Gaza War (2008–09): Difference between revisions

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(Background: resourcing shelling from IDF --> UN / HRW for stats covering both sides.)
(Disputed figures: See OCHA Terminology Chapter 7, Page 4.)
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<ref name="Israel's Gaza toll far lower than Palestinian tally">{{Cite news| title = Israel's Gaza toll far lower than Palestinian tally| url = http://www.reuters.com/article/featuredCrisis/idUSLQ977827| publisher = [[Reuters]] | date = 2009-03-26}}</ref> UN [[Emergency Relief Coordinator]] [[John Holmes (British diplomat)|John Holmes]] has stated that the PMoH figures have not been seriously challenged.<ref name="sir_john_holmes_statement">{{Cite news| title = Breifing to the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question| url = http://www.ochaopt.org/gazacrisis/admin/output/files/ocha_opt_gaza_crisis_security_briefing_2009_01_26.pdf| publisher = [[UN]] [[Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs]]| date = 2009-01-27| accessdate = 2009-02-11| archiveurl = http://www.webcitation.org/5eVPe7S1A| archivedate = 2009-02-11}}</ref>
 
<ref name="Israel's Gaza toll far lower than Palestinian tally">{{Cite news| title = Israel's Gaza toll far lower than Palestinian tally| url = http://www.reuters.com/article/featuredCrisis/idUSLQ977827| publisher = [[Reuters]] | date = 2009-03-26}}</ref> UN [[Emergency Relief Coordinator]] [[John Holmes (British diplomat)|John Holmes]] has stated that the PMoH figures have not been seriously challenged.<ref name="sir_john_holmes_statement">{{Cite news| title = Breifing to the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question| url = http://www.ochaopt.org/gazacrisis/admin/output/files/ocha_opt_gaza_crisis_security_briefing_2009_01_26.pdf| publisher = [[UN]] [[Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs]]| date = 2009-01-27| accessdate = 2009-02-11| archiveurl = http://www.webcitation.org/5eVPe7S1A| archivedate = 2009-02-11}}</ref>
 
[[Image:Gaza war injured policeman.jpg|thumb|left|150px|Palestinian policeman injured during the conflict.<ref name="aj-day3">{{cite web|url=http://cc.aljazeera.net/node/44|title=War On Gaza Day 3|date=2008-12-29|publisher=[[Al-Jazeera]]|language=Arabic|accessdate=2009-06-21}}</ref>]]
 
[[Image:Gaza war injured policeman.jpg|thumb|left|150px|Palestinian policeman injured during the conflict.<ref name="aj-day3">{{cite web|url=http://cc.aljazeera.net/node/44|title=War On Gaza Day 3|date=2008-12-29|publisher=[[Al-Jazeera]]|language=Arabic|accessdate=2009-06-21}}</ref>]]
[[Human Rights Watch]] (HRW) 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 participating in the hostilities.<ref name="hrw_civilians_release">{{cite web|url=http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/12/30/israelgaza-civilians-must-not-be-targets|title=Israel/Gaza: Civilians must not be tagets|date=2008-12-30|publisher=Human Rights Watch|accessdate=2009-03-26}}</ref> The IDF has 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.<ref name="Israel's Gaza toll far lower than Palestinian tally"/> The PCHR representative argued however that Israel wrongly classified 255 police officers killed at the outset of the war as militants,<ref name="Israel's Israel challenges Palestinian claim on Gaza dead">{{cite news|url=http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2009Mar26/0,4670,MLIsraelPalestinians,00.html| publisher=[[Fox News]]| date=2009-03-26}}</ref> explaining that International Law regards policemen who are not engaged in fighting as non-combatants or civilians.<ref name="Israel's Gaza toll far lower than Palestinian tally"/> Israeli [[Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center]] compiled a report claiming that during Gaza War many supposedly civil policemen were at the same time operatives in Hamas’s military wing.<ref name="Mounting evidence indicates">{{cite web|url=http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e067.htm| title=Mounting evidence indicates that during Operation Cast Lead members of Hamas’s internal security forces served as commanders and operatives in Hamas’s military wing |date=2009-03-24|publisher=Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center}}</ref> One of ITIC bulletins also presented supposed evidence of Hamas policy to hide details of Hamas men who got killed or injured in the fighting.<ref name="Hamas hides the casualties suffered by its operatives">{{Cite news| title=Hamas hides the casualties suffered by its operatives| url=http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e037.htm| publisher=IITC}}</ref>
+
[[Human Rights Watch]] (HRW) 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 participating in the hostilities.<ref name="hrw_civilians_release">{{cite web|url=http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/12/30/israelgaza-civilians-must-not-be-targets|title=Israel/Gaza: Civilians must not be tagets|date=2008-12-30|publisher=Human Rights Watch|accessdate=2009-03-26}}</ref> [[Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs|UN OCHA]] excludes [[Israeli Police]] members who were casualties of [[Israeli-Palestinian conflict]] from [[civilian]] statistics count and regard them as "[[armed forces|security forces]]".<ref name="ocha_background_dead" /> The IDF has 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.<ref name="Israel's Gaza toll far lower than Palestinian tally"/> The PCHR representative argued however that Israel wrongly classified 255 police officers killed at the outset of the war as militants,<ref name="Israel's Israel challenges Palestinian claim on Gaza dead">{{cite news|url=http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2009Mar26/0,4670,MLIsraelPalestinians,00.html| publisher=[[Fox News]]| date=2009-03-26}}</ref> explaining that International Law regards policemen who are not engaged in fighting as non-combatants or civilians.<ref name="Israel's Gaza toll far lower than Palestinian tally"/> Israeli [[Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center]] compiled a report claiming that during Gaza War many supposedly civil policemen were at the same time operatives in Hamas’s military wing.<ref name="Mounting evidence indicates">{{cite web|url=http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e067.htm| title=Mounting evidence indicates that during Operation Cast Lead members of Hamas’s internal security forces served as commanders and operatives in Hamas’s military wing |date=2009-03-24|publisher=Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center}}</ref> One of ITIC bulletins also presented supposed evidence of Hamas policy to hide details of Hamas men who got killed or injured in the fighting.<ref name="Hamas hides the casualties suffered by its operatives">{{Cite news| title=Hamas hides the casualties suffered by its operatives| url=http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e037.htm| publisher=IITC}}</ref>
   
