flag of Hamas.svg Mahmoud al-Zahar
Flag of Jihad.svg Ramadan Shallah

Strength
IDF: 4,000[10] – 20,000[11] deployed in ground invasion and tens of thousands of reservists mobilized[12] (176,000 total active personnel)[13]
Hamas (Izzedine Al-Qassam Brigades and paramilitary police): 20,000 (est. total)[17][18]
Other Palestinian paramilitary forces: 10,000[19]
Casualties and losses
Total killed: 13
Soldiers: 10 (friendly fire: 4[27])
Civilians: 3

Total wounded: 518
Soldiers: 336[28]
Civilians: 182[28]

Total killed: 1,417 (PCHR),[29] 1,166 (IDF)[30]
Militants and police officers:
491* (PCHR),[29] 709 (IDF)[30]
600–700 (Hamas)[31]
Civilians: 926 (PCHR),[29] 295 (IDF)[30][30]

Total wounded: 5,303 (PCHR)[29]

Total captured: 120 (IDF)

One Egyptian border guard officer killed and three wounded, and two children wounded.[32][33]
Over 50,800 Gaza residents displaced.[34]

Over 4,000 homes destroyed; around $2bn worth of damage to Gaza[35]

*255 police officers were killed (PCHR).[29]

The Gaza War, known as Operation Cast Lead (מבצע עופרת יצוקה‎) in Israel and as the Gaza Massacre (مجزرة غزة‎) in the Arab world,[36][37][38] was a three-week bombing and invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israel, and hundreds of rocket attacks on south of Israel which started on December 27, 2008 with a surprise air strike from Israel.[39] Israel's stated aim was to stop rocket fire into Israel[40] and arms import into the Gaza strip.[41][42] Israeli forces attacked police stations and other Hamas government buildings in the opening assault, striking in the densely populated cities of Gaza, Khan Younis and Rafah.[43]

An Israeli ground invasion began on January 3. Infantry commanders were given an unprecedented level of access to coordinate with air, naval, artillery, intelligence, and combat engineering units during this second phase. Various new technologies and hardware were also introduced. On January 5, IDF forces began operating in the densely populated urban centers of Gaza. During the last week of the offensive (from 12 January), Israel mostly hit targets it had damaged previously and struck Palestinian rocket-launching units.[14] Hamas intensified its rocket and mortar attacks against Southern Israel, reaching the major cities of Beersheba and Ashdod for the first time during the conflict.[44][45][46] Israeli politicians ultimately decided against striking deeper within Gaza amidst concerns of higher casualties on both sides and increasing international criticism. The war ended on January 18, when Israel first declared a unilateral ceasefire, followed by Hamas' announcing a one-week ceasefire twelve hours later.[4][5] Israel completed its withdrawal on January 21.[47]

The conflict resulted in between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths, 4 from friendly fire.[48] In September 2009, a UN special mission, headed by the South African Justice Richard Goldstone, produced a controversial report accusing both Palestinian militants and Israeli Defense Forces of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, and recommended bringing those responsible to justice.[49] In January 2010, the Israeli government released a response criticizing the Goldstone Report and disputing its findings.[50] In 2011, Goldstone wrote that he no longer believed that Israel intentionally targeted civilians in Gaza.[51] The other authors of the report, Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers, rejected Goldstone's reassessment.[52][53]

Contents

Background

See also: Timeline of the Gaza War, List of rocket and mortar attacks in Israel in 2008 and in 2009 following the Gaza War

The Gaza Strip is a coastal strip of land on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea bordering Egypt and Israel. Israel controls Gaza's airspace and territorial waters and restricts the movement of people or goods in or out of Gaza.[54][55] Israel maintains that its occupation of Gaza, as defined by Article 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, ended following the completion of its unilateral disengagement plan in 2005, asserting that Israel has no functions of government in the Gaza Strip.[56][57]

January 2006 legislative elections brought Hamas to power of Palestinian National Authority.[58] Since the formation of a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government Israel and the Quartet on the Middle East imposed economic sanctions against the Palestinian territories.[59][60] In 2007, Hamas overthrew Fatah. President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas then dismissed Hamas-led government and formed government in the West Bank, bypassing the Hamas-dominated parliament.[61] Israel imposed a ground, air, and maritime blockade, and announced it would allow only humanitarian supplies into the Strip.[62][63] Palestinian groups were partially able to bypass the blockade through tunnels, some of which are said to have been used for weapons smuggling.[64]

Between 2005 and 2007, Palestinian groups in Gaza fired about 2,700 locally made Qassam rockets into Israel, killing four Israeli civilians and injuring 75 others. During the same period, Israel fired more than 14,600 155 mm artillery shells into the Gaza Strip, killing 59 Palestinians and injuring 270. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, between 2005 and 2008 116 Israelis, including civilians and Israeli security forces, which includes Israeli police, Israeli Border Police and members of the armed services, were killed in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories in "direct conflict related incidents" and 1,509 were injured.[65] During this time, 1,735 Palestinians, including civilians and militants from various groups, were killed and 8,308 wounded in "direct conflict related incidents".[65]

2008 six-month lull

Israelis killed by Palestinians in Israel (blue) and Palestinians killed by Israelis in Gaza (red) during January–December 2008 according to B'Tselem
Rocket hits in Israel, January–December 2008.[66]

On June 19, 2008, an Egyptian-brokered six-month "lull" or pause in hostilities between Israel and Hamas went into effect.[67] The agreement had no mutually agreed text or enforcement mechanism and eventually collapsed.[68]

The agreement required Hamas to end rocket and mortar attacks on Israel and to enforce the lull throughout Gaza. In addition, Israel insisted that the agreement would include an end to Hamas's military buildup in Gaza and movement toward the release of Corporal Shalit.[69] Hamas said all the Gaza's militant groups would abide by the truce.[70] Defense Ministry Official Amos Gilad, the Israeli envoy to the talks, stressed that Israel demanded a ceasefire, meaning that even one single rocket fired will be seen as a violation of the agreement. He added that Egypt, on its side, is committed to preventing the smuggling activity from Gaza.[71] Gilad also said that Israel would hold Hamas responsible for attacks from Gaza.[70]

In exchange, Israel agreed to ease the embargo and to halt military raids into Gaza.[69][72] As part of the deal Egypt has promised to stop the smuggling of arms and weapons from its territory into Gaza.[70]

Implementation

The truce started slowly, with the UN recording seven IDF violations of the ceasefire between June 20 and June 26, and three violations by Palestinian groups not affiliated with Hamas between June 23 and 26.[73] Several mortars and Qassam rockets were fired at Israel in late June.[74][75][75][76][77]

Israel and Hamas accused each other of bad faith and of violations of the Egyptian-mediated truce, pointing respectively that rockets from Gaza never stopped entirely and that weapons smuggling was not halted while major renewal of goods' flow into Gaza was never allowed and Israel conducted raids in Gaza killing Hamas fighters.[68][78][79]

Conflict escalates

November 4 incident

On November 4, 2008, Israel launched a military strike on Hamas to destroy what Israel said was a tunnel on the Gaza-Israel border dug by militants to infiltrate into Israel and abduct soldiers. According to Israel, the raid was not a violation of the ceasefire, but a legitimate step to remove an immediate threat. Israeli infantry, tanks, and bulldozers entered 250 m into the Gaza Strip, the first major incursion since the June truce. A gunfight broke out, in which one Hamas fighter was killed. Hamas responded with a barrage of mortar and rocket fire at Israeli troops. Three Israeli airstrikes on Hamas mortar and rocket positions then killed five Hamas fighters. According to eyewitnesses, another three Hamas fighters were wounded in an Israeli UAV strike over the el-Burejj refugee camp.[80] Three Israeli soldiers were also wounded during the operation. Hamas said it would take revenge for what it perceived as an act of Israeli aggression that had violated the truce.[80][81] Hamas launched 35 rockets into southern Israel in what was described by Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum as a "response to Israel's massive breach of the truce, stating that "The Israelis began this tension and they must pay an expensive price. They cannot leave us drowning in blood while they sleep soundly in their beds".[82][83]

Intensity of rocket attacks targeted at Israeli cities near Gaza sharply increased during November 2008, approaching pre-truce levels. Clashes also took place along the border, during which 11 Palestinian militants were killed.[84] In the period between November 4 incident and mid-December, more than 200 Qassam rockets and mortar shells landed in the western Negev region. Israel has frequently shut down the crossings in response to rocket attacks on its towns.[85]

December

On December 13, Israel announced that it favored extending the cease-fire, provided Hamas adhered to the conditions.[85] On December 14, a Hamas delegation in Cairo proposed that Hamas was prepared to stop all rocket attacks against Israel if the Israelis would open up and not be allowed to close or reduce commercial traffic through the Gaza border crossings and pledge not to launch attacks in Gaza.[86] On the same day, Hamas officials told that earlier reports, quoting Khaled Meshaal as saying there would be no renewal of the truce, were inaccurate. A Hamas spokesman said that the lull would not be renewed, "as long as there is no real Israeli commitment to all of its conditions".[87] Spokesman for the Israeli prime minister replied that Israel was committed to the truce but "it's clear there can't be a one-sided ceasefire, ... where rockets are everyday coming from the Gaza Strip targeting Israeli civilians".[87]

On December 18, a day before the truce officially expired, Hamas declared the end of the cease-fire.[88] More than 20 rockets were launched from Gaza into southern Israel on that day.[89]

On December 19, Hamas refused to enter talks to renew the six-month truce and Hamas spokesman announced that it would not extend the cease-fire.[90][91] Palestinian sources said that Hamas wanted to renew the truce, but only on improved terms – a complete opening of the border crossings with Israel, the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, a complete ban on Israeli military activity in Gaza and an extension of the truce to the West Bank as well. Israel was not ready to accept these terms.[91] This was confirmed by Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's internal security agency, at an Israeli cabinet meeting on December 21. Diskin said he thought Hamas was "interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its terms...it wants us to lift the siege of Gaza, stop attacks, and extend the truce to include the West Bank".[78] Three Qassam rockets fired from the northern Gaza Strip landed in Israel.[92]

On December 22, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that his country will not accept the ongoing rocket fire from the Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who supported the truce until recently, suggested to take active military actions against the Hamas government in Gaza.[93]

On December 23, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said that Hamas was willing to renew the cease-fire under the original terms, demanding an Israeli commitment to refrain from any military operation in the Strip and to keep the border crossings open. Speaking with Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram, al-Zahar said that the movement would reassess the situation in Gaza once the 24 hours during which Hamas vowed to halt rocket fire had ended.[94] Despite the temporary ceasefire declared by the armed Palestinian factions, eight Qassam rockets and eight mortar shells hit Israeli Negev on that day.[95][96] Meanwhile, the Israeli military killed three Palestinian militants caught placing explosives on the border.

