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Gaza War: Operation Cast Lead

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Operation Cast Lead (AKA Gaza War 2009, Hebrew name Oferet Yetzuka - עופרת יצוקה) was undertaken between December 27 and January 18 by the IDF to stop rocket and mortar fire from the Hamas ruled Gaza strip.

Background of Operation Cast Lead

In the fall of 2005,  Israel withdrew every Israeli soldier and all 8000 Israeli civilians from the Gaza strip as part of its  disengagement initiative. The disengagement initiative was carried out with US backing in order to provide a gesture toward peace with the Palestinians, against the vocal and sometimes violent opposition of the Israeli right. Bowing to Palestinian wishes, Israel destroyed all the settlement housing. Palestinians had refused the offer of a Dubai corporation to purchase the settlements and use them as a base for building a healthy Palestinian society. They did accept an offer by American Jewish philanthropists to purchase the greenhouses that were left by the settlers, so that these could be used by Palestinians to build agriculture in the Gaza strip. However, the greenhouses were quickly looted and trashed.

When Israel withdrew, it had concluded agreements with the Palestinian authority and the international community for manning the Rafah crossing terminals between Egypt and Gaza . European observers were to monitor goods to ensure that no arms were brought in to Gaza . Israel controlled the other crossings. The Palestinians would not agree to Israeli inspection of the Gaza  port, and so the port was closed to prevent smuggling. Prior to the Israeli withdrawal, there had already been a buildup of arms in Gaza and regular firing of home made Qassam rockets and mortars in Gaza and into Israel, killing about a dozen Israelis and foreign workers, including Palestinians. Following the withdrawal, representatives of the Hamas terror group won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, in elections held with their participation at the insistence of the United States, and in contravention of provisions of the Oslo Interim Agreement. The Palestinian Authority had been created to conclude a peace agreement with Israel in the framework of the Oslo Declaration of Principles. It was now to be led by a group that did not recognize the validity of Oslo Declaration of Principles, and that declared that it is opposed to peace with Israel in principle. The quartet, which had been mediating the peace process, and Israel, both declared they would boycott the Hamas government until such time as it would agree to recognize Israel, abjure violence, and accept the validity of previous agreements. The Palestinian Authority, ruled by the PLO and the Fatah movement, made the same demands. De facto, Hamas controlled Gaza and created an Executive Force there to dominate the Fatah, as well as to carry out terror attacks. Hamas ramped up the rocket attacked on Israel gradually and improved the Qassam rockets so they could reach as far as the town of Ashqelon.

In June of 2006, an obscure faction kidnapped Israeli Corporal Gilat Shalit through a tunnel dug into the Israel, near the army post at Kerem Shalom. Israel launched an extensive operation to retrieve Shalit, to no effect.

In February of 2007, Hamas and Fatah concluded a short-lived Unity Government agreement. In June However, Hamas staged a coup against Fatah, murdering numerous Fateh police, security personnel and officials in brutal ways. Hamas dismissed the European monitors from the Rafah terminal, so the terminal was effectively closed except for passage of persons, for example on pilgrimages to Mecca, which was mediated by the Egyptians. Israel also imposed economic sanctions in Gaza in reaction to the coup, as did the Quartet.

Rocket fire was ramped up again and recruitment and military capabilities of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas, was expanded. Alongside this group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees as well as smaller groups could carry out attacks for which Hamas could deny responsibility. Thousands of rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel. Ingenious Israeli warning systems and a shelter program minimized casualties, but the rockets had made normal life impossible in communities like Sderot. In an attempt to discourage rocket fire, Israeli authorities cut electricity, fuel and aid shipments to Gaza as well as monetary transfers. Hamas continued not only rocket and mortar fire, but sniper fire as well, killing a volunteer in a Kibbutz near the Gaza border. Israeli sanctions raised an international outcry as it was claimed that there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but no such crisis seems to have occurred.  

Egypt mediated a lull agreement (Tahidiyeh) between Hamas and Israel which went into effect June 19, 2008. Humanitarian aid shipments to Gaza from Israel increased initially.

Israel had hoped to obtain the release of Corporal Gilad Schalit in the framework of this agreement, but Hamas insisted on trading Shalit for the release of hundreds of terrorists, who would constitute a security threat if freed. Shalit continued to be held in conditions that violate international conventions, without the benefit of visits by the International Red Cross. Shalit's parents and friends initiated a very vocal and effective lobby group on his behalf.

In the summer of 2008, US Presidential candidate Barack Obama visited the Israeli town of Sderot, and made the following remarks in response to a question:

I don't think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens.

The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens. And so I can assure you that if -- I don't even care if I was a politician. If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

In terms of negotiations with Hamas, it is very hard to negotiate with a group that is not representative of a nation state, does not recognize your right to exist, has consistently used terror as a weapon, and is deeply influenced by other countries. ref

Israeli intelligence reports indicated that Hamas was using the truce to bring in large quantities of arms through tunnels beneath the Rafah border with Egypt. Repeated interventions with Egypt and the United States to do something to stem the flow of arms and explosives had little or no effect. 