 
The Israeli [[International Institute for Counter-Terrorism]] (ICT) compiled a report on their research of the casualties figures published by the [[Palestinian Center for Human Rights]], supplemented by Hamas and Fatah websites and official Palestinian government online sources.<ref name="Casualties in Operation Cast Lead">{{cite web|url=http://www.ict.org.il/ResearchPublications/CastLeadCasualties/tabid/325/Default.aspx| title=Casualties in Operation Cast Lead|date=2009-04|publisher=International Institute for Counter-Terrorism}}</ref> The ICT claimed that many of those listed by PCHR as civilians, including civil policemen, were in fact hailed as militant martyrs by Hamas. The ICT also claimed that some of the civilians were Fatah members killed by Hamas and that among the youngsters counted as children by the PCHR, 18 combatants were identified.<ref name="Casualties in Operation Cast Lead: A closer look">{{cite web|url=http://www.ict.org.il/Portals/0/Articles/ICT_Cast_Lead_Casualties-A_Closer_Look.pdf| title=Casualties in Operation Cast Lead: A closer look|date=2009-04|publisher=International Institute for Counter-Terrorism}}</ref> Based on their examination of age distribution of the casualties listed by PCHR, the ICT estimated that 63% to 75% of the Palestinians killed in Gaza War appear to have been specifically-targeted, combat-aged males, and stated that PCHR’s own data refutes claim that Israel’s attacks were indiscriminate.<ref name="Casualties in Operation Cast Lead: A closer look"/>
 
The Israeli [[International Institute for Counter-Terrorism]] (ICT) compiled a report on their research of the casualties figures published by the [[Palestinian Center for Human Rights]], supplemented by Hamas and Fatah websites and official Palestinian government online sources.<ref name="Casualties in Operation Cast Lead">{{cite web|url=http://www.ict.org.il/ResearchPublications/CastLeadCasualties/tabid/325/Default.aspx| title=Casualties in Operation Cast Lead|date=2009-04|publisher=International Institute for Counter-Terrorism}}</ref> The ICT claimed that many of those listed by PCHR as civilians, including civil policemen, were in fact hailed as militant martyrs by Hamas. The ICT also claimed that some of the civilians were Fatah members killed by Hamas and that among the youngsters counted as children by the PCHR, 18 combatants were identified.<ref name="Casualties in Operation Cast Lead: A closer look">{{cite web|url=http://www.ict.org.il/Portals/0/Articles/ICT_Cast_Lead_Casualties-A_Closer_Look.pdf| title=Casualties in Operation Cast Lead: A closer look|date=2009-04|publisher=International Institute for Counter-Terrorism}}</ref> Based on their examination of age distribution of the casualties listed by PCHR, the ICT estimated that 63% to 75% of the Palestinians killed in Gaza War appear to have been specifically-targeted, combat-aged males, and stated that PCHR’s own data refutes claim that Israel’s attacks were indiscriminate.<ref name="Casualties in Operation Cast Lead: A closer look"/>

Revision as of 06:03, 21 September 2009

Gaza War
Part of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
Gaza Strip map2.svg
Map of Gaza; Map of Region
DateDecember 27, 2008 (2008-12-27)January 18, 2009 (2009-01-19)
LocationGaza Strip and Southern Israel
Status Israel declared unilateral ceasefire, 12 hours later Hamas announced a one-week ceasefire[2][3]
Belligerents
Israel Israel (IDF) Palestinian National Authority Gaza Strip (Palestinian paramilitary forces including the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, Quds Brigades and the Popular Resistance Councils)[1]
Commanders and leaders
Israel Gabi Ashkenazi (Chief of Staff)
Israel Ido Nehoshtan (IAF)
Israel Eli Marom (Navy)
Israel Eyal Eisenberg (Gaza Div)
Israel Yigal Slovik (401st Bde)
Israel Ilan Malka (Givati Bde)
Israel Avi Peled (Golani Bde)
Israel Herzi Levy (Para Bde)
Flag of Hamas.svg Khaled Mashal
Flag of Hamas.svg Ismail Haniyeh
Flag of Hamas.svg Mahmoud al-Zahar
Flag of Hamas.svg Said Seyam (KIA)
Flag of Hamas.svg Ahmed Jabari
Flag of Hamas.svg Tawfik Jaber  (KIA)
Flag of Hamas.svg Osama Mazini
Flag of Hamas.svg Nizar Rayan  (KIA)
Strength
176,500 (total)
Backed by tanks, artillery, gunboats,[4] and aircraft.[5]
Hamas: 20,000 (total)[6]
Casualties and losses

Total killed: 13[7]
Soldiers: 10[8] (friendly fire: 4[9])
Civilians: 3[8][10]

Total wounded: 518
Soldiers: 336[11]
Civilians: 182[11]

Total killed: 1,417 (PCHR),[12] 1,166 (IDF)[13]
Militants and policemen:
491* (PCHR),[12] 709 (IDF)[13]
Civilians: 926 (PCHR),[12] 295 (IDF)[13]

Total wounded: 5,303(PCHR)[12]

One Egyptian border guard officer killed and three guards and two children wounded.[14][15]
Over 50,800 Gaza residents displaced.[16]

Over 4,000 homes destroyed; around $2bn worth of damage to Gaza[17]
*255 policemen were killed (PCHR).[12]

Template:Campaignbox Arab-Israeli conflict

The Gaza War, codenamed Operation Cast Lead (Hebrew: מבצע עופרת יצוקה‎) by Israel, and described as the Gaza massacre (Arabic: مجزرة غزة‎) in parts of the Arab and Muslim world, began on December 27, 2008, when Israel launched a military attack on the Gaza Strip.[18][19][20][21]

Between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.[22] More than 400,000 Gazans were left without running water, 4,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless; 80 government buildings were hit.[23]

The Israeli operation began with a bombardment of the Gaza Strip, with the stated aim of stopping Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel and arms smuggling into Gaza.[24] Israeli forces targeted Hamas bases, police training camps, police headquarters, and offices. Civilian infrastructure, including mosques, houses, medical facilities, and schools, were attacked and destroyed, according to Israel because many of them were being used by combatants, and as storage spaces for weapons and rockets.[25] Hamas intensified its rocket and mortar attacks against targets in Israel throughout the conflict, hitting previously untargeted cities such as Beersheba and Ashdod.[26]

The Israeli ground invasion began on January 3, 2009. The war ended on January 18, when Israel first declared unilateral ceasefire, then after 12 hours Hamas announced a one-week ceasefire.[2][3] Israel completed its withdrawal on January 21.[27]

According to a United Nations report published in September 2009, there is evidence that both Israeli and Palestinian forces committed war crimes during the war. The report condemned Palestinian rocket attacks as a "deliberate attack against the civilian population", but singled out Israeli actions for the most serious condemnation, labeling them a "deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population."[28][29][30]