On December 24, an Israeli airstrike hit a group of militants in Gaza Strip. An Israeli military spokesman said that the militants had fired mortars at Israel. Palestinian medics said that one Hamas militant was killed in the strike and two other Palestinians were wounded, including a cameraman from Hamas's television station.[97] On that day, Hamas military wing issued a statement saying that it began an operation code-named "Operation Oil Stain". 87 Palestinian mortar shells, Katyusha and Qassam rockets hit the Negev.[98][99] Al-Qassa Brigades said they are going to expand the "Oil Stain" to put thousands of Israelis "under fire". Hamas said they are ready for the war: "far greater than surrendering to Israeli threats and that they became much more prepared to counter Israeli aggression and to defend themselves than in the past."[100]

On December 25, after Israel had "wrapped up preparations for a broad offensive," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert delivered a final warning in an interview with the Arabic language satellite channel al-Arabiya. He said "I am telling them now, it may be the last minute, I'm telling them stop it. We are stronger."[101] Another 6 Qassams landed in southern Israel.[102]

Campaign

Israeli offensive

Israel began planning for a military operation as early as six months before the conflict by collecting intelligence on potential targets. The IDF also engaged in a disinformation campaign to give Hamas a false sense of security and to take them by surprise. Defense minister Ehud Barak stated that the offensive was the result of Israel’s "patience running out" over the rocket attacks.[103][104] According to Israeli officials, its subsequent December 27 offensive took Hamas by surprise, thereby increasing militant casualties.[105]

Air strikes

Israeli F-16I of the 107th Squadron preparing for take-off

At 11:30am on December 27, 2008, Israel launched the campaign titled Operation Cast Lead. It began with an opening wave of airstrikes in which F-16 fighter jets and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters[106] simultaneously struck 100 preplanned targets within a span of 220 seconds. There was a 95% success rate with zero misses in the opening attack according to the Israel Air Force.[107] Thirty minutes later, a second wave of 60 jets and helicopters struck at an additional 60 targets.

Hamas training camp

The air strikes hit Hamas headquarters, government offices and 24 police stations.[43] An Israeli Unmanned aerial vehicle airstrike on the Police headquarters of Gaza City killed 40 people, including several dozen police cadets at their graduation ceremony.[108] Approximately 140 members of Hamas were killed, including Tawfik Jaber, head of Hamas' police force.[109][110] Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters that Israel would strike all targets associated with what she called the "illegitimate, terrorist government of Hamas".[107]

At least 230 Palestinians were killed and more than 700 injured on the first day of air strikes. Civilians, including children, were among the casualties.[110] Human rights groups critically note that the attacks began around the time children were leaving school.[111] The Israeli attack was the deadliest one-day death toll in 60 years of conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, a day that was called the Massacre of Black Saturday by Palestinians in Gaza.[112][113][114][115] Hamas responded with a fresh barrage of rockets, which killed an Israeli civilian in the city of Netivot, and injured several others. On December 29, an Israeli soldier was killed and several wounded when Palestinian mortar fire hit a military base in Nahal Oz. Several Israeli civilians were wounded, and one was killed in a rocket attack on the city of Ashkelon. On 28 December, the city of Ashdod was hit by rocket fire. On 30 December, an Israeli woman was killed by a Palestinian rocket attack on Ashdod.[116] The city of Beersheba was also hit, the farthest Palestinian rockets had ever reached. Beersheba was hit a second time on December 31, but no casualties were reported.

In the weeks following the initial air raids F-16Is and AH-64 Apaches continued to target Hamas facilities while also inflicting severe damage to Palestinian infrastructure.[117] Israel used the 2000-pound Mark 84 Joint Direct Attack Munition to attack buildings and tunnels along the Gaza-Sinai border. The 500-pound variant was used against underground bunkers.[107] Israel also used the new PB500A1 laser-guided hard-target penetration bomb, which was developed by Israel Military Industries, and is based on the less sophisticated Mark 83. There are unconfirmed reports of the IAF also using the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb for the first time.[1] Israeli aircraft also used synthetic aperture radar targeting pods and high-resolution imaging pods.[107] After being grounded six months prior, the Israeli fleet of AH-1F Cobra helicopter gunships were rushed back into service for the operation.[118] The Israeli Air Force also used unmanned aerial vehicles firing Israeli-manufactured Spike missiles.

According to the IAF, 80% of the bombs used by the IAF were precision weapons, and 99% of the air strikes hit their targets.[119] A study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies points out that when possible, IAF executed strikes using the smallest precision-guided weapons, and coordinated air strikes and the use of artillery weapons using GPS, in a systematic effort to limit collateral damage.[63] In a 2009 interview, Major General Ido Nehushtan said that the only use of non-precision-guided munitions from the Israeli Air Force was in open areas.[120] He went on to say: "We had to find ways to do things as precisely and proportionately as possible, while focusing on how to differentiate between terrorists and uninvolved civilians.[120]

The IDF also targeted homes of Hamas commanders, noting: "Destruction of hundreds of Hamas leaders' homes [is] one of the keys to the offensive's success. The homes serve as weapons warehouses and headquarters, and shelling them has seriously hindered Hamas capabilities."[121] Several high-ranking Hamas commanders were killed, including Nizar Rayan, Abu Zakaria al-Jamal, and Jamal Mamduch. The Hamas leaders often died along with their families in their homes. According to a Hamas spokesperson and Rayyan's son, the IDF warned Rayan, by contacting his cell phone, that an attack on his house was imminent.[122][123][124][125] Some Hamas leaders hid in the basements of the Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza City in the belief that they would be protected by human shields.[126] Hamas Interior Minister Said Seyam, Hamas Interior Ministry Security Director Saleh Abu Sharkh, and local Hamas militia leader Mahmoud Abu Watfah were killed on January 15 in an Israeli airstrike in Jabalia.

Destroyed building in Rafah, January 12, 2009[citation needed]

Among IDF's measures to reduce civilian casualties were the extensive use of leaflets and phone messages to warn Palestinians, including families in high-risk areas and families of Hamas personnel, to leave the area or to avoid potential targets.[63][127][128][129] Israel used F-4 Phantoms to deliver more than 2 million leaflets urging the population to evacuate.[120] In a practice codenamed roof knocking, the IDF issued warning calls before air strikes on civilian buildings. Typically, Israeli intelligence officers and Shin Bet security servicemen contacted residents of a building in which they suspected storage of military assets and told them that they had 10–15 minutes to flee the attack.[107][130][131] At several instances, the IDF has also used a sound bomb to warn civilians before striking homes.[127] In some cases, IDF commanders called off airstrikes, when residents of suspected houses have been able to gather on its roof.[127] IAF developed small bomb that is designed not to explode as it was aimed at empty areas of the roofs to frighten residents into leaving the building.[63][128] Israel's military used low-explosive missiles to warn civilians of imminent attack and to verify that buildings were evacuated before attacks.[120] Some of the attacks took place sooner than the warning suggested and many calls were not followed up with attacks.[6] The Israeli Government report notes that while the warning systems implemented by the IDF did not eliminate all harm to civilians, they were apparently effective, because in many incidents aerial video surveillance by IDF forces confirmed the departure of numerous residents from targeted areas as a direct result of the warnings before the attacks. While Israel is not a party to the Protocol I, Israel accepts its provisions as reflective of customary international law.[132]

By January 3, 2009, the Palestinian death toll stood at 400, with 25% estimated to be civilian casualties.[133] The air offensive continued throughout the ground invasion that followed, and as of January 15, Israeli forces had carried out 2,360 air strikes.[134] No safe haven or bomb shelters existed, making this one of the rare conflicts where civilians had no place to flee.[135] The IAF had so far carried out 555 aerial sorties and 125 helicopter missions, and dozens of UAV flight hours were logged.

Naval operations

The Israeli Navy attacked Hamas rocket launchers and outposts, command and control centers, a Hamas patrol boat, and the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, using the Typhoon Weapon System and Surface to surface missiles.[136][137] The Navy coordinated with other Israeli forces and used powerful shipboard sensors to acquire and shell targets on land.[107][138] Records of the attacks published by the navy indicate that for the first time vessels were equipped with Spike ER electro-optically guided anti-armor missiles. Videos of an attack showed precision hits from a Typhoon stabilizing gun despite a rolling sea. Versions of the Spike were also used by ground units[1] and possibly by helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles.[139] Shayetet 13 naval commandos were also deployed to attack targets on land,[20] and reportedly attacked an Iranian ship loaded with arms for Hamas which was docking in Sudan.[140] On 28 December, Naval vessels shelled the Port of Gaza.[116][not in citation given]

On 29 December the Free Gaza Movement relief boat Dignity carrying volunteer doctors with 3.5 tons of medical supplies, human rights activists (Among them Caoimhe Butterly), a CNN reporter and former US Representative Cynthia McKinney was involved in an altercation with Israeli patrol boats. The captain of the Free Gaza vessel said that their vessel had been struck intentionally by the Israeli navy and that there had been no warning before it had been rammed.[141] An Israeli spokesman disputed this, and said the collision was caused by the Dignity attempting to out maneuver the patrol boats after disobeying Israeli orders to turn back.[142]

On 4 January, the Israeli Navy extended its blockade of the Gaza Strip to 20 nautical miles.[143]

Throughout the war, the Israeli Navy employed Sa'ar 4.5 class missile boats and Super Dvora Mk III class patrol boats.