Hamas held a huge celebration rally on the anniversary of its foundation, in which they taunted and ridiculed Shalit and his parents (see Severe Human Rights Violations in Gaza). During the truce period, Hamas rocket fire and Israeli responses to the source of fire, as well as other security operations continued. The Hamas, but not Israel, declared that the agreement was to last only 6 months. The truce was violated repeatedly by rocket, mortar and sniper fire from the Gazan side, but in most cases Hamas was able to shift responsibility for the attacks to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Popular Resistance Committees and the Fatah-Al Aqsa brigades. In these circumstances, and given the continued captivity of Shalit, Israel continued to withhold some of the aid. Shipments of cement were held up, for example, after it was found that Hamas was confiscating the cement in order to build underground bunkers, rather than for housing construction. Hamas claimed that there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and UN officials claimed on several occasions that Gaza was on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, but photo footage of Gaza markets and streets always showed stores and stalls full of produce and streets full of vehicles. (For example, see Gaza Humanitarian Crisis )

On November 4, 2008 Israel raided the Gaza Strip in order to destroy a tunnel being dug by the Gaza border into Israel. The tunnel was to be used for another kidnapping attack like the kidnapping of Shalit. Hamas terrorists opened fire on  the IDF and the IDF killed six of them. Hamas retaliated with rocket fire. On November 12, 2008, IDF paratroopers identified armed gunmen attempting to plant an explosive device next to the security fence in the central Gaza Strip. The gunmen exchanged fire with the IDF forces that arrived at the scene. The IDF had recently identified a significant rise in attempts to place explosive devices on the security fence of the Gaza Strip in an attempt to target forces in the area.

From November 4 to December 18, 2008, Hamas and affiliated Palestinian terrorist groups fired about 213 rockets and 126 mortar shells into Israel. More than 20 Qassam rockets were fired at southern Israel from Gaza on Wednesday 17 December 2008. In response, the IDF carried out four aerial strikes against terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday December 17 2008. During that period, different Hamas spokespersons reported that the group was in favor of renewing the lull or opposed. On December 18, Hamas announced definitely that it would not renew the lull. Conditions for renewing the lull and reasons for not renewing varied in different announcements. Some statements claimed that Hamas would only renew the lull if Israel extended it to include the West Bank, where Israel was still carrying out arrest campaigns, as well as ending the slowdown in aid and trade through the Erez crossing. Others claimed the Hamas would also demand opening of the Rafah crossings without UN observers.

Following December 19, a crescendo of rocket and mortar fire was opened up in a radius of about 45 KM around Gaza, affecting over 900,000 Israelis. In addition to the smaller Qassam rockets, Hamas now had substantial numbers of Grad (Katyusha) rockets, with an extended range of about 45 KM, reaching as far as Beersheva and Yavne.

Part of the Israeli security establishment  was reluctant to invade Gaza as it had Southern Lebanon in 2006 (see Second Lebanon War). An invasion would bring a prolonged period of rocket fire, and the possibility of high casualties among Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians, and international condemnation. Intelligence estimates claimed that the Hamas might have over 20,000 men under arms in Gaza. Israel repeatedly asked for extensions of the cease fire and threatened action. Dozens of rockets and mortars hit Israel each day. On December 24, over 60 rockets and dozens of mortars struck Israeli towns. (ref

Israel stopped the transfer of humanitarian supplies on December 19. Israeli leaders issued contradictory statements and accused each other of having an incorrect approach to the Gaza crisis. A general opined that the best course might be to negotiate with Hamas. These somewhat irregular doings may have reflected real divisions in the government, or they may have been a ruse to increase the element of surprise in the attack that was planned as an option.    

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, head of Kadima Party and candidate for Prime Minister , stated December 21 that if she becomes prime minister, she will eliminate Hamas by military force and diplomatic and economic isolation.

On Thursday 25 December 2008 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued a "last-minute" appeal to Palestinians in Gaza on Thursday to stop rocket fire at Israel. In a rare interview on al-Arabiya television, which broadcasts to the Arab world, Olmert said "We have enormous power, we can do things which will be devastating," he said. "And I keep restraining myself and I keep restraining my friends all the time and I tell them, 'Let's wait, let's wait, let's wait. Let's give them another chance.'" The prime minister said he was running out of patience. "And I'm telling them now, 'It may be the last minute.' I'm telling them, 'Stop it, we are stronger. There will be more blood there.' Who wants it? We don't want it," he said.

No sign of any softening of the Hamas stance was visible. Nor did any international body or foreign country intervene on Israel's behalf or attempt to persuade Hamas to stop the rocket attacks.