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. It is one of the most densely populated places on earth.[31][32] According to the CIA Factbook as of July 2008, it holds a population of 1,500,202 on an area of 360 square kilometers (139 sq mi). The UN, HRW and many other international bodies and NGOs consider Israel to be the occupying power of the Gaza Strip as Israel controls Gaza's airspace, territorial waters and does not allow the movement of people or goods in or out of Gaza by air or sea.[33][34][35] 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.[36][37]

Israelis killed by Palestinians in Israel (blue) and Palestinians killed by Israelis in Gaza(red) according to B'Tselem

Hamas assumed administrative control of Gaza following the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and its 2007 military victory over the attempted ouster of Hamas by Fatah, the secular Palestinian nationalist party.[38] Subsequently, Egypt closed the Rafah Border Crossing when EU monitors left in July 2007.[39] Israel closed off all remaining access to Gaza around the same time.[40] The blockade allowed Israel to control the flow of goods going into Gaza, including power and water. Israel halted all exports and only allowed shipments into Gaza to avert a humanitarian crisis.[41] Palestinian groups were partially able to bypass the blockade through tunnels, some of which were used for weapons smuggling.[42]

Between 2005 and 2007, Palestinian groups in Gaza fired about 2,700 Qassam rockets into Israel, killing four Israeli civilians and injuring 75 others. During the same period, Israel fired more than 14,600 artillery shells into the Gaza Strip, killing 59 Palestinians and injuring 270. The Palestinian fatalities were, according to Human Rights Watch, "primarily if not exclusively civilians." [43]

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, between 2005 and 2008 116 Israelis were killed and 1,509 were injured in "direct conflict" related incidents in both Israel and the Palestinian territories, including civilians and Israeli security forces. During the same period 1,735 Palestinians, including civilians and militants from various groups, were killed and 8,308 were wounded in "direct conflict" incidents. 128 Palestinians were killed in "indirect conflict" incidents, 20 in disputed incidents, and 101 in "reckless handling of explosives", as well as at least 749 in "internal violence".[44] Over the same period of time 302 Palestinian children were killed in "direct conflict" related incidents, with 11 killed in "disputed" incidents, 29 in "indirect" incidents, 51 in "internal violence" and 7 due to "reckless handling of explosives". During that time period 11 Israeli children were killed in "direct conflict" incidents and 1 in an "indirect conflict" incident.[44] The number of Palestinian children killed in 2006 may be under-reported.[44] From 2007 to October 2008 743 Palestinian children were injured in "direct conflict" incidents, 20 in "disputed" incidents, 44 in "indirect conflict" incidents, 61 in "internal conflict" and 44 due to "reckless handling of explosives". Over that same period 14 Israeli children were injured in "direct conflict" related incidents.[44]

2008 lull

Rocket hits in Israel, 2008.[45]

On June 19, 2008, an Egyptian-brokered “lull” or pause in hostilities between Israel and Hamas went into effect.[46] The term “lull” is a translation of the Arabic term Tahdia.[47] According to The New York Times, neither side fully respected the terms of the cease-fire.[48]

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 includes an end to Hamas's military buildup in Gaza and movement toward the release of Corporal Shalit.[49] In exchange, Hamas expected the blockade to end, commerce in Gaza to resume, and truck shipments to be restored to 2005 levels, which was between 500 and 600 trucks per day.[48][50] Israel tied easing of the blockade to a reduction in rocket fire and gradually re-opened supply lines and permitted around 90 daily truck shipments to enter Gaza, up from around 70 per day.[51] The above increase in supply trucks never began to approach what Hamas thought it was going to get.[48] Hamas criticized Israel for its continued blockade[52] while Israel accused Hamas of continued weapons smuggling via tunnels to Egypt and pointed to continued rocket attacks.[48]

The UN recorded 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.[53] On December 18, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, reported 185 Israeli violations during the lull period.[54] The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported a total of 223 rockets and 139 mortar shells fired from Gaza during the lull, including 20 rockets and 18 mortar shells before November 4.[55] It noted that "Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire" until November 4, when the ceasefire was "seriously eroded."[56] Rocket fire decreased by 98 percent in the four and a half months between June 18 and November 4 when compared to the four and a half months preceding the ceasefire.[45]

Hamas denied responsibility for the rocket fire during the 'lull'. However, Human Rights Watch reported that while Hamas security forces demonstrated an ability to curb rocket fire, some people detained for firing rockets were summarily released without explanation.[48]

Conflict escalates

On November 4, 2008, Israeli forces raided a Hamas-dug tunnel near the Israel-Gaza border. The IDF claimed the tunnel was intended for the capture of Israeli soldiers while Hamas asserted that the tunnel served defensive purposes.[57] The raid and the associated air strike killed six Hamas fighters. Hamas launched 35 rockets into southern Israel in what was described by a Hamas spokesman as a "response to Israel's massive breach of the truce".[58][59] According to a November 17 article in The Daily Telegraph, "since violence flared on November 5, Israeli forces and militants, some of them from Hamas, have engaged in almost daily tit-for-tat exchanges."[60] Rocket attacks targeted at Israeli cities near Gaza sharply increased during November 2008, approaching pre-truce levels.[61]

On December 13, Israel announced that it was in favor of extending the cease-fire, provided Hamas adhered to the conditions.[62] On December 14, a Hamas delegation in Cairo proposed that the parties return to the original ceasefire arrangement: Hamas would undertake to stop all rocket attacks against Israel if Israel would agree to open up the border crossings, not to reduce commercial traffic, and not to launch attacks into Gaza. At an Israeli cabinet meeting on December 21, Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's internal security agency, 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."[63]

On December 20, Hamas officially announced that it would not extend the cease-fire which had expired on December 19. It cited the Israeli border blockade as the primary reason and resumed shelling of the western Negev.[64] Israel said that it had begun to ease the blockade, but reimposed it when Hamas failed to end all rocket fire and weapons smuggling.[65]

On December 23, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar reiterated that Hamas was willing to renew the cease-fire under the original terms.[66] That same day the IDF killed three Palestinian militants, claiming that they had been planting explosives on the Israel-Gaza border.[67] On December 24, more than 60 Palestinian mortar shells and Katyusha and Qassam rockets hit the Negev.[68] Hamas code-named the attacks "Operation Oil Stain" and claims it fired 87 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel that day.[69]

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."[70]