Ground invasion

IDF infantry and armor units amassed near the Gaza border on December 28, engaging in a blockade of the strip.

Explosion in Gaza, January 12, 2009[144]
Damage to the Zeitoun neighbourhood[citation needed]

On the evening of January 3, Israel began the ground operation with a massive artillery barrage all along the Gaza boundary, and ground forces were sent into Gaza for the first time since the start of the conflict.[145][146][147] According to the IDF, the intention of the ground invasion, termed the 'second stage' of Operation Cast Lead, was to secure areas within the Gaza Strip from which militants continued to launch rockets even after the Israeli air strikes.

The Paratroopers, Golani, and Givati brigades simultaneously entered the Gaza Strip from several unexpected directions to avoid reported booby traps while also outflanking opposing forces. The 401st armored brigade used Merkava Mark IV tanks to quickly block access from Rafah and Khan Yunis to Gaza City which cut supply lines to Hamas from the south.[1] The move put psychological pressure on Hamas while also forcing combatants to withdraw from the front line. Israeli forces took strategic hilltops to better control areas.[145]

Weapons found in a mosque

The Israeli advance was spearheaded by Combat Engineering Corps sappers opening routes and allowing the ground forces to advance while dismantling booby traps set up in great numbers by Hamas, often set to detonate upon entry to a building. Improvised explosive devices (IED) were a concern for Israeli soldiers.[24] One Israeli commander said that booby traps were found in a mosque and one-third of the houses. He said that some of the traps were designed to assist in taking IDF soldiers captive. All such attempts failed.[2][148] The IDF used D9 armored bulldozers to ensure that paths were cleared of IEDs. These bulldozers were also used to destroy tunnels. The unmanned, remote-controlled version of the D9 (called Black Thunder) were also used. Viper miniature robots were deployed by Israeli forces for the first time. These were used for various tasks including the disabling of IEDs. Along with blocking mobile phone communication, the IDF employed electronic jamming equipment to disable remote operated explosives.[118] Among others, The IDF used the new Bull Island system for the first time to identify booby traps in buildings. Bull Island uses a camera shaped like a tennis ball that can be thrown into a building to transfer 360 degree imagery to the troops outside of the structure.[14][16]

Hamas guerillas also emerged from tunnels to fire at soldiers, then pulled back to lure troops into built-up areas. In one case, a Palestinian dressed in an Israeli Army uniform opened fire on a group of soldiers, but was killed before he could cause any casualties. In several instances, would-be suicide bombers with explosive vests charged Israeli soldiers, but all were killed before they could reach their targets.[149]

Israeli artillery units also worked closely with battalion commanders.[138] For the first time, the Sheder Ham digitized data, mapping, and command-and-control system linked the Artillery Corps into the Army's overall C4I network.[118] Israel artillery fired approximately 7,000 rounds during the conflict. An Israel Defense Forces colonel stated that tactics and procedures had to suit the difficult urban environment. The number of rounds in the 22-day conflict was 5% of the total fired during the 34-day Lebanon war. Under the condition of anonymity, another officer said that close air support missions accounted for more than 90% of rounds fired. He also said that about half of those were MA25A1 incendiary based smoke rounds used to mask troop movements. Retired U.S. Army colonel Douglas Macgregor gave his opinion as: "They went in heavy, with lots of firepower. But at the same time, because of good intel and other improvements, they were able to be selective and cut down on collateral damage."[150]

The Oketz Unit, the IDF's dog-handling corps, performed 33 successful missions during the war, with specially-trained sniffer and attack dogs and their handlers leading advancing forces. In every mission that involved Oketz dogs, there were no casualties among soldiers. Three dogs were killed by enemy fire during the war.[151]

Israeli ground troops entered Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza in the early hours of January 4.[152] Israeli forces reportedly bisected Gaza and surrounded Gaza City,[153] but restricted their movements to areas that were not heavily urbanised.[citation needed] The IDF stated that it had targeted forty sites, including weapons depots and rocket launch sites. The Israeli military said that 50 Hamas fighters were killed and dozens more wounded.[154] At least 25 Palestinian rockets were fired into Southern Israel, wounding a woman in Sderot.[116] One Israeli soldier was killed and 19 other soldiers were wounded in Jabalia when a mortar shell fired by Hamas fighters landed on their patrol.

As Israeli tanks and troops seized control of large parts of the Gaza Strip, tens of thousands of Gazans fled their homes amidst artillery and gunfire, and flooded into the inner parts of Gaza city.[155] On January 5, IDF forces began operating in the densely populated urban centers of Gaza. Gun battles broke out between the IDF and Hamas on the streets of Gaza as the IDF surrounded the city.[156][157] IDF combat units were sent in to capture Hamas fighters, and were met with grenades and mortar fire. Three Israeli soldiers were killed and another 20 soldiers wounded after an Israeli tank fired at their position, which had been identified as an enemy position.[citation needed] The Israeli military said that 80–100 Hamas fighters were killed and 100 captured during heavy ground fighting. Some 40 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel, injuring four civilians.[158] Israel continued to launch airstrikes and naval bombardments.

On 6 January, heavy fighting took place between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants on the outskirts of the northern district of Gaza City, while Israeli helicopter gunships pounded militant positions. Israeli mortars shelled near the Al Fakhura school. Reports on deaths and if militants were among the casualties have varied.[159][160][161] The attack was originally reported as being on the school.[162] A total of 125 Palestinians were killed on January 6. Palestinian gunmen ambushed an Israeli patrol in Northern Gaza City, killing one soldier and wounding four. The Israeli soldiers returned fire, hitting some of the gunmen.[163] An Israeli officer was also killed by a misdirected Israeli artillery shell.

Arms interdiction and the Sudan strike

In January and February 2009, there was a series of two air strikes in Sudan and one in the Red Sea, allegedly conducted by Israel against a convoy of 17 trucks which contained Iranian arms, possibly Fajr-3 artillery rockets, being smuggled to the Gaza Strip through Sudan. A total of 39 were reported killed, with Iranian Revolutionary Guard operatives possibly among the dead.[164][165]

Attack on Gaza City

On January 7, Israel carried out 40 airstrikes overnight. Dozens of other targets were attacked by aircraft and artillery during the day, and the Gaza-Egypt border was bombed after Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets onto Rafah, urging the residents to leave. A total of 20 Palestinians were killed. A total of 20 rockets were fired into Southern Israel.[116] Israel temporarily halted its attacks for three hours to provide a "humanitarian respite".[166] On January 8, an exchange of fire took place in Gaza city. Many Hamas fighters and an Israeli officer of the Golani Brigade were killed in the clash. In Northern Gaza, snipers opened fire on Israeli forces conducting an operation, killing an Israeli soldier. Another Israeli soldier was lightly wounded. The IDF soldiers identified the origin of the fire and returned fire, directly hitting the snipers. In another incident, several mortar shells were fired at Givati Brigade soldiers, who responded with mortar fire and were aided by IAF airstrikes.[167] In Central Gaza, a force of IDF soldiers entered a building near the Kissfum crossing. As the force entered, Hamas fighters fired an anti-tank rocket at them, killing one Israeli officer and wounding one soldier. Israeli aircraft also hit more than 40 Hamas targets in Gaza.[168] Israeli troops shot and killed Hamas commander Amir Mansi and wounded two other Hamas fighters as they operated a mortar.[169] The IAF attacked over 60 Hamas targets. A rocket fired from Gaza wounded seven IDF soldiers in Southern Israel. On January 10, the Israeli military said that another 40 sites were targeted, and that 15 Hamas fighters were killed.[170] On January 11, the IDF started the third stage of the operation with an attack on the suburbs of Gaza City. Israeli forces pushed into the south of the city and reached a key junction to its north. During their advance, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters ambushed Israeli troops at several locations, and heavy fighting ensued, in which 40 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters were killed.[109] Additionally, the IAF reported that Hamas operatives had tried to shoot down an IAF fixed wing aircraft with anti-aircraft missiles for the first time since operations in Gaza began. Heavy machine gun fire against helicopters had also been unsuccessful.[171] Two Hamas fighters were killed by an Israeli airstrike in the Southern Gaza Strip. A Palestinian woman was also killed by Israeli artillery fire.[172] Israeli forces continued to push deeper into heavily populated areas around Gaza City. Fierce clashes were reported in the Southern suburb of Sheikh Ajleen.[116] On January 12, nearly 30 rockets and mortars were fired at Southern Israel, damaging a house in Ashkelon.

Palestinians in a Gaza city neighbourhood on Day 18 of the War in Gaza[173]

On January 13, Israeli tanks continued their advance toward the headquarters of Hamas' preventive security building from the al-Karramah neighborhood in the northwest and the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood in the northeast. The Israeli Army also said that 25 mortars and rockets were fired into Southern Israel.[116][174] Before dawn, during the night, Israeli troops and tanks supported by artillery and helicopters advanced 300 metres into Tel al-Hawa, a neighborhood which has several high-rise buildings, while Israeli gunboats shelled Hamas targets along the coast.[175] As troops entered the narrow streets, heavy street fighting with militants ensued leaving three Israeli soldiers wounded and 30 Hamas militants dead or wounded, according to the IDF. By morning IDF soldiers were still advancing slowly towards the city center and several buildings were in flames in Tel al-Hawa, where most of the fighting took place. Five Israeli soldiers were wounded during clashes with militants, and an officer was severely wounded by an explosion inside a booby-trapped building.[176] The push into the neighorhood was Israel's deepest incursion into Gaza City. There was widespread desertion by members of the Kassam Brigades in the face of the IDF advance.[2]

On January 15, Israeli artillery started a bombardment of the city while fighting was still going on in the streets. Three high-rise buildings were shelled.[citation needed] The Israeli military claimed to have killed dozens of militants, since breaching the city limits four days earlier, while they suffered 20–25 soldiers wounded. Among buildings shelled were the al-Quds hospital, Gaza's second-largest, in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood. At least 14 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, severely damaging a house in Sderot.[116]