Origin of name: Cast Lead

The Zionist Hanukkah song written by Chaim Nachman Bialik tells how father bought a dreydl (dreydl is a Yiddish word; hebrew - Svivon - a top) of "oferet yetzuka" - Cast Lead. Such cheap toys  were common in the early twentieth century. Part of early Zionist education included children making molded lead dreydlach (svivonim). The operation was undertaken during the Hanukkah holiday so the name seemed appropriate.

Summary of Operation Cast Lead

In 22 days of fighting about 1,400 Palestinians were claimed killed by Palestinian reports, while IDF estimates 1,100 - 1,200 deaths. Of these, IDF estimates that at least 700-750 were Hamas fighters. Palestinians claim that 400 were children and at least 700 were civilians. Hamas fired about 600 projectiles at Israel including modified Grad rockets that struck as far as 43 kilometers away. See Map of Hamas Rocket Range - December 2008.  

According to Israeli sources, 3 Israeli civilians and 10 soldiers were killed by enemy action. One of the soldiers was hit by rocket or mortar fire in the Western Negev,  three were killed in a friendly fire incident and one was killed when an Israeli shell exploded. Hamas claimed to have killed 49 Israelis, while suffering only 48 casualties.  At the conclusion of the operation, Israel unilaterally declared a cease fire and Hamas followed suit. Israel obtained some promises that Hamas smuggling would be stopped, including a memorandum of understanding with the United States and pledges of action by European leaders, but did not attain Egyptian agreement to place international forces in Egypt, nor did Hamas agree to free captured soldier Gilad Schalit.

Hamas leaders threatened repeatedly to kidnap Israeli soldiers and claimed that in an IDF ground operation, Gaza would become a graveyard for IDF soldiers. None of these threats materialized. At least one kidnapping attempt was foiled. Ten soldiers died.

Israeli press had estimated that Hamas had about 20,000- 30,000 armed men in Gaza, anti-aircraft missiles, long range Fajr missiles and other heavy equipment. None of these were in evidence, though some anti-aircraft guns were found and anti-tank rockets were used on a few occasions. Some rockets were fired from Lebanon on northern Israel in two separate incidents, but the threat of massive intervention by the Hezbollah did not materialize either.

Observers agree  that the IDF fought well, intelligence was good to excellent, and coordination between ground, artillery and air forces was more than satisfactory. Unlike the Second Lebanon War there were no problems of conflicting orders, missing supplies, untrained troops or retreat in the face of difficulty. In that sense, IDF regained the deterrent it had lost in the Second Lebanon War. However, the political outcome of the operation is indecisive. 

The operation caused a huge amount of damage to infrastructure and civilian property in Gaza, as well as numerous civilian casualties. The precise number of civilian casualties is unknown but has certainly been inflated by war propaganda. Hamas enthusiasts circulated a film showing people wounded and killed in an explosion during a Hamas parade in 2005, when Hamas ordnance exploded and killed people in the crowd. They claimed the deaths had occurred during Operation Cast Lead.

The UN contributed to atrocity stories, insisting that Israel had fired on a girls' school in Jabalya refugee camp, killing 43 refugees who had sheltered within the school. Subsequent investigation showed that the Israeli mortar round was fired on an area outside the school. ref  ref

An activist of the MECA organization, Barbara Lubin, circulated the following atrocity story which never took place:

"Out of all the devastation I have seen, there is one story in particular that I think the world needs to hear. I met a mother who was at home with her ten children when Israeli soldiers entered the house. The soldiers told her she had to choose five of her children to `give as a gift to Israel.' As she screamed in horror they repeated the demand and told her she could choose or they would choose for her. Then these soldiers murdered five of her children in front of her.

This atrocity libel was eagerly taken up without any checking and circulated by pro-Palestinian groups. MECA masquerades as a charity but in fact provides support for the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement. UN representatives and some international organizations made repeated accusations that Israel had committed war crimes based on no evidence or evidence of Hamas spokespersons that could not be corroborated. These included the accusation that Israel had used white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon in Gaza (it was used only for marker flares) accusations that Israel had used depleted uranium, and accusations that the attack in Gaza was similar to the Nazi attack on the Warsaw Ghetto.

Casualties and destruction were due to a number of factors:

1 - Hamas announced that they would use civilians as shields and did so, assembling children around rocket launching sites and on roofs of buildings. On more than one occasion air strikes were called off to prevent harm to civilians.

2- IDF strategy maximized firepower to reduce risk to IDF troops who were under threat of Hamas kidnapping. It was understood that a single kidnapped IDF soldier or killing of a dozen soldiers could be exploited by Hamas as a "victory."

3- Bunkers and booby trapped houses were located in the heart of civilian areas. Mosques and schools and homes were used as weapons storage and rocket launching sites as documented in IDF films of the action. IDF Viper minesweeping equipment blew up booby trapped homes. Often, people had not known their homes were booby trapped.

