Operation Pillar of Defense
During November, Israel and Hamas engaged in their heaviest fighting in four years. TheÂ latest round broke out after Palestinian terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep patrolling the Gaza-Israel border on November 10, wounding four soldiers. The IDF launched air strikes in retaliation, killing four Palestinians. GazanÂ militants began a wave of rocket attacks; between November 10 and 13, 121 rockets hits were identified inside Israel. Israel answered with an airstrike on November 14, killing the head of Hamas's military wing, Ahmed Jabari, and starting its eight-day operation, Pillar of Defense.
Damage sustained at a Rishon Letzion apartment buildingÂ from the direct hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Nir Keidar)
During the operation, 1,506 rockets were launched from Gaza
, killing six Israelis
and injuring 240; in Gaza 161 Palestinians died
including 30 senior terrorist operatives
. Some of the terrorists killed were Hab's Hassan Us Msamch, a senior Hamas police figure; Khaled Shaer, a senior Hamas anti-tank missile operator; Ahmed Jabari, head of Hamas's military wing who oversaw the imprisonment Gilad Shalit; and Ramz Harb, an Islamic Jihad propaganda operative in Gaza City.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) hit more than 1,500 targets including 19 senior command centers, dozens of terrorist operating rooms and bases, 140 smuggling tunnels, 66 tunnels used for terror activity, 26 weapon manufacturing and storage facilities, and hundreds of underground rocket launchers. Israel specifically targeted Hamas's long-range rocket arsenal and also destroyed its drone program.
Unlike in past conflicts, long-range rocketsâ€”mainly Iranian Fajr-5'sâ€”were launched from Gaza, aimed at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In response to the new rocket threat, the Israeli government quickened the deployment of a fifth Iron Dome battery to protect Tel Aviv. Across the country, Iron Dome intercepted 421 rockets throughout the operation, giving it approximately an 85 percent success rate for rockets headed toward city centers.
The Iron Dome defense system launches a missile in response to a rocket fired from Gaza. (Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)
According to Iran's ISNA news agency, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps disclosed that Tehran has supplied Gaza's terrorists
with the know-how to produce longer-range missiles, but not the missiles themselves. However, according to the commander of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad, the missiles launched from Gaza are either Iranian made or purchased with the help of Iranian funds
. Following the operation, large billboards were displayed on three major road junctions in Gaza that stated, "Thank you, Iran"
in Arabic, English, Hebrew, and Farsi. It was the first public acknowledgement of Iran's role as a supplier of Gaza's terrorists.
Pillar of Defense ended when Hamas and Israel agreed to a ceasefire, negotiated with Egypt's help. The ceasefireÂ called for an end to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and an end to Israeli military actions in the territory, as well as for the easing of restrictions by Israel on the movement of goods and people into Gaza. Although Hamas claimed victory, Israeli Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo noted that the quiet on the border following the ceasefire is evidence of Israel's success in damaging Hamas's capabilities.
Security Situation in Sinai
A group possibly affiliated with al-QaedaÂ admitted to launching five rockets from Sinai toward Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense.
Egypt seized two weapons shipments this month, which were reportedly from Libya
and bound for Gaza. One of the shipments contained over 100 warheads for Grad rockets while the other was comprised of 185 crates of weapons that held anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions among other arms, and could be worth up to $3.3 million.
Prior to Operation Pillar of Defense, which destroyed 140 smuggling tunnels, Sinai tribal leader Arif Abu-Akr revealed that 1,200 tunnels remain fully operational between Gaza and Egypt despite Cairo's crackdown on the tunnels following the August terror attack in Sinai.
According to Iran's Fars News Agency, Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail HaniyehÂ said that recent visits by Egyptian delegations to the Strip signaled an end to its blockade. The visits are in line with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's policy of ending the blockade and establishing ties with Gaza, Haniyeh stated.
Egyptian President Morsi made it clear that he stood by Gaza and Hamas and condemned Israel's actions during Operation Pillar of Defense. During the fighting, Morsi said that Egypt "will not leave Gaza on its own" and warned the "aggressor to stop the bloodshed or face [Egypt's] wrath." "Egypt today is different than Egypt yesterday andâ€¦the Arabs today are different than the Arabs of yesterday," he said. In addition, Morsi withdrew Egypt's ambassador to Israel, although Israel's ambassador to Egypt was not recalled. Moreover, Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham KandilÂ visited Gaza, marking the first time an Egyptian prime minister visited the Strip. While there, he denounced Israeli airstrikes and expressed Cairo's interest in securing a ceasefire. During his visit, Israel ceased airstrikes on Gaza even though terrorists fired some 50 rockets at Israel.
The Freedom and Justice party, the Muslim Brotherhood's political party in Egypt, condemned the killing of Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari. In a statement, the party noted: "Israel should be warned that the changes recently witnessed in the Arab region, especially in Egypt, cannot allow Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people to go unpunished as in the past."
Hamas and Fatah both expressed interest in reconciling following Operation Pillar of Defense and the United Nations' upgrading the status of the Palestinian Authority (PA) within the international body. As goodwill gestures, Hamas decided to allow 17 Fatah members who fled Gaza after the 2007 Hamas-Fatah war to return, and both governments have said they will release party members from jail whose imprisonment is linked to the 2007 split. The Palestinian Authority has also reportedly decided to reopen Hamas institutions in the West Bank. Tellingly, however, in speaking at a Gaza rally, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said to Fatah: "Come and join the program of resistance and stop wasting your time and effort. Let's join hands and carry the rifle together."
Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mashaal told Reuters in an interview that between the PA's upgraded status at the UN, the end of the recent Gaza fighting, and the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power in Egypt, he is "optimistic" that "there is a new mood" that would allow Fatah and Hamas "to achieve reconciliation". Mashaal also noted that Hamas believes a Palestinian state "(should be) on all our Palestinian land," but accepts the idea of a state on the 1967 borders "not at the expense of recognizing Israel or giving away Palestinian rights but as a common factor." He also stated that the road to a Palestinian state is through "(armed) struggle and exerting all forms of Arab and Palestinian pressure on the Israeli enemy".
In the beginning of December, Mashaal traveled to Gaza for his first-ever visitâ€”a result of Egypt's support and the recent Hamas-Israel ceasefire in which Israel agreed to not target terrorists in Gaza. While there, the Hamas leader announced that reconciliation between his movement and Fatah is necessary but not "at the expense of firm Palestinian principles." He also urged Palestinians to "prepare for liberation and stick to resistance and Jihad." Mashaal noted that Egyptian-sponsored unity talks would soon occur.
Living Situation in Gaza
Hamas's military wing publicly executed six Gazans at a large intersection in November. Hamas said they were killed for providing Israel with information about fighters and rocket launching sites. One of the alleged collaborators was tied to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets. According to the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency, the executed men had been in Hamas custody for months before Israel's operation.
The executions were criticized by Hamas's deputy leader, Moussa Abu Marzouk, who said that "punishing collaborators...must only be carried out in accordance with the law and through the legal procedures."
A Gaza official announced in November that the Red Cross is still conductingÂ family visits for Gazans imprisoned in Israeli jails. The Palestinian Authority had earlier said Israel canceled the visits. The visits were resumed in July after being banned for five years to pressure Hamas to release Gilad Shalit.
Hamas police beat female protesters with "fists and sticks" after they refused to leave a rally calling for Hamas and Fatah to form a unity government. The Hamas government laterÂ issued an apology for the incident. At a follow-up rally the next week Hamas security forces arrested six protesters.
Hamas banned Palestinians from holding events in November to mark the eighth anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death.
Gazan authoritiesÂ captured a crocodile in a sewage system after it escaped from a zoo more than two years ago. Locals accused the animal of eating their livestock.
Aid and Trade
Each month Israel delivers thousands of truckloads of good to Gaza. In November, despite ongoing rockets targeting Israel, the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza was opened to transfer supplies. On November 18, 80 truckloads of medical equipment and food were delivered to Gaza. On the 20th, 120 truckloads of aid were awaiting transfer when Israel was forced to close the crossing after it was targeted by rocket fire. Only 24 truckloads made it through the crossing before the attacks.
During the Gaza-Israel conflict, the president of Tunisia called Ismail Haniyeh and expressed his support for the Gaza leadership. Also during the operation, Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi led a delegation of 10 Arab ministers to Gaza to show support.
In light of the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel following Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel has reportedly eased its blockade on Gaza's coastal area. Fishermen may now travel six nautical miles off the coast, while they were previously only able to travel three.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the revival of plans to visit Gaza in December. Erdogan planned to visit Gaza in July and September 2011 but both trips were canceled.
Israel in September delivered to Gaza: 1,252 truckloads of food; 1,444 truckloads of construction materials; 56 truckloads of clothing and shoes; 407 truckloads of agriculture equipment; 2,207 tons of cooking gas; and more. It also granted 2,331 exit permits to Palestinians interested in leaving Gaza, and throughout the month 3,875 Palestinians left Gaza through Israel.
The Damascus office formerly occupied by Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal wasÂ raided and sealed by Syrian security forces. While Syria had served as a safe haven for Hamas officials since 2001, the relationship soured when Damascus began brutally suppressing Syria's uprising. Hamas officialÂ Dr. Salah Bardawil stated the closure was "of no real concern" to Hamas, adding, "All we care about is that they don't drag the Palestinian[s] into their battles." However, Palestinians in Syrian refugee camps haveÂ not escaped the violence.
The World Bank approved a $6.4 million grant to improve water and sewage services in the Gaza Strip. The project will be carried out along with the Islamic Development Bank, which is contributing an additional $11.14 million.
2012 Rocket Count
November: Approximately 1,243 rockets hit Israeli territory this month. This number does not include mortar shell attacks or rocket launchings that did not hit Israel. During Operation Pillar of Defense alone, which lasted from November 14-21, 1,506 rockets were launched from Gaza; 933 landed in Israeli territory.
Qassam missiles and IDF bombs erupt and explode in Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense. (Photo: Jerusalem Post/Samuel Vengrinovich)
October: 116 rockets, 55 mortar shells
; two improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and one anti-aircraft missile launching were also recorded
September: 17 rockets, 8 mortars; an IED and anti-tank weapon were also used
August: 21 rockets, 3 mortars, including one rocket launched from Sinai
July: 18 rockets, 9 mortars
June: 197 rockets, 21 mortars
May: 4 rockets, 2 mortars
April: 10 rockets
March: 173 rockets, 35 mortars
February: 36 rockets, 1 mortar shell
January: 9 rockets, 7 mortars
JPC researchers Michael Johnson and Joshua Ely contributed to this report.
Related Topics: Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Israel | Samara Greenberg
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