Almost all members of Hamas’s approximately 100-man strong "Iranian Unit" were killed during a battle in the Zeytoun neighborhood on January 15. Members of the military wing had previously travelled to Iran for training by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. According to Palestinian sources, Iran was preparing for an end to the fighting and promised money and resources to rebuild military capabilities and infrastructure destroyed during the fighting.[177]

The headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was also shelled on January 15. There were 3 people injured and tons of food and fuel intended for 750,000 Palestinian refugees were destroyed.[178] The Associated Press initially reported that an anonymous Israeli military official stated that Gaza militants had fired anti-tank weapons and machine guns from inside the compound. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said "it is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place, but the consequences are very sad and we apologize for it, I don't think it should have happened and I'm very sorry." After the UNRWA dismissed this as "nonsense", Israel ordered an army investigation into the incident.[179] Israeli officials afterwards "came forward to say that preliminary results showed that the militants ran for safety inside the U.N. compound after firing on Israeli forces from outside."[180]

On January 16, more than 50 Israeli airstrikes were carried out against militants, tunnels, and a mosque suspected of being used as a weapons store. Israeli forces continued their push into Gaza City, while Israeli Navy vessels shelled militant targets in support.[166] About 10 rockets were fired into Southern Israel.[116]

The Givati Brigade penetrated the deepest into Gaza City. The brigade's reconnaissance battalion swept into the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood and took over two 15-story buildings in search of Hamas operatives two days before the cease fire went into effect. About 40 Palestinian fighters were killed during the operation. The commander of the brigade, Ilan Malka, was critical of Hamas's use of civilian houses and said that he "took many steps to prevent our soldiers from getting hurt." Colonel Ilan Malka told reporters that the IDF had initially predicted each battalion would lose six or seven soldiers.[181]

The Israeli government considered a third phase of the operation with the intent of dealing a "knock out blow" to Hamas. Military and intelligence assessments indicating that shifting the goal to destroying Hamas would require additional weeks of deep ground incursions into urban areas and refugee camps. This was expected to result in heavy casualties on both sides and among civilians, reduce the strong domestic support for the war, and increase international criticism.[14]

Humanitarian ceasefires

Due to the number of civilian casualties and the deteriorating humanitarian situation, Israel faced significant international pressure for a ceasefire, the establishment of a humanitarian corridor, access to the population of Gaza and the lifting of the blockade.[182] On January 7, Israel opened a humanitarian corridor to allow the shipment of aid into Gaza. The Israeli army agreed to interrupt fighting for three hours and Hamas agreed not to launch rockets during the pause.[183][184][185] Israel repeated the ceasefire either daily or every other day. Aid officials and the UN praised the truce, but said it was not enough as fighting usually resumed immediately following the humanitarian ceasefires.[183][186][187][188] An Israeli Government report, published in July 2009, notes that during the period between 8 January and 17 January, Hamas fired a total of 44 rockets and mortars at Israel during humanitarian pauses.[189] An independent report commissioned jointly by the Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society notes that according to testimonies by local witnesses, there were several cases where IDF ground forces breached the daily ceasefire agreement.[190]

Palestinian paramilitary activity

A rocket fired from Gaza into Israel in December 2008[citation needed]

According to Abu Ahmed, the official media spokesman of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, Palestinian paramilitary factions in Gaza worked together, operationally and otherwise, to repel the Israeli attack on Gaza. Abu Ahmed told Asharq al-Awsat during the war that, "everybody helps everybody else with regards to food, weapons, and first aid; there is no difference between a member 'Al Quds Brigade' or 'Al Qassam Brigade [military wing of Hamas]' or 'Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade' or 'Abu Ali Mustafa Brigade [military wing of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine or PFLP]'. For everybody's goal is the same and their compass is pointing in the same direction, and that is to drive out the occupation and defeat them, and disrupt their plan to dissolve the Palestinian Cause."[191]

Political representatives for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, Saiqa, the Popular Struggle Front, the Revolutionary Communist Party, Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Fatah's 'Intifada' faction, and a number of other Palestinian factions in Syria formed a temporary alliance during the offensive as well. They issued a joint statement refusing, "any security arrangements that affect the resistance and its legitimate right to struggle against the occupation," and refusing proposals suggesting international forces be sent to Gaza. The coalition also affirmed that any peace initiatives must include an end to the blockade, and an opening of all of Gaza's crossings, including the Rafah crossing with Egypt.[7]

Preparation

Hamas used the months leading to the war to prepare for urban warfare which was to give them a chance to inflict casualties on the Israeli military.[192] Militants booby-trapped houses and buildings and built an extensive system of tunnels in preparation for combat.[193] A Hamas fighter reported that the group had prepared a tunnel network in Gaza city that would allow Hamas to engage the IDF in urban warfare.[194] IDF commanders said that many Hamas members have dug tunnels for themselves under their homes and hid weapon caches in them.[195] Some houses were booby-trapped with mannequins, explosives and adjacent tunnels: Israeli officers said that houses were set up this way so that "Israeli soldiers would shoot the mannequin, mistaking it for a man; an explosion would occur; and the soldiers would be driven or pulled into the hole, where they could be taken prisoner". A colonel estimated that one-third of all houses encountered were booby-trapped.[196] IDF Brigadier-General Eyal Eisenberg said that roadside bombs were planted in TV satellite dishes, adding that Hamas booby-trapping of homes and schools was "monstrous" and "inhumane".[197] Ron Ben-Yishai, an Israeli military correspondent embedded with invading ground forces, stated that entire blocks of houses were booby-trapped and wired in preparation for urban confrontation with the IDF. Israel said a map showing the deployment of explosives and Hamas forces in the al-Atatra neighborhood in northern Gaza was found. The map reportedly showed that Hamas placed many explosives and firing positions in residential areas, several mosques, and next to a gas station.[198] Israel deployed the elite Sayeret Yahalom combat engineering unit throughout the brigades with new equipment including miniature robots and improved wall-breaching munitions to counter the booby-traps.[1]

According to Jane's Defence Weekly, armed groups in Gaza counted domestically produced anti-armor RPGs like al-Battar and Banna 1 and Banna 2 in their arsenal.[199] Hamas and Islamic Jihad also manufactured a variety of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), some of which were anti-personnel bombs and others were planted on the sides of roads or underground to be activated against tanks and armored personnel carriers. According to The Jerusalem Post, some of the IEDs were manufactured from medicine bottles transferred to the Gaza Strip as humanitarian aid by Israel.[200] The same newspaper also reported that Hamas representatives said they were fighting with the aid of armored vehicles and weapons confiscated from the Palestinian National Authority, given by Israel, the United States and other countries.[201]

At least one Palestinian witness told an Italian reporter that on many roofs of the tall buildings that were hit by Israeli bombs, including UN building, there were rocket-launchers or Hamas look-outs.[202][203] On January 27, the Shin Bet released details given by Hamas captives, including the militants' use of mosques for weapon caches and military training. Militants admitted to the location of Hamas weapon storage sites, in tunnels, in the homes of activists, and in citrus groves and mosques, and told of theory instruction given in mosques as well.[204] Following the visit of the British Army veteran Colonel Tim Collins to the ruins of one of the mosques targeted by the IDF in Rafah, he said that in his view the evidencies of the secondary explosion, that could have indicated weapon's storage in the mosque, are present.[205]

Rocket attacks into Israel

Kindergarten classroom in Beersheba hit by Grad rocket from Gaza[206]

After the initial Israeli aerial assault, Hamas quickly dispersed both its personnel and weapons and equipment.[207] The strike range of Hamas rockets had increased from 16 km (9.9 mi) to 40 km (25 mi) since early 2008 with the use of improved Qassam and factory-made rockets.[208] These attacks resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure.[209] Rockets reached major Israeli cities Ashdod, Beersheba and Gedera for the first time, putting one-eighth of Israel's population in rocket range.[210] As of January 13, 2009, Palestinian militants had launched approximately 565 rockets and 200 mortars at Israel since the beginning of the conflict, according to Israeli security sources.[211] A source close to Hamas described the movement's use of stealth when firing: "They fired rockets in between the houses and covered the alleys with sheets so they could set the rockets up in five minutes without the planes seeing them. The moment they fired, they escaped, and they are very quick."[212] It is reported that 102 rockets and 35 mortars were fired by Fatah, Hamas's chief rival.[213]

Besides the rockets fired by the Qassam Brigades of Hamas, other factions claimed responsibility for rockets fired into Israel and attacks on Israeli soldiers, including Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (affiliated with Fatah), the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, the Quds Brigades and the Popular Resistance Councils.[7] A Fatah official stated that the rocket attacks by his faction contradicted the official position of Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah leader and President of the Palestinian National Authority. Abbas had called on all sides to cease hostilities unconditionally.