4- Hamas counts as civilians anyone who is not directly engaged in shooting at Israelis at the time they are killed, or at least anyone who is not a full member of one the "resistance" groups. These "civilians" include the Gaza police, derived from the infamous Executive Force and minors of various ages who are used as human shields, and as runners and spotters.

In a BBC analysis broadcast January 9, former British Army Colonel Richard Kemp who fought in Afghanistan with British Forces in 2003, stated: "There has never been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and death, than the IDF is doing today in Gaza."

The Israel Air force made over 2740 attacks on Hamas targets either based on intelligence or in support of IDF operations.

The long term effects of the operation are difficult to assess. Each side claims victory, while the cease fire is fragile. On January 27, a bomb exploded along the Gaza border, evidently on the Israeli side, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding 3 who were on patrol.

Political Motivation for operation Cast Lead

Both pro-Palestinian analysts and those associated with the Israeli right charged that the timing of operation Cast Lead reflected upcoming Israeli elections. This charge ignores the following:

  • Operation Cast Lead was carried out because Hamas declared it would not renew the Tahidiyeh (lull) agreement and because Hamas fired a huge barrage of rockets into Israel. Without those two conditions, there would not have been any operation Cast Lead. It is unlikely that Hamas was campaigning for any Israeli political party.

  • The Prime Minister who decided to go ahead with Operation Cast Lead, Ehud Olmert, is not the head of the governing party any more.

  • The head of the governing Kadima Party, Tzipi Livni, got little credit for the operation, which signaled the failure of her diplomatic approach.

  • Operation Cast Lead brought the most political benefit to their rival, Ehud Barak of the  Israel Labor party.

 

Chronology of Operation Cast Lead

December 27 - (Cast Lead Day 1) At 11:33 AM, Israeli jets hit about 50-100 Hamas targets in the space of 8 minutes or so. In particular, a graduation ceremony at the Hamas police academy was bombed, resulting in perhaps 200 casualties. The Hamas police were organized originally as the "Executive Force" both for suppression of Fatah and for terror activities against Israel. Hamas counts these police as "civilians. Other targets included buildings used by the Hamas government, and arms storage depots. Hamas were evidently surprised by the Israeli attack. 

December 28 - (Cast Lead Day 2)  Israeli air campaign continued, with an estimated 280 Palestinians dead, mostly terrorists.  Israeli air targets included  police stations, weapons smuggling tunnels and the homes of Hamas commanders. Israeli warplanes on pounded targets in Gaza City, the northern towns of Jabalia, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, the southern towns of Rafah and Ben Yunis, and two refugee camps in central Gaza, hitting Hamas government and security offices, a mosque and a TV station. Civilians, including Hamas personnel were warned by telephone as well as by leaflets before houses were hit. Hamas fired rockets and mortars into southern Israel at the rate of about 60 per day.  Several rockets landed near Ashdod, 38-40 km (23  miles) from the Gaza Strip, and one in Ashkelon.

The UN Security Council called for an immediate halt to all military actions in Gaza. The non-binding statement adopted by the 15-member body calls for an immediate halt to all violence and urges the parties to immediately stop all military activity. In its statement, the Council called on the parties to “stop immediately all military activities,” and stressed the need for the restoration of calm “which will open the way for finding a political solution to the problems existing in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement.” General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, said in a statement that “the behaviour by Israel in bombarding Gaza is simply the commission of wanton aggression by a very powerful State against a territory that [it] illegally occupies.” Not surprisingly, this statement did not increase Israeli confidence in the UN.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the defense establishment to allow the transfer of medical equipment, medications and basic food products into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing on Sunday.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Israel had a right to defend its people against terrorists, and he called Hamas "nothing but thugs." He also called on Israel to avoid civilian casualties. "Israel has said that they are targeting security and headquarter elements of Hamas. We have asked and urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties. We want the cease-fire to be restored. But we understand that Israel is reacting to the hundreds of rockets that have been fired upon the innocent people of Israel over the last few days," he said.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, stated that the operation would continue until people in southern Israel "no longer live in terror and in fear of constant rocket barrages." "The Israeli cabinet decided this morning to authorize the calling up of reserve soldiers," Regev said. "Our initial strikes against the Hamas military machine have been successful, but we have no doubt that the Hamas military machine in Gaza remains both formidable and lethal."

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Muslim states to punish Israel. He issued a statement condemning the heinous complicity of the criminal Bush regime with the Zionists, adding that the silence of some international bodies and some Arab states provided for the crimes. "By his complicity in the large crime, the criminal Bush's administration in the last days of his shameful rule more darkened the face of the American regime than ever and added to its dossier of war crimes. ... All the Palestinian Mujahid and other faithful of the world of Islam are supposed to defend the defenseless people of Gaza. Anyone who is killed in the legitimate and holy defense is a martyr and is hoped to be among the ranks of the martyrs of Badr and Ohud battles in the presence of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.)."