On Friday, December 26, Israel reopened five border crossings between Israel and Gaza to supply fuel for Gaza's main power plant and to provide about 100 truck loads of humanitarian aid, including grain and other goods.[71] That same day, militants fired approximately a dozen rockets and mortar shells from Gaza at Israel; one accidentally struck a northern Gaza house, killing two Palestinian sisters and wounding a third.[72][73] According to Israeli officials, its subsequent December 27 offensive took Hamas by surprise, thereby increasing militant casualties.[74]

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.[75][76]

Air strikes

At 11:30am on December 27, 2008, the Israeli Air Force launched an attack in which 88 aircraft simultaneously struck 100 preplanned targets within a span of 220 seconds. The Israel Air Force claimed a 95% success rate with zero misses in the opening attack.[77] Thirty minutes later, a second wave of 60 jets and helicopters struck at an additional 60 targets. The air strikes hit Hamas headquarters, government offices and 24 police stations.[29] The chief of police, Tawfiq Jabber, was killed along with approximately 140 other policemen.[78][79] Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni told reporters that Israel would strike all targets associated with what she called the "illegitimate, terrorist government of Hamas".[77]

Destroyed building in Rafah, January 12, 2009

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.[79] Human rights groups critically note that the attacks began around the time that children were leaving school.[80] The Israeli attack was the deadliest one-day death toll in 60 years of conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, which has led some Palestinians to call it the Massacre of Black Saturday.[81][82][83]

In the weeks following the initial air raids, F-15is, F-16is, and AH-64 Apaches continued to target Hamas facilities while also inflicting massive damage to Palestinian infrastructure.[84] 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.[77] Israel also used the new PB500A1 laser-guided hard-target penetration bomb which is based on the less sophisticated Mark 83. Unconfirmed reports claim the IAF also used the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb for the first time.[85] Israeli aircraft also utilized synthetic aperture radar targeting pods and high-resolution imaging pods.[77]

According to the IAF, 80 percent of the bombs used by the IAF were precision weapons, and 99 percent of the air strikes hit their targets.[86] A study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies points out that whenever possible, IAF executed strikes using the smallest precision-guided weapons, and coordinated both air strikes and the use of artillery weapons using GPS, in a systematic effort to limit collateral damage.[40] 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.[87] 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.[87]

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."[88] 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.[89][90][91][92]

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.[40][93][94][95] Israel used F-4 Skyhawks to deliver more than 2 million leaflets urging the population to evacuate.[87] In a practice codenamed roof knocking, the IDF issued warning calls prior to 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.[96][97][77] At several instances, the IDF has also used a sound bomb to warn civilians before striking homes.[93] In some cases, IDF commanders called off airstrikes, when residents of suspected houses have been able to gather on its roof.[93] 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.[40][94] Israel's military used low-explosive missiles to warn civilians of imminent attack and to verify that buildings were evacuated prior to attack.[87] Some of the attacks took place sooner than the warning suggested and many calls were not followed up with attacks.[98] The Israeli Government report claims that while the warning systems implemented by the IDF did not eliminate all harm to civilians, they were apparently effective, due to the fact that 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 prior to the attacks. While Israel is not a party to the Protocol I, Israel however accepts its provisions as reflective of customary international law.[99]

Through January 3, 2009, Israel Air Force had flown 555 fighter sorties and 125 helicopter missions. Hundreds of UAV flight hours were logged. They claimed to have destroyed more than 500 targets including one-third of the underground passages built by Hamas and other militant groups to smuggle and store rockets, weaponry, and other supplies.[77] Throughout the initial stages of the air operation, the IDF transmitted messages to civilians in Gaza to stay away from Kassam launch sites and Hamas buildings and infrastructure.[78]

By January 3, 2009, the Palestinian death toll stood at 400, with 25 percent estimated to be civilian casualties.[100] The air offensive continued throughout the ground invasion that followed, and as of January 15, Israeli forces had carried out 2,360 air strikes.[101] No safe haven or bomb shelters existed, making this one of the rare conflicts where civilians had no place to flee.[102]

Naval Operations

The Israeli navy attacked Hamas coastal targets and boats. The Navy coordinated with other Israeli forces and used powerful shipboard sensors to acquire targets.[77][103] Records of the attacks published by the navy indicate that for the first time vessels were equipped with Spike ER electro-optically guided antiarmor 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[85] and possibly by helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles. [104]

Ground invasion

IDF infantry and armor units amassed near the Gaza border on December 28, engaging in an active blockade of the strip.[105] On December 27, Hamas fired rockets into Southern Israel, killing one civilian. On December 29, Hamas rocket fire killed two civilians. A Hamas mortar attack on Nahal Oz army base on December 29 killed one Israeli soldier.[106]

Explosion in Gaza, January 12, 2009

On January 3, the IDF shelled the Ibrahim al-Maqadna mosque in Beit Lahiya. Thirteen people were killed and 30 wounded.[107][108] Israel has accused Hamas of using this and other mosques[109], to hide weapons and ammunition,[107][110] and as cover for firing on the IDF.[111]

On the eve of the ground incursion by Israeli forces, Khaled Mashal assured that should IDF launch ground offensive, black destiny and abduction awaits Israeli soldiers.[112][113] Hamas spokesman added that with the God's help Gaza will become a graveyard to Israeli troops.[114]

On the evening of January 3, Israel launched a ground operation by sending troops into Gaza for the first time since the start of the conflict.[115][116] 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.

Israel utilized the Paratroopers, Golani, and Givati brigades simultaneously entering the Gaza Strip from several unexpected directions to avoid reported booby traps while also outflanking opposing forces. The 401st armored brigade used the Merkava Mk4 tank to quickly control and block access from Rafah and Khan Yunis to Gaza City which cut supply lines to Hamas from the south.[85]

Each brigade combat team was assigned a UAV squadron for close support. This was the first Israeli operation in which UAVs, helicopters, and fighter jets were allocated to ground forces directly without IAF central command authorizing sorties. Air-support controller teams operated alongside brigade commanders at the front emphasizing the brigade commander's utilization of direct air assets.[87] A high degree of situational awareness was achieved by maintaining at least a dozen UAVs in flight over Gaza at all times. Aerial surveillance was provided by Heron and Hermes 450 UAVs and Apache attack helicopters. Along with coordination between the Air Force and ground troops, Israel ground forces were able to utilize cooperation with the Israel Security Agency by having operatives attached to the forward units. This interservice coordination allowed for a higher level of tactical awareness and the ability to strike time-critical targets.[85]

Israeli ground troops entered Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza in the early hours of January 4.[117] Israeli forces reportedly bisected Gaza and surrounded Gaza City, but restricted their movements to areas that were not heavily urbanised.[118] 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. The Israeli military said that it targeted forty sites, including weapons depots and rocket launch sites.[119]