Militants fired over 750 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel during the conflict.[214] Bersheeba and Gedera were the furthest areas hit by rocket or mortars.[214] The rockets killed three civilians and one IDF soldier and wounded 182 people, with another 584 people suffering from shock and anxiety.[215] The rockets also caused property damage, including damage to three schools.[206][216][217] Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar stated during the operation "they [Israeli forces] shelled everyone in Gaza.... They shelled children and hospitals and mosques, ... and in doing so, they gave us legitimacy to strike them in the same way."[218] Human Rights Watch noted in the open letter to Ismail Haniyeh that despite his Foreign Ministry stance as part of response to the Goldstone Report, Palestinian armed groups remain responsible for firing rockets indiscriminately or deliberately at Israeli civilian objects. HRW also noted that Palestinian militants put Palestinian civilians at risk of Israeli counter-attacks by launching rockets from populated areas.[219]

After the war, the Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades revealed new rockets it used during Israel's military operation and published pictures of weapons(Tandem and RPG-29 anti-armor rockets) that it could secretly smuggle to Gaza.[220]

Besides being hit with rockets fired from Gaza, Israel experienced other attacks along the borders with Lebanon and Syria.[221]

Unilateral ceasefires

On January 17, Israeli officials announced a unilateral ceasefire. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared the ceasefire effective that night, at 00:00 GMT on January 18.[222] The ceasefire consisted of two phases: "First a ceasefire is declared. If Hamas stops firing rockets then Israel pulls its forces out of the Gaza Strip. If rocket fire resumes then the IDF goes back in, this time with the international backing gained by having tried a truce." Olmert declared that the military objectives had been met.[223][224] Hamas initially "vowed to fight on",[225] and responded that any continued Israeli presence in Gaza would be regarded as an act of war. Farzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said before the ceasefire began, "The occupier must halt his fire immediately and withdraw from our land and lift his blockade and open all crossings and we will not accept any one Zionist soldier on our land, regardless of the price that it costs."[226] Palestinian militants resumed rocket fire into southern Israel the following Sunday morning, four of the six fired landed in or near Sderot.[227][228] The Israeli military returned fire and launched an air strike against the rocket launching site in northern Gaza.[229]

On January 18, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other paramilitias said they would stop launching rockets into Israel for one week and demanded "the withdrawal of the enemy forces from the Gaza Strip within a week, along with the opening of all the crossings for the entry of humanitarian aid, food and other necessities for our people in the Gaza Strip."[230][231][232] Three days later, the last Israeli troops left Gaza.[233]

Since the unilateral ceasefires were declared on January 17, militants have fired rockets and mortar shells from Gaza,[234][235] and the IDF has launched airstrikes against Gaza.[236]

Continued negotiations

Egyptian mediators held discussions with Israel and Hamas about extending the cease-fire by a year or more. Hamas and Fatah met to allow both to play a role in rebuilding.[237] Israel began pressuring Egypt to do more to stop weapons smuggling into Gaza, the halting of which is one of Israel's central demands in extending a cease-fire. On 27 January 2009, Foreign Minister of Egypt Ahmed Aboul Gheit discouraged Britain, France and Germany from sending warships to patrol the waters off Gaza, which the three European nations felt could help halt seaborne smuggling. Gheit said such efforts would harm Europe's relations with the Arab world. Egypt also opposed proposals for European troops to be stationed on the border between Gaza and Egypt to monitor smuggling tunnels.[238]

Israel, along with many Western and some Arab countries, wanted international aid groups to control aid from donations around the world, so that Hamas would not receive credit for the rebuilding. To speed up reconstruction, Hamas agreed that it would not insist on collecting reconstruction money itself and would allow donated money to flow through different avenues based on the various alliances, although Hamas ultimately expected to administer the aid. But advisors to senior Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said Israel's willingness to open the border for humanitarian aid only was unacceptable, as Hamas would need much more to rebuild its economy and provide relief for citizens. Haniyeh aides said the cease-fire is contingent on a full border opening.[237]

Shortly after becoming President of the United States, Barack Obama directed newly appointed special envoy to the Middle East George J. Mitchell to visit Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia for peace talks. Mitchell began his meetings in Cairo on 27 January 2009 and Obama said his visit was part of the President's campaign promise to listen to both sides of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and work toward a Middle East peace deal. Mitchell did not plan to talk to Hamas, but instead focus on talks with the more moderate Palestinian Authority.[238] A spokesman for Haniyeh said he respected Mitchell, but was disappointed with the envoy's decision not to hold discussions with Hamas.[237]

Ehud Olmert stated that Israel would not agree to a long term truce or lift the blockade on Gaza without the freeing of Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier held captive in Gaza since June 2006.[239][240] Hamas demanded that Israel release 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit and such negotiations be kept separate from ceasefire negotiations.[241]

Post-War Military Assessment

The war was an Israeli tactical victory and a significant tactical defeat for Hamas.[1][2][3][242][243] In November 2010, the Hamas Interior Minister acknowledged that around 700 militants part of Hamas and affiliated factions were killed in the war.[244]

Several senior Hamas military commanders and politburo members were killed, as well as approximately 50 explosives experts,[2] and experienced "widespread desertion" in the face of the Israeli advance.[2] Hamas also lost a very large amount of weaponry and equipment; key storage facilities were discovered under mosques and public buildings.[2] A former Shin Bet deputy director who co-authored a report on the war noted, "Hamas had planned to stand and fight, but the Iz al-Qassam Brigades proved unequal to the task...and consequently they failed to match the public image Hamas has tried so hard to present of stalwart, proficient Islamic warriors."[243]

In addition, the Israeli operation greatly curtailed years of Hamas rocket fire, returning a sense of normalcy to Southern Israel.[245] In the year before the war, Hamas had fired over 3,300 rockets at Israel’s Gaza periphery towns. That number dropped to less than 300 in the ten months following the conflict.[246]

Defense analyst David Eshel stated "that the success of Operation Cast Lead in the densely populated Gaza Strip shows that an industrial military that coordinates operations among land, air and sea units, makes effective use of advanced technology, and shares intelligence and leads from the front can decisively defeat an asymmetrical enemy." He further noted that "Israel used a variety of tactics to outflank and defeat Hamas in its own territory," including, "long-term planning, meticulous intelligence-gathering, deception and disinformation."[1] As a result of its poor performance, Hamas relieved at least two brigade commanders on Iranian advice, and reportedly stripped 100 fighters of their membership. The organization decided to initiate a thorough investigation of the conduct of its fighters during the operation.[2][247] Hamas' leadership modified its tactical doctrine. The Qassam Brigades intensified military training at its various training camps and military academy in the Nuseirat refugee camp. The new training was thought to be more offensive, with a focus on hitting the rear of an IDF force. Hezbollah operatives were suspected of involvement in the program. In contrast to the pre-war period, when Hamas openly displayed its capabilities, the nature of the program was kept classified.[2]

The Israeli army said it destroyed about 80% of the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt that were being used to bring in weapons and rocket components. Residents in Rafah said they cleared away debris and discovered that many of the tunnels were intact, though they acknowledged the destruction of many.[248]

Aftermath

Israel was victorious militarily, but its reputation was harmed.[249] Hamas rejected the Quartet demands to recognize Israel, accept peace deals and abandon violence in exchange for an international recognition as Palestinian people representative. The international community continued to isolate Hamas (except for Iran and Syria).[250] In the months following the war, Hamas suspended its use of rockets and shifted focus to winning support at home and abroad through cultural initiatives and public relations, with the aim to build a "cultural resistance." Hamas officials stated that "The current situation required a stoppage of rockets. After the war, the fighters needed a break and the people needed a break".[251] Hamas also said that "rockets fired from Gaza were meant to hit military targets, but because they are unguided, they hit civilians by mistake."[252] Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center notes that Hamas' post-war policy of restraint has come under severe criticism from local radical Islamic organizations, which accused Hamas of abandoning the principle of jihad to strengthen its control over the Gaza Strip.[253] Israeli officials say that Hamas military commanders have recognized that their decision to take off their fatigues and don civilian clothing a few days into the fighting was a mistake that might had damaged morale and was perceived by Gazans as indicative that they had lost control of the territory; Hamas militants are now under orders to stay in uniform even if this makes them more easily targeted in Israeli air strikes.[254]

By the end of 2009, in an attempt to cut smuggling tunnels, Egypt had begun to build an underground steel wall along its border with the Gaza Strip.[255] The other steps include restrictions on movement through the Rafah crossing and the presence in Egypt of persons considered close to Hamas, and the expulsion of relatives of Hamas figures studying in Egypt.[256] Egypt imposes naval blockade on its Gaza sea border.[257] There were reports Egypt had severed all diplomatic ties with Hamas, which Hamas denied.[258]

Propaganda and psychological warfare

Hamas

Before and during the conflict, Hamas' senior representatives released number of statements designed to avert Israeli decision-makers from launching any military operation in Gaza and to cause demoralization among Israelis. Before the end of the pre-conflict ceasefire, Hamas boasted that it had countless surprises awaiting Israeli troops, should they advance.[259] Hamas representatives threatened on several occasions to abduct Israeli soldiers, and during the ground invasion tried to spread rumors that it actually had captured or killed more Israeli soldiers.[260]

On a video broadcast on Al-Aqsa TV on January 10, showing the names of Israeli towns hit by rockets, it was implied Tel-Aviv is the next target and that 'all options are open'.[261] Also, Hamas sent messages in Hebrew to Israeli citizens' mobile phones warning: "Rockets on all cities, shelters will not protect you."[262][263]

Hamas instrumentalized the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as a form of psychological weapon, declaring that he had been wounded by Israeli fire, later announcing that his condition was no longer of interest to them.[259]

According to IDF spokesman, Hamas' ruses in the battlefield included booby traps throughout Gaza's neighborhoods, such as mannequins placed at apartment entrances and rigged to explode when the soldiers approach.[260]

Arab television stations reported Hamas-provided statistics for Israeli casualties on the assumption that Israel is distorting its own figures of soldiers killed and wounded.[264]

A study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that Hamas propaganda both rejected Hamas responsibility for the fighting and used it to attack the Palestinian Authority.[63]

Dr. Tal Pavel from Israeli think-tank International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) said that Hamas uses its Web sites to make comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, portraying Israel as a destructive, oppressive regime afraid of Hamas rockets raining on Tel Aviv.[264]

Israel

The day before the beginning of the offensive on December 27 the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) pulled troops back from the border and used its radio channels to broadcast talk of a "lull" to achieve a disinformation coup ("con") to lure Hamas fighters out of hiding.[265]

A broadcaster in Islamic Jihad's Voice of Jerusalem radio station in Gaza City reported that IDF have been breaking into his station signal "least once an hour" during conflict intensification to broadcast messages to Gaza population that their problems were due to Hamas. The army also dropped leaflets with similar messages and contact info to report about the whereabouts of militant leaders and weapons caches.[265] The leaflets also noted that "the Israeli army will respond if the rocket fire continues."[263] In war zones, leaflets warned local residents that they had to flee. It also warned residents that their homes would be targeted if they were located in an area of possible target.[266] Dr. Yaniv Levitan of the University of Haifa said that the aim of the flyers was not to demoralize the civil population, but to implant recognition in hearts and minds that Hamas has failed, that there is an option of choosing another path.[264]

IDF spokespersons often reported that scores of demoralized Hamas fighters had been observed deserting. According to Ephraim Kam, deputy head of the Institute of National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, the claim could not be confirmed but it strengthened the Israeli population's will to continue and undermined the confidence in Hamas in Gaza.[259]

There was a mistrust of phone calls warning messages to people that they have "just minutes to evacuate before they bomb the house." According to a human rights lawyer at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), despite the hundreds of phone calls to families warning their house is about to be blown up, only 37 were destroyed, presumably as of the January 3 date.[263]

Controversies regarding tactics

Both Israel and Hamas were accused of using controversial military tactics during the 2008–2009 Gaza War.