December 29 - (Cast Lead Day 3)  Gaza militants  fired more than 50 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing two  people - an Israeli Arab in the city of Ashkelon and another Israeli at a communal farm, Nahal Oz, near Gaza.  One home in Sderot suffered a direct hit.

As part of the actions being taken to reinforce the rocket alert systems, on Monday (Dec. 29) the Home Front Command began distributing beepers to all the families in Sderot in order to warn every time the "Color Red" alarm siren sounds throughout the city.

IAF destroyed the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza City and made at least five strikes against the Islamic University in the Gaza Strip, which was used to design and manufacture rockets. The Israeli Air Force destroyed 40 tunnels along the Philadelphi Route, near the Israeli-Egyptian border, that were used to smuggle weapons and terrorists into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. It also struck a weapons center in Gaza used to develop and manufacture Qassam rockets. Israel navy war ships shelled Gaza city’s pier, partially destroying it. At about 18:00 Monday evening, the IAF struck a Hamas vehicle loaded with dozens of Grad type missiles in the Jabaliya area, in the Gaza Strip. According to IDF assessments, the missiles were being transferred by Hamas to a new hiding location, fearing that the previous location was being targeted by the IDF, or were en route to missile launching sites. Hamas vowed to avenge the Israeli actions with suicide attacks on Israeli streets and cafes. "We will not compromise or back down on our religion or cause,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said. “If you kill thousands of us, you will not be able to kill our spirit, our honor, our dignity, our resistance, our loyalty to our martyrs nor our loyalty to this new quest."

December 30 - (Cast Lead Day 4)  IAF struck the offices of the Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh located in Gaza City - either late Monday or Tuesday morning.  Haniyeh's office was center for the planning, support and financing of terrorist activities against Israel. In addition, the offices of other Hamas ministers in the same area were attacked. In pre-dawn attacks, Israeli aircraft fired missiles into Gaza City, hitting Hamas ministry and security buildings. IAF struck the Hamas government complex in the Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City. During the aerial strike three seven-story buildings that constitute the core of the terrorist organization’s government complex were targeted.   The buildings include the Finance Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Labor Ministry and the Construction and Housing Ministry. The buildings were destroyed as a result of the attacks. The IAF attacked 35 additional targets, including: tunnels in the Rafah border area , weapon storage facilities, Hamas outposts and an armed rocket launcher. Naval forces also attacked a number of targets in the Gaza Strip. including Hamas outposts, training camps, guarding vessels used by Hamas naval forces and rocket launching posts.

Hamas launched about 30 rockets into Israel as far away as the Bedouin town of Rahat. About 363 Palestinians were claimed to have been killed, and another 1700 wounded.

December 31 -  (Cast Lead Day 5)  Hamas rockets reached Beersheva for the first time, some 43 KM from Gaza. IAF and the Israel Navy struck around 20 additional Hamas targets as a continuation of Operation Cast Lead, Among the sites targeted were the buildings housing Hamas' Ministry of Justice and Legislative Assembly, both located in the Tel El-Hawwa government complex. Several smuggling tunnels along the 'Philadelphi Route' used by Hamas to transport arms and terrorists in and out of Gaza were hit. A weaponry manufacturing and storage facility in central Gaza, under which a tunnel was also located was hit. A command center of Hamas' police force in Rafah, as a well as a Hamas coastal authority outpost on the shore adjacent to Gaza City was targeted. In addition, the Israel Navy targeted a number of Hamas outposts and rocket launching sites.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Egypt will not fully open the border crossing into Gaza, unless Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in control there. Egypt has opened a crossing to allow wounded Palestinians to enter for medical treatment, and Egyptian authorities also allowed food and medical supplies to be delivered into Gaza.

Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo to discuss the crisis but reached no decisions. 

January 1 - (Cast Lead Day 6)  Over 20 targets were struck by IAF: weapons storage facilities, rocket launching sites, Hamas terror operatives, and smuggling tunnels used by Hamas. IAF killed Nizar Rayyan, key Hamas ideologue who had announced time and again that Hamas would never make peace with Israel.  Reportedly, IAF fired a warning missile at the roof of his house, so that he would leave, but he and his family decided to stay put.

IAF forces also struck the house of Nabil Amrin, a senior Hamas terror operative, in Sheikh Radwan – Gaza Strip. Amrin is a senior military terror operative and is Battalion Commander for the Hamas military branch. The house contained large stores of weapons and ammunition. Large secondary explosions were occurred following the air strike due to presence of weapons stores. . These secondary explosions indicate the presence weapons stores.  Palestinian health officials said the death toll in the six-day air offensive launched on Gaza by the Jewish state on Saturday had risen to 403 Palestinians, and more than 2,000 people were injured. The UN Security Council has met to discuss the violence in Gaza, but failed to agree on a cease-fire resolution. Arab countries pushed for a resolution to demand an immediate cease-fire. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon accused Israel of disproportionate use of force against Palestinians and called for an immediate ceasefire. The delegation of Arab states is calling for a resolution condemning Israel's actions in Gaza and asked that it halt all military action. Palestinian rocket fire into Israel continued.