Three Hamas commanders were killed on January 4 in Israeli strikes.[citation needed]

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.[120] Gun battles broke out between Israel and Hamas on the streets of Gaza as Israel surrounded the city.[121][122] On January 5, 3 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. On January 6, at least 125 Palestinians were killed. One Israeli Officer was killed by a misdirected Israeli artillery shell. Hamas fighters also ambushed an Israeli patrol in Gaza city, resulting in a firefight. One Israeli soldier was killed and four other soldiers were wounded. All of the Hamas fighters were killed.[citation needed]

Israeli artillery units also worked closely with battalion commanders.[103] 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. 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 percent 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 percent of rounds fired. He also said that about half of those were MA25A1 incendiary based smoke rounds used to 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."[123]

On January 6, Israel fired mortar shells at militants near the Al-Fakhura school.[124] Initially, reports mistakenly stated that the attack had directly hit the school and that the victims had taken refuge there to escape the fighting. This created a public outcry and prompted condemnation from Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon, members of the news media, and international aid agencies. The response before it was learned that the school itself was not attacked lead to a renewed push for a cease-fire in the conflict.[125]

Allegations 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.[126][127][128] Soon after the publication of the testimonies, reports implying that the testimonies were based on hearsay and not on the first-hand experience started to circulate.[128] 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.[129] Following investigation, the IDF issued an official report, concluding that alleged cases of deliberate shooting at civilians didn't take place.[130] 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 in order to look into all Israeli army activity" in Gaza.[130]

In July 2009, an 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 phosphorous shells over civilian areas and used overwhelming firepower that caused needless deaths and destruction.[131] 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.[131] An Israeli military spokesperson dismissed the testimonies as anonymous hearsay.[132] Breaking the Silence representative stated that "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".[133] The representative of the Israeli organisation NGO Monitor charged that the allegations presented in the report frequently rely upon secondhand evidence and hearsay.[134] 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".[135][136]

Attack on Gaza City

On January 8, an exchange of fire took place in Gaza city. Many Hamas fighters were killed in the clash as well as an Israeli officer of the Golani Brigade. In Northern Gaza, Hamas snipers opened fire on Israeli forces conducting an operation, an Israeli soldier. Another Israeli soldier was lightly wounded. 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 missile at them, killing one Israeli officer and wounding one soldier. On the morning of 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 ambushed Israeli troops at several locations and heavy fighting ensued.[137] 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.[138]

Palestinians in a Gaza city neighbourhood on Day 18 of the War in Gaza[139]

On January 12, the IDF reported that it had started deploying reserve forces in Gaza. [140]

On January 13, Israeli tanks continued their advance toward the headquarters of Hamas' preventative security building from the al-Karramah neighborhood in the northwest and the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood in the northeast.[141] Before dawn, during the night, troops advanced 300 metres into Tel al-Hawa, a neighborhood which has several high-rise buildings. 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.[142]

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. The Israeli military reported 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.

It was reported that Hamas’s approximately 100-man strong "Iranian Unit" was mostly destroyed during fighting in the Zeytoun neighborhood on January 15. Members of the military wing had previously traveled to Iran for training by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. According 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.[143]

The headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was also shelled on January 15. There were 3 people injured and tonnes of food and fuel intended for 750,000 Palestinian refugees was destroyed.[144] 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 the Israeli claim as "nonsense" Israel ordered an army investigation into the incident.[145] 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."[146]

The Givati Brigade penetrated the deepest into Gaza City. The brigade's reconnaissance battalion swept into the Tel el-Hawa neighborhood and took over two 15-story buildings in search of Hamas operatives two days before the cease fire went into effect. 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.[147]

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.[148] 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 missiles during the pause.[149][150][151] 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.[149][152][153][154] 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.[155] 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.[156]

Palestinian paramilitary activity

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."[157]

Political representatives for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, Saiqa, the Popular Struggle Front, the Revolutionary Communist Party, Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Fatah al-Intifada, 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.[1]

Preparation

Militants booby-trapped houses and buildings and built an extensive system of tunnels in preparation for combat.[158] 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.[159] IDF commanders said that many Hamas members have dug tunnels for themselves under their homes and hid weapon caches in them.[160] Some houses were booby-trapped with manneqins, 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.[161] 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".[162] 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 claims to have found a map showing "the deployment of explosives and Hamas forces in the al-Atatra neighborhood in northern Gaza." This map allegedly shows that Hamas placed many explosives and firing positions in residential areas, several mosques, and next to a gas station.[163] 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.[85]

Several witnesses 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.[164][165] 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.[166]

Engagement with Israeli forces

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.[167] 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.[168] 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.[169]

Several reports stated that Hamas fighters shed their uniforms shortly after the start of the ground incursion.[170][171][172] 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."[173] 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.[173]

Hamas hoped to bog Israeli forces down in heavy fighting and inflict heavy casualties on the Israelis. 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.[174]

Several testimonies from local Gazan population and from IDF soldiers stated that Hamas operatives donned medic uniforms and commandeered ambulances for fighters transportation.[164][175][176][177] 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.[178] An IDF probe, released on April 22 2009, stated that an incident occurred where UN vehicle attacked by IDF occurred when a Palestinian anti-tank squad was being unloaded from the vehicle.[175] 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.[179]

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.[180] 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."[181]

Rocket attacks into Israel

thumb

The strike range of Hamas rockets had increased from 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) to 40 kilometres (25 mi) since early 2008 with the use of improved Qassam and factory-made rockets.[182] These attacks resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure.[183] Rockets reached major Israeli cities Ashkelon, Beersheba and Gedera for the first time, putting one-eighth of Israel's population in rocket range.[184] 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.[185] 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."[186] It is reported that 102 rockets and 35 mortars were fired by Fatah, Hamas's chief rival.[187]

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.[1] 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.[188] Bersheeba and Gedera were the furthest areas hit by rocket or mortars.[188] The rockets killed three civilians and one IDF soldier and wounded 182 people, with another 584 people suffering from shock and anxiety syndrome.[189] The rockets also caused property damage, including damage to three schools.[190][191][192] 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."[193]

In addition to the rockets fired from Gaza, Israel experienced other attacks along the borders with Lebanon and Syria.[194]

Unilateral ceasefires

On January 17, Israeli officials announced a unilateral ceasefire, without an agreement with Hamas. In a press conference, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared the ceasefire effective that night, at 00:00 GMT on January 18.[195] The Israeli ceasefire was first suggested by Livni and consists of two phases worked out by Ehud Barak: "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."[196][197] Olmert declared that the military objectives had been met.[196]