Controversial tactics allegedly used by Hamas

Use of civilian clothes by Hamas combatants

Several reports stated that Hamas fighters shed their uniforms shortly after the start of the ground incursion.[267][268][269][270][271] Reports said that unwilling to come into the open space, Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes; even the police have been reportedly ordered to take off their uniforms.[128] An eyewitness to the only incident investigated by the UN mission that clearly involved Palestinian combatants said that three Palestinian fighters Israeli troops had surrounded in his neighbour's house were, "wearing military camouflage and headbands of the al-Qassam Brigades."[272] The UN Mission did note that reports by other human rights groups indicate that not all members of Palestinians armed groups were always dressed in military uniform.[272] In another instance Hamada Al-Samouni, a survivor of the Zeitoun incident, said he had seen the bodies of eight Hamas fighters dressed in civilian clothing lying in the streets around Zeitoun.[273]

Use of densely populated areas by Hamas combatants

The NY Times quotes a study published by the Israel-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, charging Hamas with methodically building its military infrastructure in the heart of population centers. According to the study, Hamas not only hides among the population, but has made a main component of its combat strategy "channeling" the army into the densely populated areas to fight.[274]

On October 16, 2009 the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan Col. Richard Kemp delivered a statement at UN Human Rights Council 12th Special Session. He testified:

During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare. Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.[275][276]

Use of medical facilities and uniforms by Hamas combatants

Several testimonies from local Gazan population and from IDF soldiers stated that Hamas operatives donned medic uniforms and commandeered ambulances for fighters transportation.[202][277][278][279] After the Israeli airstrike on the central prison which resulted in prisoners being released into the streets, several of the 115 prisoners accused of collaboration with Israel who had not yet been tried, were executed by Hamas militants in civilian clothes in the Shifa hospital compound.[280] An IDF probe released on April 22, 2009, stated that an incident involving a UN vehicle attacked by the IDF occurred after the IDF identified a Palestinian anti-tank squad disembarking from the vehicle.[277] The Palestinian Authority's Health Ministry accused the Hamas-run government's security services of using several hospitals and clinics in Gaza as interrogation and detention centers, where medical staffers have been expelled, during and after the war.[281] The IDF probe made similar charges and stated that Hamas operated a command and control center inside Shifa Hospital in the Gaza City throughout the War.[282]

Amnesty International rejected the charges by Israel that Hamas had systematically used medical facilities, vehicles and uniforms as a cover, stating that no evidence had been provided proving such actions.[283] Further, Magen David Adom's submission to UN Mission investigating the war stated that, "there was no use of PRCS ambulances for the transport of weapons or ammunition ... [and] there was no misuse of the emblem by PRCS."[284]

Controversial tactics allegedly used by Israel

Disproportionate force

Israel was widely criticised by human rights groups for using heavy firepower and causing hundreds of civilian casualties.[285] A group of soldiers who took part in the conflict echoed the criticism through both the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence and a special report by Israeli filmmaker Nurit Kedar that was shown on Britain's Channel 4 in January 2011.[286][287] The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict concluded that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population.[288] Israel has said that operational orders emphasised proportionality and humanity while the importance of minimising harm to civilians was made clear to soldiers.[286]

White phosphorus

Israel used white phosphorus munitions during the conflict[289]

There were numerous reports of white phosphorus being used by the IDF during the conflict which was initially denied by Israel. On January 12 it was reported that more than 50 phosphorus burns victims were in Nasser Hospital. On January 16 the UNRWA headquarters was hit with phosphorus munitions.[290] As a result of the hit, the compound was set ablaze.[291] On completion of the three-day Israeli withdrawal (January 21) an Israeli military spokeswoman said that shells containing phosphorus had been used in Gaza but said that they were used legally as a method to provide a smokescreen.[290] The IDF reiterated their position on January 13 saying that it used weapons "in compliance with international law, while strictly observing that they be used according to the type of combat and its characteristics."[292] On March 25, 2009, USA Based Human Rights Organization Human Rights Watch published a 71 page report titled Rain of Fire, Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza and said that Israel's usage of the weapon was illegal.[293] Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories said that such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza's densely populated residential neighbourhoods is inherently indiscriminate. "Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime," she said.[294] The Goldstone report accepted that white phosphorus is not illegal under international law but did find that the Israelis were "systematically reckless in determining its use in built-up areas". It also called for serious consideration to be given to the banning of its use as an obscurant.[295]

Dense inert metal explosives

Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) is a type of bomb developed to minimize collateral damage.[296] DIME is a relatively new weapons technology being developed mainly in the United States. Several studies, including the one of Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, indicate that the tungsten residuals of the DIME weapon in the muscles of the laboratory animals result in severe malignant carcinogenesis. It is yet to be seen if this will have the same effect in humans.[297] Because of possible high inclination to develop cancerous tumors in humans, some argue that the use of tungsten in weapons may be more dangerous than depleted uranium.[298]

Norwegian doctors who were one of the few Europeans in Gaza City during the conflict and a military expert working for Human Rights Watch said judging by the nature of the wounds and descriptions given by Gazans made it seem likely that Israel used DIME weapons.[296]

Colonel Lane, military expert testifying in front of the fact-finding mission in July 2009, told the committee that there is no actual proof that DIME rounds were used, but he is of view that some weapons systems used in the conflict had some sort of DIME component, citing evidence of tungsten, iron, and sulfur in samples analyzed in a forensic lab. Colonel Lane explained that the idea behind a Focused Lethality Munition (FLM), which is an example of a DIME munition, is that the fragments produced stay within a safety radius of about 6 meters, so anybody outside that radius is reasonably safe, while those within the area of dispersal will experience catastrophic injuries, possibly leading to multiple amputations. He commented on the documentations where medics described unusual amputations saying that the use of a metal like tungsten and cobalt at short distances would likely had that effect.[299]

The Goldstone Report wrote that the Mission was not able to state with certainty that DIME munitions were used by the Israeli armed forces, though it received reports from Palestinian and foreign doctors who had operated in Gaza during the military operations of a high percentage of patients with injuries compatible with their impact. The report added that as it currently stands, DIME weapons and weapons armed with heavy metal are not prohibited under international law, but do raise specific health concerns.[295]

Accusations of misconduct by IDF soldiers

Testimonies from Israeli soldiers allegedly admitting indiscriminate killings of civilians, as well as vandalizing homes, were reported in March 2009.[300][301][302] Soon after the publication of the testimonies, reports implying that the testimonies were based on hearsay and not on the firsthand experience started to circulate.[302] At the same time, another kind of evidence was collected from several soldiers who took part in the fighting, that rebutted claims of immoral conduct on the military's part during Gaza War.[303] Following investigations, the IDF issued an official report, concluding that alleged cases of deliberate shooting at civilians didn't take place.[304] Nine Israeli rights groups reacting to the closure of the investigation issued a joint statement calling for an "independent nonpartisan investigative body to be established to look into all Israeli army activity" in Gaza.[304]

In July 2009, the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence published testimony from 26 soldiers (two junior officers and the rest is enlisted personnel) who took part in the Gaza assault and which claimed that the IDF used Gazans as human shields, improperly fired incendiary white phosphorus shells over civilian areas and used overwhelming firepower that caused needless deaths and destruction.[305][306] The report did not represent a cross-section of the army, but rather they were troops who had approached the group or were reached through acquaintances of NGO members.[305] Breaking the Silence state that their methodology includes the verification of all information by cross-referencing the testimonies it collects and that published material has been confirmed by a number of testimonies, from several different points of view. A representative stated "the personal details of the soldiers quoted in the collection, and the exact location of the incidents described in the testimonies, would readily be made available to any official and independent investigation of the events, as long as the identity of the testifiers did not become public".[307] A soldier who described using Gazans as human shields told in an interview to Haaretz that he had not seen Palestinians being used as human shields but had been told by his commanders that this occurred.[308] An Israeli military spokesperson dismissed the testimonies as anonymous hearsay.[309] In response to the report, a dozen English-speaking reservists who served in Gaza delivered signed, on-camera counter-testimonies via the SoldiersSpeakOut group, about Hamas "use of Gazans as human shields and the measures the IDF took to protect Arab civilians".[310][311] The special report by Israeli filmmaker Nurit Kedar shown on Channel 4 detailed similar allegations by former IDF soldiers that included vandalism and misconduct by Israeli troops.[286]

Prosecutions

The first Israeli soldier to be prosecuted for actions committed during the war was a Givati Brigade soldier who stole a Visa credit card from a Palestinian home and used it to withdraw NIS 1,600 ($405). He was arrested and tried before the Southern Command Military Court on charges of looting, credit card fraud, and indecent conduct, and was found guilty and sentenced to seven and a half months in military prison.[312]

In a report submitted to UN in January 2010, the IDF acknowledged that two senior officers were subject to disciplinary proceedings for authorizing an artillery attack which hit a UN compound in Tel al-Hawa.[313][314] During the attack on 15 January 2009, the compound was set ablaze by white phosphorus shells.[295] The officers involved were identified as Gaza Division Commander Brig Gen Eyal Eisenberg and Givati Brigade Commander Col Ilan Malka.[291] IDF internal investigation concluded that the firing of the shells violated the IDF orders limiting the use of artillery fire near populated areas and endangered human life.[314] IDF sources added later that the shells had been fired to create cover to assist in the extrication of IDF troops, some of whom were wounded, from an area where Hamas held a superior position.[313] An Israeli Government spokesman stated that in this particular case they had found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and so had not referred the case to criminal investigation.[291] However, Colonel Malka was also questioned by Israeli military police over the Zeitoun incident, and a criminal investigation was opened.[315]