January 2 -  (Cast Lead Day 6)   IAF attacked a vehicle  by Mamduq Jammal. Jammal is a Hamas battalion commander who is also involved in rocket launching and is in charge of the rocket launching squads in the Gaza City area. Among the other Hamas targets struck  were the following:

  • A college building in El-Atatra used by Hamas for terrorist purposes. The college was a base for firing rockets at Israeli communities and was also used as a hiding spot and assembly space by Hamas operatives.
  • The house of Hamas terror operative Ismail Renam in Bet-Lehiya, located in the northern Gaza Strip, which functioned as a weapons storage facility, specifically for rocket launching equipment. Renam has a central role in the launching of Grad type rockets against Israel.
  • The house of Azadin Hadad, a Hamas terror operative in Gaza City, that was used to orchestrate terror activity and as a meeting place for terror operatives. Hadad is the head of the Hamas military group in eastern Gaza City.
  • A vehicle from which a Hamas operative loaded weapons into a storage place in Nuseirat.

64 truckloads of humanitarian aid were transferred to Gaza. Rocket attacks on Israel continued. Hamas launched about 30 projectiles on Israel (or 60 according to other reports, with rockets reaching as far as Ashdod and Beersheva. Protests against the Israeli operation swept the Middle East. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal insisted that if Israel launched a ground offensive in Gaza, Hamas would kidnap Israeli soldiers. 

January 3 -  (Cast Lead Day 7) Israel rejected a proposal for a 48 hour humanitarian truce by French Foreign Minister Sarkozy and prepared for a ground attack while diplomatic efforts stalled. Israeli reserve forces (about 2 brigades) were massed outside the Gaza strip. In preparation for the attack, Israeli artillery fired numerous rounds at what were apparently open fields in Gaza.

The go signal for the ground attack had already been given in a secret cabinet meeting on January 2. Israel killed Abu Zakaria al-Jamal, a commander of the Hamas armed wing. Israel Radio quoted a spokesman for the Hamas military wing as saying it had repelled an attempt by Israel Defense Forces soldiers to infiltrate the Shajaiyeh section of Gaza City. Toward evening, Israeli ground troops began entering Gaza, but this was

IAF aircraft struck the vehicle transporting senior Hamas commander Mohammed Ma'aruf and an additional Hamas operative in Khan Younis. Ma'aruf was part of Hamas' military wing and served as an officer in the terror organization's ground forces.

Hamas fired about 15 rockets into Israel reportedly.

Thousands of demonstrators in Europe and USA demonstrated against the Israeli invasion with peaceful and non-racist slogans including, "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas," "Nuke Israel" and "I hate Juice." Palestinians and Saudis arrested some demonstrators and Palestinians forbade demonstrations as these were getting out of hand.

January 4 - (Cast Lead Day 8) - Israel commenced a limited scale ground operation. IDF announced it had divided Gaza in two and IDF troops began operating chiefly in the north, advancing on Gaza city from the north and south. IDF reported killing dozens of terrorists.  U.S. blocks Security Council Resolution as pointless, since the Hamas refused to abide by a previous Security Council Resolution. Senior Hamas terrorist Hussam Hamdan, who was in charge of Grad-type rocket launches into Beersheba and Ofakim, was killed in an IAF strike on Khan Yunis on Sunday afternoon, along with another senior Hamas terrorist, Muhammad Hilo, who was also killed in the same airstrike. Hilo was in charge of the Hamas special forces in Khan Yunis. Staff-Sgt. Dvir Emmanueloff, 22, from Givat Ze'ev  of the Golani reconnaissance unit, was killed by mortar shell shrapnel during clashes with Hamas terrorists near Jabalya. He was the first casualty in the ground offensive.

First reports from Gaza appeared about this time indicating that Hamas were terrorizing Fatah and other "collaborators" with Israel. Mahmoud a-Zahar told Palestinians to prepare for a tomorrow without Zionists.

January 5 - (Cast Lead Day 9) - Three IDF soldiers were killed, one was critically wounded, three were severely wounded and 20 soldiers were lightly to moderately wounded as a result of an IDF tank shell explosion fired in error during an operation in the northern Gaza Strip. The shell hit a structure where the soldiers were located. A fourth soldier died of his wounds on the following day.

An additional IDF soldier, Paratroop brigade officer Captain Yehonatan Netanel was killed in a separate incident when a shell misfired.