Hamas initially "vowed to fight on",[198] 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."[199] Palestinian militants resumed rocket fire at Israeli communities the following Sunday morning, four of the supposed six fired landed in or near the town of Sderot.[200][201] The Israeli military returned fire and carried out an air strike against the rocket launching squad in the northern Gaza Strip.[202]

On January 18, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other paramilitias stated they would stop launching rockets into Israel for one week, on condition that Israel would withdraw its military within this period.[203][204][205]

On January 21, Israeli troops completed their pullout from the Gaza Strip.[206]

Shortly after Israel completed its troop pullout, Hamas declared "remarkable victory". Khaled Mashaal said that "the resistance won the battle in Gaza and the enemy failed in the field as it failed in politics. The enemy had to withdraw from the Strip without being able to impose any condition".[207]

Since the unilateral ceasefires were declared on January 17, militants have fired rockets and mortar shells from Gaza, [208][209] and the IDF has launched airstrikes against Gaza.[210]

Continued negotiations

Egyptian mediators held discussions with Israel and Hamas about extending the cease-fire by a year or more. Hamas and Fatah met in an effort to create a mechanism that would allow both to play a role in rebuilding.[211] 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. However, 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 reacted coolly to suggestions that European troops should be stationed on the border between Gaza and Egypt to monitor smugglers' tunnels.[212]

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. Hamas, in order to speed up reconstruction, agreed on 27 January 2009 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 only for humanitarian aid was unacceptable, as Hamas would need much more to rebuild its economy and produce relief to citizens. Haniyeh officials said the cease-fire is contingent on a full border opening.[211]

On 20 January 2009, Barack Obama assumed the Presidency of the United States of America. Soon thereafter, Obama directed George J. Mitchell, his newly appointed special envoy to the Middle East, 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. However, in a continuation of a George W. Bush administration policy, Mitchell did not plan to talk to Hamas, but instead focus on talks with the more moderate Palestinian Authority.[212] A spokesman for Haniyeh said he respected Mitchell, but was disappointed with the envoy's decision not to hold discussions with Hamas.[211]

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated that Israel would not agree to a long term truce or lift the blockade that it has imposed on Gaza without the freeing of Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier held captive in Gaza since June 2006.[213][214] Hamas has insisted that Shalit's release be dependent on the release of 1,400 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and be kept separate from ceasefire negotiations.[215]

Aftermath

Several months after the war end, Hamas has 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 official stated that "The current situation required a stoppage of rockets. After the war, the fighters needed a break and the people needed a break".[216] Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center notes that Hamas's policy of restraint has come under severe criticism from local radical Islamic organizations, which accused Hamas of abandoning the principle of jihad in order to strengthen its control over the Gaza Strip.[217] 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.[218]

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.[219] 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.[220]

During the war, Hamas' launches of homemade and Grad rockets into Israeli towns paralyzed life across Israel's south.[221] On a video broadcasted 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'.[222] Also, Hamas sent messages in Hebrew to Israeli citizens' mobile phones warning: "Rockets on all cities, shelters will not protect you."[223][224]

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.[219]

According to IDF spokesman, Hamas' ruses in the battlefield comprised of Gaza's neighborhoods riddled with booby traps, including mannequins placed at apartment entrances and rigged to explode when the soldiers approach.[220]

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.[225]

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.[40]

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.[225]

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" in order to achieve disinformation coup ("con") to lure Hamas fighters out of hiding.[221]

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. [221] The leaflets also noted that "the Israeli army will respond if the rocket fire continues."[224] 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.[226] 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.[225]

IDF spokespersons often reported that scores of demoralized Hamas fighters had been observed deserting. The claim strengthened the Israeli will to continue and undermined the confidence in Hamas in Gaza.[219]

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.[224]

Casualties

Palestinian girl killed during the conflict.[227]

In January 2009, the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a Gaza governmental office (PMoH), put death toll at total of 1,324 Gazans killed, of which most were civilians.[228] The PMoH stated that 437 children under the age of 16, 110 women, 123 elderly men, 14 medics, and four journalists were among those killed. The wounded include 1,890 children and 200 people in serious condition.[229] As of 5 February, the MoH total was revised to 1,440 Palestinians dead, 431 children and 114 women, a rise attributed by the MoH to delays by people in officially registering the deaths of family members due to the conflict. Those who died due to a lack of access to regular health care were not included in these figures.[230]

In March, the PCHR put the death toll at 1,417, of which 926 were civilian, 236 were combatants and 255 were members of the Palestinian security forces. According to PCHR, out of 926 civilians and non-combatants, there are 116 women and 313 minors under 18.[231] The organization has also posted a list of the victims detailing their names, ages, jobs, place of residence, and time and place of the attacks that killed them.[232]

In September, Israeli-human rights group B'Tselem published figures based on its own research. B'Tselem says that total number of 1,382 Palestinians were killed, of whom 320 were minors, 111 women over the age of 16, 325 took part in the hostilities and 245 were Palestinian officers, most of whom were killed in IAF aerial bombings of police stations on the first day of the war.[233]

Hamas claimed to have suffered only 48 casualties and to have killed at least 80 Israeli soldiers.[234]

An IDF report on March 26, 2009 listed 1,166 Palestinian fatalities, of which 295 were identified as civilians.[13] According to IDF, out of 295 Palestinian non-combatants, there are 89 under the age of 16 and 49 women[13] The IDF report stated that at least 709 of the deaths were members of a militant organization, including police.[13] Additional 162 Palestinian men were listed by IDF as "unaffiliated," meaning that those names have not been attributed to any militant group.[13] The IDF "conceded that Palestinian civilians died because of mistakes in intelligence and targeting, but said the military did not find any case in which an Israeli soldier deliberately shot a civilian."[235]

13 Israelis were killed during the conflict,[7] including four soldiers in two separate friendly fire incidents and three civilians. [10][236] 182 Israeli civilians were wounded during the conflict.[237] Israel took measures to reduce their casualties. Colonel Ilan Malka told reporters that the IDF had initially predicted each battalion would lose six or seven soldiers.[238] By the end of the conflict, Israel stated that 10 IDF soldiers had been killed and 336 wounded.[239] Out of those figures, five were killed engaging Hamas combatants, four were killed by friendly fire, and one was killed when Hamas rockets hit a military base inside Israel.