In June 2010, Israeli Advocate-General Avichai Mandelblit summoned a recently discharged soldier for a special hearing. The soldier was suspected of opening fire on Palestinian civilians when a group of 30 Palestinians that included women and children waving a white flag, approached an IDF position. The incident, which occurred on January 4, 2009 resulted in the death of a non-combatant. Advocate-General Mandelblit decided to indict the IDF soldier, a member of the Givati Brigade, on a charge of manslaughter, despite contradictory testimony and the fact that IDF investigators could not confirm that the soldier was responsible for the death.[316]

In July 2010, the officer who authorized the airstrike on the Ibrahim al-Maqadna Mosque was subjected to disciplinary action, as shrapnel caused "uninentional injuries" to civilians inside. The Israeli military said that the officer "failed to exercise appropriate judgement", and that he would not be allowed to serve in similar positions of command in the future. Another Israeli officer was also reprimanded for allowing a Palestinian man to enter a building where Hamas militants were sheltering to persuade them to leave.[317]

In November 2010, two Givati Brigade Staff Sergeants were convicted by the Southern Command Military Court of using a Palestinian boy as a human shield. The soldiers had been accused of forcing nine year-old Majed R. at gunpoint to open bags suspected of containing bombs in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood. Both soldiers were demoted one rank and given three-month suspended sentences.[315]

On April 1, 2011, Judge Richard Goldstone, the lead author of the UN report on the conflict, published a piece in the Washington Post titled 'Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes'. Goldstone noted that the subsequent investigations conducted by Israel "indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy" while "the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying." He further expressed regret "that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.".[318] The other principal authors of the UN report, Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers, have rejected Goldstone's reassessment arguing that there is "no justification for any demand or expectation for reconsideration of the report as nothing of substance has appeared that would in anyway change the context, findings or conclusions of that report with respect to any of the parties to the Gaza conflict".[52][53]

Effects

Along with a high casualty rate, there were multiple economic, industrial and medical effects of the Gaza War. The United Nations Development Programme warned that there will be long-term consequences of the attacks on Gaza because the livelihoods and assets of tens of thousands of Gaza civilians have been affected.[319]

Early estimates by independent contractors in Gaza say that Gaza lost nearly $2 billion in assets, including 4,000 homes destroyed.[320] The IDF destroyed 600–700 factories, small industries, workshops and business enterprises throughout the Gaza Strip,[321] 24 mosques, 31 security compounds, and 10 water or sewage lines.[322] The World Health Organization said that 34 health facilities (8 hospitals and 26 primary health care clinics) were damaged over the course of the offensive and the UNOCHA said that over 50 United Nations facilities sustained damage, of which 28 reported damage in the first three days of the operation.[323]

A satellite-based damage assessment of the Gaza Strip by the United Nations revealed 2,692 destroyed and severely damaged buildings, 220 impact craters on roads and bridges with an estimated length of 167 km (104 mi) of paved and unpaved roads damaged, 714 impact craters on open ground or cultivated land with an estimated land area of 2,100 hectares (21 km²), 187 greenhouses completely destroyed or severely damaged with an estimated area of 28 hectares (0.28 km²), and 2,232 hectares (22.32 km²) of demolished zones targeted by IDF bulldozers, tanks and phosphorus shelling.[324]

Casualties

The IDF tallied 709 Hamas and affiliated militant deaths, which is supported by statements from Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad.[244][325] In addition, 450–720 (or 740—PMoH[326]) civilians were killed in the conflict. Ten Israeli soldiers were killed, along with three civilians.[327]

Difficulties in ascertaining an accurate Palestinian casualty count have been attributed to a number of factors. It was reported that Hamas fighters had been ordered not to wear military uniforms during the fighting.[328][329] Israeli-Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in The Jerusalem Post that this practice led to the over-counting of civilian casualties and under-counting Hamas military casualties, as Palestinian casualties arrived at hospitals without weapons or any other signs revealing they were fighters.[330] Further difficulties were met with due to differing definitions of who should be counted as a combatant, and the lack of access to the conflict zone by independent media or human rights workers due to Israel's strict blockade of the borders before, during, and after the conflict.[331]

Human Rights Watch stated that police are presumptively civilians but are considered valid targets if formally incorporated into the armed forces of a party to a conflict or directly participate in the hostilities.[332] The IDF made clear that it regards police under the control of Hamas in Gaza to be inherently equivalent to armed fighters, including them in the militant's count.[333]

Health problems in Gaza

Following the war, Gaza has witnessed increasing epidemics of health problems. At the Al Shifa hospital a constant increase in the percentage of children born with birth defects of about 60% was witnessed when the period of July to September 2008 was compared to the same period in 2009.[334][335] Dr. Mohammed Abu Shaban, director of the Blood Tumors Department in Al-Rantisy Hospital in Gaza has witnessed an increase in the number of cases of blood cancer. In March 2010 the department had seen 55 cases so far for that year, compared to the 20 to 25 cases normally seen in an entire year.[336] During the war, Norwegian medics said that they had found traces of depleted uranium, a radioactive and genotoxic material used in some types of munition, in some Gaza residents who were wounded.[337][338] Lawyers who brought back soil samples from Gaza said that areas where these samples were taken contained up to 75 tons of depleted uranium.[339] The Israeli government has denied it has used Depleted Uranium, and the United Nations is investigating.[340] Israel had also initially denied the use of white phosphorus during the war, but later acknowledged that indeed it had used white phosphorus to cover troop movements.[341]

The policy of the Government of Israel is to condition the access of Palestinians who live in the Palestinian territories to healthcare in Israel upon financial coverage from the Palestinian Authority. In January 2009, following the war, the Palestinian Authority cancelled financial coverage for all medical care for Palestinians in Israeli hospitals, including coverage for chronically ill Palestinian patients, and those in need of complex care that is not available in other tertiary medical centers in the region. This decision was protested by human rights organizations.[342]

Gaza humanitarian crisis

A satellite-based damage assessment of the Gaza Strip by the United Nations (UNOSAT). February 2009

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the Gaza strip humanitarian crisis is significant and should not be understated. It also states that the situation is a "human dignity crisis" in the Gaza strip, entailing "a massive destruction of livelihoods and a significant deterioration of infrastructure and basic services". Fear and panic are widespread; 80% of the population could not support themselves and were dependent on humanitarian assistance.[6] The International Red Cross said the situation was "intolerable" and a "full blown humanitarian crisis."[343] The importation of necessary food and supplies continues to be blocked even after the respective ceasefires.[344] According to the World Food Programme, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and Palestinian officials, between 35% and 60% of the agriculture industry was wrecked. With extensive damage occurring to water sources, greenhouses, and farmland. It is estimated that 60% of the agricultural land in the north of the Strip may no longer be arable.[345][346] More than 50,800 Gazans were left homeless.[320] Extensive destruction was caused to commercial enterprises and to public infrastructure. According to Palestinian industrialists, 219 factories were destroyed or severely damaged during the Israeli military operation. They accounted as part of the 3% of industrial capacity that was operating after the Israeli blockade was imposed, which was mostly destroyed during the operation.[347]

On January 3, before the IDF ground operation, Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni said that Israel had taken care to protect the civilian population of Gaza, and that it had kept the humanitarian situation "completely as it should be", maintaining Israel's earlier stance.[348] The Secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, criticized Livni's statement and further criticized the Security Council for not responding faster to the crisis.[349] On subsequent reports, the UN stated that "only an immediate cease-fire will be able to address the large-scale humanitarian and protection crisis that faces the people of Gaza".[350]

The Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations has stated that after the end of the Israeli operation, at best, only 120 truckloads get into Gaza, instead of the normal daily requirement, including commercial traffic, of 500 trucks at minimum. It is also reported in his statement and other UN humanitarian office reports that essential items such as construction materials, water pipes, electrical wires, and transformers continue to be effectively banned, or only allowed infrequently.[347][351][352][353] He also stated that commercial goods must be allowed in and out, since Gaza Palestinians "do not want or deserve to be dependent on humanitarian aid" and that the "limited trickle" of items into Gaza continue the effective collective punishment of the civilian population and force the counter-productive reliance on tunnels for daily essentials.[351][354]

Tent camp, Gaza Strip, April 2009

As a result of the conflict, the European Union, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and over 50 nations donated humanitarian aid to Gaza, including the United States which donated over $20 million.[355] On January 7, a UN Relief Works Agency spokesman acknowledged that he was "aware of instances where deliveries of humanitarian aid into Gaza" were diverted by the Hamas government, though never from his agency.[356] Additionally, on February 3, blankets and food parcels were confiscated by Hamas police personnel from an UNRWA distribution center, and on February 4, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator demanded that the aid be returned immediately.[353] The Hamas government issued a statement stating that the incident was a misunderstanding between the drivers of the trucks and has been resolved through direct contact with the UNRWA.[357] On February 9, UNRWA lifted the suspension on the movement of its humanitarian supplies into Gaza, after the Hamas authorities returned all the aid supplies confiscated.[358] The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has described the Israeli procedures for humanitarian organizations entrance to Gaza as inconsistent and unpredictable ones that impedes the ability of organizations to effectively plan their humanitarian response and obstructs efforts to address the humanitarian crisis brought by the 18 months blockade and Israel's military operation.[359] The UN also reported that international organizations have faced "unprecedented denial" of access to Gaza by Israel since 5 November and that humanitarian access remains unreliable and needs to be granted in a daily basis unrestricted.[360]