IAF struck dozens of smuggling tunnels used by the Hamas terror organization  along the Rafah border. During the operation IDF forces hit dozens of terror operatives. Aerial and artillery forces also assisted the ground forces by attacking armed gunmen approaching them and striking launching areas from which Hamas fired rockets at the forces.  IAF attacked over forty additional targets including a tunnel rigged with explosives, a number of weaponry storage facilities, among them houses of Hamas terror operatives, in one of which there was an underground tunnel, a number of weapons manufacturing sites, rocket launching areas, and a rocket launcher. IAF also attacked a mosque used for weapons storage.

January 6  (Cast Lead Day 10) IDF Paratroopers g in northern Gaza fired at a would-be suicide bomber, causing him to detonate. The house of Imam Siam in Jabaliya refugee camp was attacked in a joint IDF and ISA operation and Siam was apparently killed. He was .one of the senior Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and founded the organization's rocket launching program, and is also the head of Hamas' artillery program throughout the Gaza Strip. 

The IAF struck approximately 50 targets in Gaza, including:

* Approximately 10 Hamas weapons-storage facilities, some of which were located in the homes of senior members of the organization: Mahmad Shatiwi, a Hamas battalion commander; Osama Tabesh, a Hamas company commander; Bassel Abu Wadi, a Hamas company commander; Ashraff Jouda, a senior Hamas commander.
* Three Hamas weapons-storage facilities that also served as meeting places for senior members of the organization.
* Two weapons-production facilities, one of which was located in the home of Iman Jallalah, a Hamas company commander.
* Five Hamas headquarters and two Hamas police structures.
* Two weapons-smuggling tunnels and a booby-trapped house covering tunnel entrances.

According to one account, IAF planes struck at a UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun after the school had repeatedly been the source of rocket and mortar fire on Israel. According to other accounts a girls' school in Jabalya refugee camp was hit by IDF mortar shells. Palestinians had sheltered in the school. UN sources were outraged and insisted that the IDF had fired into the school, killing over 40 innocents. Subsequent investigation showed that the IDF had fired 3 mortar shells outside the grounds of the school at sources of enemy fire. The casualties were people who had left the school grounds. UN officials told eye witnesses to conceal the truth, and the UN was eventually forced to retract the charges. ref  ref

January 7  (Cast Lead Day 11) Over 20 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip to Israel, wounding two people. IAF aircraft attacked over 40  targets throughout the day, including a number of smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza, 14 rocket launching sites, 4 armed terror cells, a Hamas outpost, 9 tunnels dug under houses, and a weaponry storage facility. IDF opened a Humanitarian Affairs Coordination Center (HACC)  in Tel-Aviv. The center's aim is to coordinate between the different organizations operating in the field and those of the IDF and will not replace existing structures. The center will  help in evacuation of foreign nationals and in coordinating the flow of food, fuel and supplies of goods to the humanitarian organizations.

January 8  (Cast Lead Day 12) - UN Security Council passes resolution 1860 calling for immediate cease fire. 14 nations vote for it, United States abstains, after having helped to initiate and organize the resolution. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert claims that this was a reversal of US policy after his personal intervention with President George Bush. This version is denied by the White House but supported by evidence. Both Israel and Hamas ignore the non-binding resolution. 

Israel initiated a three hour humanitarian cease fire every afternoon between 1 PM and 4 PM. Four Grad rockets and two Qassam rockets were launched during the lull, in addition to  fourteen other rockets and mortars launched throughout the day.  Israel transferred 89 humanitarian aid trucks to Gaza via the Kerem Shalom Crossing. 315,000 liters of fuel, alongside 143 tons of natural gas were transferred through the Nahal Oz terminal, and 223 foreign nationals were permitted entry to Israel following requests from their respective governments.  A paratrooper force operating in the northern Gaza Strip uncovered an explosives lab and in it large amounts of explosives connected to two tunnels. The force detonated the tunnels in a controlled environment. Infantry forces uncovered a tunnel containing various weapons including RPG missiles, AK-47 assault rifles, detonators for explosive charges, grenades, and knives.

Two IDF officers and one soldier were killed during operations,

IDF forces targeted and hit Islamic Jihad operative Tarek Abu Amshev, 22 from Beit Hanoun, who was involved in planting explosive devices against IDF forces and in the daily launching of rockets against Sderot and other communities in the region. Another operative, Mohamed Najar, 26 from Jebalya, was also hit in the attack.

A number of other targets including tunnels, weapons storehouses and rocket launching sites were hit.

UN claimed IDF had hit a truck with an aid worker, and UN roundly condemned Israel. Evidently the aid worker was hit by Hamas fire however.