Other casualties

The World Health Organization reported that sixteen health personnel were killed and that 22 health personnel were injured over the course of the offensive.[240] In response, the Israeli Defense Ministry stated that nine of the sixteen medical personnel killed were Hamas operatives, referring to publications on Hamas affiliated Web sites.[241] The UNRWA reported that five of its staff members were killed and that eleven staff members were injured.[240] The World Food Programme reported that one of its contractors were killed and that two were injured.[240]

Hamas gunmen killed one Egyptian border guard and wounded another on December 28.[6] Shrapnel from an Israeli air strike near the Rafah border crossing wounded two border guards and two Egyptian children.[15] A Ukrainian woman married to a Palestinian and their daughter were killed by Israeli tank shelling on January 8; the couple's other daughter was wounded.[242]

Disputed figures

On February 17, the UN announced that it will compile a casualty report to determine the exact figure of Palestinian casualties. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will lead the investigation, which will research "data on the number of casualties provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry, the IDF and Gaza-based human rights organizations." Due to its complexity, the work is expected to last "several weeks, if not months" one UN official stated.[243]

The PCHR has issued a statement contesting the IDF figures, saying that it regarded them as a "deliberate manipulative attempt" to distort the reality of the attacks, and to "disguise Israeli illegal actions".[244] The PCHR civilian count included Hamas members killed in what the PCHR assessed were non-combat situations.[228] Similarly, Israeli officials have stated that the PMoH significantly inflated the civilian death toll and played down the number of Hamas casualties.[245] The PCHR's representative reaffirmed further its own figures, saying that extensive investigation and cross-checking was done in researching the numbers and identities of Palestinians killed; he assured that the fatalities list does not include deaths caused by "internal events" or natural causes, refuting allegations from some Israeli security sources. [246] UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes has stated that the PMoH figures have not been seriously challenged.[247]

Palestinian policeman injured during the conflict.[248]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) 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 participating in the hostilities.[249] UN OCHA excludes Israeli Police members who were casualties of Israeli-Palestinian conflict from civilian statistics count and regard them as "security forces".[44] The IDF has 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.[246] The PCHR representative argued however that Israel wrongly classified 255 police officers killed at the outset of the war as militants,[250] explaining that International Law regards policemen who are not engaged in fighting as non-combatants or civilians.[246] Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center compiled a report claiming that during Gaza War many supposedly civil policemen were at the same time operatives in Hamas’s military wing.[251] One of ITIC bulletins also presented supposed evidence of Hamas policy to hide details of Hamas men who got killed or injured in the fighting.[252]

The Israeli International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) compiled a report on their research of the casualties figures published by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, supplemented by Hamas and Fatah websites and official Palestinian government online sources.[253] The ICT claimed that many of those listed by PCHR as civilians, including civil policemen, were in fact hailed as militant martyrs by Hamas. The ICT also claimed that some of the civilians were Fatah members killed by Hamas and that among the youngsters counted as children by the PCHR, 18 combatants were identified.[254] Based on their examination of age distribution of the casualties listed by PCHR, the ICT estimated that 63% to 75% of the Palestinians killed in Gaza War appear to have been specifically-targeted, combat-aged males, and stated that PCHR’s own data refutes claim that Israel’s attacks were indiscriminate.[254]

Based on data collected by Amnesty International delegates in Gaza and on cases documented by local NGOs, Amnesty concluded that an overall figure of some 1,400 fatalities is accurate and that, in addition to some 300 children, 115 women and 85 men aged over 50, some 200 men aged less than 50 were unarmed civilians who took no part in the hostilities.[255]

Effects

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

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.[256]

Early estimates by independent contractors in Gaza say that Gaza lost nearly $2 billion in assets, including 4,000 homes destroyed.[257] The IDF destroyed 600–700 factories, small industries, workshops and business enterprises throughout the Gaza Strip[258], 24 mosques, 31 security compounds, and 10 water or sewage lines. [259] 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.[240]

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 kilometres (104 miles) 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 square kilometres), 187 greenhouses completely destroyed or severely damaged with an estimated area of 28 hectares (0.28 square kilometres), and 2,232 hectares (22.32 square kilometres) of demolished zones targeted by IDF bulldozers, tanks and phosphorus shelling.[260]

Gaza humanitarian crisis

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 percent of the population cannot support themselves and are dependent on humanitarian assistance.[98] The International Red Cross said the situation was "intolerable" and a "full blown humanitarian crisis."[261] The importation of necessary food and supplies continues to be blocked even after the respective ceasefires.[262] 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.[263][264] More than 50,800 Gazans were left homeless.[257] 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.[265]

On January 3, prior to 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.[266] 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.[267] 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".[268]

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.[247][265][269][270] 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.[247][271]

As a result of the conflict, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and over 50 nations donated humanitarian aid to Gaza, including the United States which donated over $20 million.[272] 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.[273] 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.[270] 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.[274] On February 9, UNRWA lifted the suspension on the movement of its humanitarian supplies into Gaza, after the Hamas authorities returned all of the aid supplies confiscated.[275] 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.[276] 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.[277]

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. 29 ambulances were partially damaged or destroyed.[278] 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.[279] On 30 December, the organization allowed a trickle of medical evacuations from Gaza, but restricted their number.[280] 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.[276][278] 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, an estimated 600,000 tonnes of concrete rubble will need to be removed.[270] 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.[269]

Israel

During the conflict, life in much of southern Israel was paralyzed.[281] 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.[282] Hamas' Grad rockets' increased range of 40 km put more than 700,000 Israelis within strike range,[283] prompting 40% of the residents of the southern city of Ashkelon to flee the city,[284] despite official calls to stay.[285] Schools and universities in southern Israel began to close due to rocket threats on December 27.[286] Palestinian rockets landed on Israeli educational facilities several times during the conflict with no casualties.[287][288][289] 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;[290][291] attendance was low.[292][293][294] The largest hospital on Israel's southern coast, Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital, moved its critical treatment facilities into an underground shelter after a Gaza-fired rocket struck beside its helicopter pad on December 28.[295]

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, such as accusations of violating laws governing distinction and proportionality by Israel and the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas at civilian locations.[33] 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 Operation Cast Lead.[296]

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) adopted Resolution S-9/1, calling to "dispatch an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission, to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression, and calls upon Israel not to obstruct the process of investigation and to fully cooperate with the mission."[297] The UN later announced that it had commisioned a team of experts, led by South African prosecutor Richard Goldstone, to investigate whether Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the Gaza war.[298] Goldstone said investigation entered its final phase in July 2009, but noted that it was too soon to conclude that war crimes were committed during the conflict.[299]