In a damage assessment by the World Health Organization, 48% of the 122 health facilities assessed were found to be damaged or destroyed, 15 of Gaza's 27 hospitals and 41 primary health care centers suffered damages, and 29 ambulances were partially damaged or destroyed.[361] Injured patients needing referral outside Gaza for specialized care were evacuated exclusively through the Egyptian Rafah border crossing. In the early stages of the conflict, Hamas sealed the border, and prevented wounded Palestinians from seeking medical attention in Egypt.[362] On 30 December, the organization allowed a trickle of medical evacuations from Gaza, but restricted their number.[363] Gaza Ministry of Health reported that between December 29 and January 22, 608 injured were evacuated through Rafah. The Israeli Erez crossing was closed much of the period and only 30 patients were able to exit during the crisis.[359][361] An initial survey conducted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that 14,000 homes, 68 government buildings, and 31 non-governmental organization offices (NGOs) were either totally or partially damaged. As a result, about 600,000 tonnes of concrete rubble will need to be removed.[353] Since 2007, construction material have not permitted entry into Gaza, adversely affecting UN projects, in particular UNRWA and UNDP which were forced to suspend more than $100 million in construction projects due to lack of materials.[352]

One year after the ceasefire approximately 20,000 people remained displaced.[364]

Effects on Israel

According to HRW, during the Gaza War, rocket attacks placed up to 800,000 people within range of attack.[219]

During the conflict, life in much of southern Israel was paralyzed by Hamas rocket and mortar fire.[365] The Israeli Home Front Command issued detailed emergency instructions to Israeli citizens for preparing for and dealing with rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. The instructions included orders to stay within a certain distance of bomb shelters based on proximity to the source of the rockets.[366] Hamas' Grad rockets' increased range of 40 km put more than 700,000 Israelis within strike range,[367] prompting 40% of the residents of the southern city of Ashkelon to flee the city, despite official calls to stay.[368] Throughout the war, Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel damaged or destroyed more than 1,500 homes and buildings and 327 vehicles.[369] Numerous agricultural fields near Gaza also sustained damage. Twenty-eight Israeli families lost their homes to rocket attacks, and had to temporarily live in hotels.[370] Among the buildings hit were nine educational facilities and three synagogues.[371]

Schools and universities in southern Israel began to close due to rocket threats on December 27.[372] Studies officially resumed on January 11. Only schools with fortified classrooms and bomb shelters were allowed to bring students in, and IDF Home Front Command representatives were stationed in the schools;[373][374] attendance was low.[375][376][377] Palestinian rocket attacks that hit educational facilities caused no casualties.[371][378][379][380]

The largest hospital on Israel's southern coast, Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center, moved its critical treatment facilities into an underground shelter after a rocket struck beside its helicopter pad on December 28.[381]

Most business in Southern Israel stopped upon orders of the Home Front Command, with retailers losing an estimated $7 million in the first week alone. Numerous small businesses suffered in decreased sales, and were unable to pay employee salaries due to low revenues.[371] Major industries remained open, but suffered heavy absence rates.[382] The Manufacturers Association of Israel estimated the direct cost to business and industry to be 88 million NIS, and indirect financial losses at several tens of millions NIS.[383]

The Israel Tax Authority received 1,728 compensation claims for damages related to the conflict, mostly from Ashkelon and Ashdod.[383] On 22 January 2010, Israel paid a further $10.5 million in compensation to the United Nations for damages incurred during the Israeli offensive.[384]

According to Israeli economist Ron Eichel, the war effort cost the Israeli military about 5 billion NIS in military expedentures, or 250 million NIS per day.[385] An anonymous political source told Ynetnews that the aerial assaults were costing $27 million to $39 million a day in munitions and fuel, totaling the first six days of the operation at nearly $265 million for airstrikes alone. Both the IDF and Treasury refused to disclose the exact amount, and the Treasury adamantly denied these figures.[386]

International law

Accusations of violations regarding international humanitarian law, which governs the actions by belligerents during an armed conflict, have been directed at both Israel and Hamas for their actions during the Gaza War. The accusations covered violating laws governing distinction and proportionality by Israel, the indiscriminate firing of rockets at civilian locations and extrajudicial violence within the Gaza Strip by Hamas.[54][387] As of September 2009, some 360 complaints had been filed by individuals and NGOs at the prosecutor's office in the Hague calling for investigations into alleged crimes committed by Israel during the Gaza War.[388]

On September 15, 2009, a 574 page report by UN inquiry team was released, officially titled "Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories: Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict". It concluded that the Israel Defence Force (IDF) and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.[389] On October 16, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the report.[390] Israel's Defence Minister said that the report was distorted, falsified and not balanced.[285]

Human rights organizations have urged both Israel and Hamas to implement an independent investigation into the alleged violations of international law as stipulated by the Goldstone report.[391][392][393]

On April 1, 2011, Goldstone wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Washington Post in which he stated that he no longer believes the reports finding that Israel targeted Palestinian civilians as a matter of policy, the most serious accusation the report made against Israel.[394] In a sharply reworded rebuke of Goldstone's op-ed, the three other signatories to the UNHRC report, Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers, co-authored an op-ed that appeared in The Guardian in which they replied that there was no evidence that refutes any of the reports findings.[395]

Media

Photojournalists during the conflict

International news networks named the conflict "War in Gaza" and focused on the assault. Israeli media called it the "War in the South" (Hebrew: מלחמה בדרוםMilẖama BaDarom) and dispatched reporters to Israeli towns hit by rockets.[396] Al Jazeera suggested that it was a war against Palestinian civilians with the title "War on Gaza".[397] There was limited reporter access to the war zone. The Foreign Press Association of Israel released a statement saying, "The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs."[398]

Media facilities in Gaza, both foreign and domestic, came under Israeli fire in the military campaign.[399] On one occasion a Grad rocket may have been launched from a location near the television studios in the Al-Shuruk tower in Gaza City. Although the Israeli recording of a reporter describing a rocket launch was during the initial aerial bombardment phase the tower was only bombed in the final few days.[400] On December 29, the IDF destroyed the facilities and headquarters of Al-Aqsa TV (though broadcasts continue from elsewhere), and on January 5, the IDF bombed the offices of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Risala newsweekly.[399] On January 9, the IDF hit the Johara tower of Gaza City, which houses more than 20 international news organizations, including Turkish, French, and Iranian outlets.[401]

Media relations also played an important role, with the use of new media (up to and including cyber warfare) on the part of both Israel and Hamas.[402] Haaretz reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni "instructed senior ministry officials to open an aggressive and diplomatic international public relations campaign to gain support for Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip." Israeli officials at embassies and consulates worldwide have mounted campaigns in local media, and to that end have recruited people who speak the native language. Israel has also opened an international media centre in Sderot.[403] To improve Israeli public relations, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption has recruited 1,000 volunteers with the objective of flooding news websites and blogs that the ministry term as anti-Israeli with pro-Israeli opinions. Volunteers proficient in languages other than Hebrew were particularly sought after.[404][405][406][407]

Foreign Press Branch head Avital Leibovich believes the "new media" is another war zone, stating, "We have to be relevant there." As part of its public-relations campaign, the Israeli army opened a YouTube channel "through which it will disseminate footage of precision bombing operations in the Gaza Strip, as well as aid distribution and other footage of interest to the international community."[408][409]

Reactions

While Israel defined its operation as a war against Hamas, Palestinian representatives and individuals, among others, viewed it as a "war on the Palestinian people."[410][411][412][413][414][415]

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement on December 28, 2008 calling "for an immediate halt to all violence".[416] The Arab League,[417] the European Union and many nations made similar calls.[418] On January 9, 2009, following an earlier, failed attempt at a ceasefire resolution,[419] the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1860 calling for "an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire" leading to a full Israeli withdrawal and an end to Gaza arms smuggling, by 14 votes to one abstention (the United States).[420] The resolution was ignored by both Israel and Hamas.[421]

Governmental proclamations regarding the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict
  Israel-Gaza
  States that endorsed the Israeli position/defined Israel's action as falling within its right to defense.
  States that condemned Hamas action only.
  States that called for an end to hostilities, and condemned neither/both belligerents.
  States that condemned Israeli action only.
  States that endorsed the Hamas position/defined Hamas' actions as falling within its right of resistance.
  States that made no official statement on the conflict.

Many governments expressed positions on the conflict, most condemning both belligerents, or neither of them. Thirty-four states, mostly members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, condemned Israel's attacks exclusively. Three of them expressed support for Hamas' operations or defined them as falling within its right of resistance. Nineteen states, mostly members of the European Union, condemned Hamas' attacks exclusively. Thirteen of them expressed support for Israel's operations or defined them as falling within Israel's right to self defense.

Bolivia, Jordan, Mauritania and Venezuela significantly downscaled or severed their relations with Israel in protest of the offensive.[422][423][424][425]

The conflict saw worldwide civilian demonstrations for and against both sides.[426]

The conflict triggered a wave of reprisal attacks against Jewish targets in Europe and elsewhere.[427] The worldwide number of recorded antisemitic incidents during the conflict more than tripled the number of such incidents in the same period of the previous year, marking a two-decade high.[428]

The British government reviewed its export licenses to Israel for violations of EU and national arms export control laws and revoked five export licenses for replacement parts and other equipment for Saar 4.5 gunboats used by Israel because they were used in the Gaza offensive, although 16 export licenses for other British defense items to Israel were approved.[429]

The conflict has been called the Gaza Massacre (Arabic: مجزرة غزة‎) in the Arab world.[430][431][432] Khaled Meshaal Hamas leader in Damascus called for suicide bombings. Ismail Haniyeh, PM of Hamas government of the Gaza Strip, said: "Palestine has never witnessed an uglier massacre".[433]

Reactions in Israel

The war provoked mixed reactions inside Israel, with the Jewish majority largely supporting it, and the Arab minority mostly opposing it. A poll taken on January 8, 2009, showed that 91% of the Jewish public supported the war, and 4% opposed it, while a separate poll conducted from January 4–6 showed a 94% approval of the war among Jews and 85% disapproval among Israeli Arabs.[434]

During the war, Arab protests took place across the country. Within hours of the war's start, the Higher Follow-Up Committee for Arab citizens of Israel met in Nazareth, and declared a "day of wrath and mourning for the martyrs among our compatriots in the Gaza Strip", and a general strike for the following day. Arab demonstrations took place across the country almost every day during the offensive, and were described as the "largest Arab demonstrations in Israel's history". Arab parties and parliamentarians in the Knesset also opposed the offensive.[435][436]

See also

References

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