IDF discovered a Hamas map showing how areas had been booby trapped.  Intelligence Corps Officer-in-Chief, Brigadier General Yuval Halmish, revealed a sketch by Hamas that details on the deployment of explosives and Hamas forces in the Al-Attara neighborhood in the northern Gaza Strip. The map was found during Paratrooper Brigade forces operations in the northern Gaza Strip and was translated from Arabic during the operation. It describes, among other things, the location of explosive devices and firing positions in the middle of the civilian population in the dense neighborhood, which endanger the life of the civilians. 

The map shows that snipers are positioned at the entrance of the A-Tawil mosque and in the mosques next to it and describes the directions the snipers are aiming. It indicates that explosives are planted in the entrances of civilian homes. Hamas operatives are divided into three fighting areas throughout the neighborhood, colored blue, red and green. Throughout these areas IEDs, (improvised explosive devices), barrel explosives, explosives, explosives against humans and anti tank explosives are planted. The map also shows an explosive device planted next to a gas station - the detonation of the device would significantly damage the surrounding area. “The important point is the disregard for human life in using entrances civilian homes,” explains Brig. Gen. Halmish. “They booby-trapped the entrances of civilian houses with explosives put close to them; the objective is of course to hit our forces but a local explosion also damages the houses of the civilians and causes great damage, likely killing civilians.” 

January 9 (Cast Lead Day 13) - IDF attacked about 70 targets including 15 rocket launching areas, tunnels, houses of Hamas personnel, weapons storage facilities.

January 10  (Cast Lead Day 14) - Amir Mansi, the commander of the Hamas rocket launching program in the Gaza City area, was killed  by IDF fire with assistance of the ISA. Mansi was also the leading Hamas authority with regard to the long range Grad missile launching program. Among other activities Mansi directed and actively fired dozens of rockets at Israel, killing and wounding Israeli civilians. Mansi was spotted firing a rocket in the Jabel Rise area during a ground force operation today. The forces opened fire, killing Mansi and injuring two additional terror operatives. IDF hit about 60 targets including rocket launching sites, tunnels, weapons factories, an anti-aircraft missile launcher and a suicide bomber about to explode himself.

January 11  (Cast Lead Day 15) - IDF struck about 60 different targets including smuggling tunnels, rocket launching sites, and terrorist cells. About 20 rockets and mortar shells were launched into Israel, including a Grad missile that struck a kindergarten in Ashdod.

January 12  (Cast Lead Day 16)-  An attack by a female terrorist was foiled. Over 20 smuggling tunnels, 9 squads of terrorists, two mortar launchers and nine rocket launching sites were targeted  by IDF. In one incident, a Hamas squad fired on Israeli troops from a mosque. The mosque proved to be a storage place for Qassam missiles and other arms.

 About 20 rockets and mortars were launched by Hamas against Israel. 

January 13  (Cast Lead Day 17)- IDF uncovered a tunnel dug into Israel from Gaza to allow infiltration for large scale terror attacks near Nahal Oz. IDF troops were wounded in a booby trapped house, which yielded considerable arms; an anti-aircraft gun and other arms were found in a mosque in Ein Zeitun.

Hamas fired a total of 18 rockets and mortars into Israel. 

January 14  (Cast Lead Day 18)- IDF attacked and apparently killed two Hamas company commanders Walid Za'abud and Muhamad Dash both involved in launching rockets, as well as targeting 15 smuggling tunnels, and over ten rocket launchers, some underground.

Hamas fired a total of 14 rockets and mortars into Israel.  

January 15  (Cast Lead Day 19)- IDF killed Hamas interior minister Said Siam, his brother Ia'ad and Salah Abu-Sharah, head of Hamas internal security services.

IAF attacked 70 targets including a Rafah mosque used to stockpile rockets, 14 cells of armed gunmen, 14 rocket launchers, a tunnel and five weapons storage facilities.

Over 25 rockets and mortars were launched by Hamas into Israel.   

January 16  (Cast Lead Day 20) - IDF identified and neutralized several squads o gunmen. IAF hit about 50 targets including gunmen, rocket launching sites and smuggling tunnels. 

Over 20 rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip hit Israel. Among the cities hit were Ashdod and Qiryat Gat. Five civilians were reported wounded.

January 17  (Cast Lead Day 21) - IAF carried out over 120 sorties, destroying over a hundred tunnels, 10 rocket launching sites, 5 cells of gunmen.

About 20 rockets and mortar shells were fired by Hamas into Israel. 

January 18  (Cast Lead Day 22)- Israeli cease fire commenced at 2:00 AM. Hamas continue to fire rockets but announce a cease fire at 16:00 hrs (4:00 PM).

January 21 - The last Israeli soldiers left Gaza.

Ami Isseroff

January 27, 2009


Synonyms and alternate spellings: Oferet Yetzuka, Gaza war 2008-9 

Further Information:  BBC Interview of Col Richard Kemp discussing IDF operations in Gaza International Law and Military Operations in Practice Prosecuting Hamas for War Crimes Gaza victims describe how they were used by Hamas Hamas war crimes in Gaza


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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