On September 15 2009, a lengthy 574 page report by Judge Goldstone's UN inquiry team was released, it concluded that the Israel Defence Force (IDF) and Palestinian armed forces committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. While the report condemned violations by both sides, it more strongly indicted Israeli actions[300]. The report stated that the IDF committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity, that the Israeli military action was directed at the Gaza population as a whole and that the Gaza blockade represents a continuance of an overall policy of disproportionate force aimed at collective punishment. The report disputed Israel's claim that the Gaza war would have been conducted in self-defence as a response to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip [301]. The report also stated there is evidence that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity by deliberately launching rockets and firing mortars into Israel, calculated to kill civilians and damage civilian structures.[28] Israel and Hamas did not co-operate in the preparation the report and both rejected the report's findings.[29][302] Israel claimed the UNHCR has demonstrated a biased track record against Israel,[303] while Hamas called the report "political, unbalanced and dishonest".[28] The report recommended, inter alia, that Israel pay reparations to Palestinians living in Gaza for property damaged in the conflict[304]. The report also called on the Security Council to request thorough criminal investigations to be conducted by Israel and Hamas, and for the Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if the investigations are not conducted properly[305]. According to the BBC, Israeli Foreign Ministry officials responded to the report by initiating contacts with Security Council members in order to dissuade them from referring Israelis to the ICC[306].

Israelis

Israel used white phosphorus munitions during the conflict

The UN Human Rights Council as well as many non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have accused Israel of violating international law in the conflict as regards prohibitions on collective punishment,[307] targeting civilians,[33][307][308], proportionality,[307][309] of prohibiting access to medical assistance,[33][310] and of using civilians as human shields.[311][312] Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and AI said that such actions are in violation of international humanitarian law governing the obligations of an occupying force and the laws of war.[33][307]

Israel has responded to these accusations by stating that use of force in Gaza are acts of self-defense rather than being reprisals or punishment.[313] A study by military analyst Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies concluded that Israel did not violate the laws of war during its operation in Gaza.[40][314]

Cordesman’s view was shared by former commander of British forces in Afghanistan Colonel Richard Kemp, who, in an interview with the BBC stated, “I don’t think that there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.” [315]

Israel has been criticized for using weapons such as white phosphorous and flechette shells which human rights groups have said violate laws on distinction.[31][33] The Israeli government responded in a report that stated that the IDF used white phosphorous in exploding munitions and smoke projectiles. The report stated that the use of exploding munitions were used by Israeli ground and naval forces. The report defended the use of these munition stating that they were only fired on unpopulated areas for marking and signaling and not as an anti-personnel weapon.[316]

Israel has been criticized for attacks on protected personnel and property, such as the attack on an UNRWA school incident in Jabalia that the UN says killed between 30 and 40 people. IDF officials claim the UN has confirmed that shells fired by Israeli forces landed outside the school compound.[317] The report accused Israel of "gross negligence" and also stated that allegations that militants had fired from within U.N. premises "were untrue, continued to be made after it ought to have been known that they were untrue, and were not adequately withdrawn and publicly regretted." The Israeli Government report notes however that the test applied by the Board was merely whether the physical premises of U.N. facilities had been affected and not whether the Laws of Armed Conflict were violated.[316] Ban plans to seek up to $11 million in damages from Israel[318][319]

Palestinians

A rocket fired from Gaza in to Israel in December 2008

The Palestinians have been accused by the UN, Israel, and a number of human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, of violating international law in the conflict. They have been accused of violating prohibitions against attacks directed against civilians and civilian objects,[320] launching attacks aimed at spreading terror,[321] and attacking from populated areas.[322] Israel has accused Hamas of improperly using humanitarian symbols and facilities protected by the Geneva Conventions.[323][324] Hamas militants were reported to dress in civilian attire to disguise themselves among the population.[170]

Hamas has responded to the accusations by saying the attacks carried out were in self-defense. and that "rocket attacks on Israel are the only way to counter Israel's policies and operations, including artillery strikes".[325]

Hamas has also been accused of carrying out extrajudicial executions, torture, inhuman treatment and arbitrary detentions against alleged collaborators and spies in violation of Article 3 of Fourth Geneva Convention.[326] Hamas has responded to these accusations by saying those executed were collaborators with Israel and were guilty of treason.[327][328]

Media

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.” [329]

Media facilities in Gaza, both foreign and domestic, came under Israeli fire in the military campaign.[330] 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 missile launch was during the initial aerial bombardment phase the tower was only bombed in the final few days.[331] 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.[330] 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.[332]

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.[citation needed] Haaretz reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni "instructed senior ministry officials to open an aggressive and diplomatic international public relations campaign in order 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.[333] In an effort 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.[334][335][336][337]

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.”[338][339]

Reactions

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement on December 28, 2008 calling "for an immediate halt to all violence".[340] The Arab League,[341] the European Union and many nations made similar calls.[342] On January 9, 2009, following an earlier, failed attempt at a ceasefire resolution,[343] 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).[344] The resolution was ignored by both Israel and Hamas.[345]

Most governments condemned both belligerents, or neither of them. Thirty-four states condemned Israel's attacks exclusively, expressed support for Hamas' operations, or defined them as falling within its right of self-defense and resistance. Bolivia, Jordan, Mauritania and Venezuela significantly downscaled or severed their relations with Israel in protest of the offensive.[346][347][348][349] Nineteen states condemned Hamas' attacks exclusively and or expressed support for Israel's operations or defined them as falling within Israel's right to self defense. The conflict was marked by worldwide civilian demonstrations for and against both sides, with many protesters disagreeing with their governments' official position on the conflict.[350] Protests in Egypt led to controversial police detentions of Islamist protesters.[351]

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on December 28, ordering them to "defend the defenseless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible", and calling those who die as "martyr[s]".[352] More than 70,000 Iranian student volunteers have registered to carry out attacks against Israel. Several riots broke out in Tehran where students demanded to be sent to Gaza where they could fight the Israelis.[353]

The Israeli offensive also "prompted a wave of reprisal attacks against Jewish targets in Europe".[354] 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.[355] The conflict also triggered violence against Muslims in France. President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged a "zero-tolerance" policy against antisemitic and anti-Muslim attacks.[356]

The British government reviewed all export licenses to Israel for violations of EU and national arms export control laws and decided to revoke the export licenses for a number of armaments because they were used by Israel in the Gaza offensive. The revocation of the export licenses applied to replacement parts and other equipment for Sa'ar 4.5 gunships used by Israel. British policy is not to export armaments "where there is a clear risk that arms will be used for external aggression or internal repression." Ever since the Israeli offensive, human rights organizations in Britain have exerted pressure on the British Parliament to evaluate whether export control laws were broken by Israel's use of British armaments.[357]

See also

References

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