Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the U.S. (NYT, WP, WT 1/20; MA, MM, NYT, WP, WT, YA 1/21; HA, JP, MA, MM, QA, al-Ra’i, al-Watan, YA 1/22)
The IDF completes its withdrawal from...
Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the U.S. (NYT, WP, WT 1/20; MA, MM, NYT, WP, WT, YA 1/21; HA, JP, MA, MM, QA, al-Ra’i, al-Watan, YA 1/22)
The IDF completes its withdrawal from...
The 20th day of OCL is marked by serious diplomatic steps toward a cease-fire but also by Israel’s heaviest attacks on Gaza since operations began. Israel’s envoy receives the Egyptian-Hamas cease...
As OCL enters day 10, IDF ground forces tighten the circle around Gaza City and continue to operate against Palestinian rocketlaunching units across n. Gaza, still avoiding entering densely...
IDF ground forces backed by naval and air support continue to enter Gaza overnight, with troops taking up positions across n. Gaza (from which most Palestinian rockets have been fired),...
Israel begins phase 2 of OCL, a massive ground advance into Gaza, in the evening. The IDF states that “the objective . . . is to destroy the terrorist infrastructure of the Hamas in the precise...
The Israeli cabinet rejects the 12/30 French proposal for a 48-hr. humanitarian truce, complaining that it lacked a mechanism to guarantee enforcement. Damascusbased Hamas leader Khalid Mishal...
International diplomacy to end OCL clicks into gear with France proposing that Israel and Hamas impose a 48-hr. humanitarian truce to try to defuse the violence and restore the Gaza cease-fire,...
As Israel continues widespread air and naval bombardment of Gaza for a 3d day, Israeli DM Barak declares “all-out war” on Hamas. The IDF declares a 2-mi. buffer zone around the Strip a closed...
As massive Israeli strikes on Gaza enter a 2d day, IDF Southern Command head Maj. Gen. Yo’av Galant says (HA 12/28) that the IDF aims to “send Gaza decades into the past” in terms of Hamas’s...
After early morning consultations with senior cabinet mbrs., the IDF launches its major offensive on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead (OCL), at 11:25 A.M. local time (4:25 A.M. EST). Israeli DM Barak...
Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the U.S. (NYT, WP, WT 1/20; MA, MM, NYT, WP, WT, YA 1/21; HA, JP, MA, MM, QA, al-Ra’i, al-Watan, YA 1/22)
The IDF completes its withdrawal from Gaza’s built-up areas, moving troops to elevations overlooking the Strip, but slows its withdrawal fr. n. Gaza and secures positions inside the northern border after Palestinians fire 8 mortars toward Israel today (all of which land inside Gaza, causing no damage or injuries). The IDF responds with air strikes on several launching sites, causing no reported injuries. IDF troops on the s. Gaza border fire on residential areas of al-Qarara, wounding 1 Palestinian. In Khuza, 1 Palestinian is wounded when he accidentally triggers unexploded IDF ordnance. Israeli naval vessels fire warning shots at Palestinian fishing vessels going out to sea for the first time since OCL began, forcing them to stay close to shore. As Gazans continue to return to their homes, residents of the farming village of Juhur al-Dik (who evacuated the village several days after the ground invasion began on 1/3) report that about a third of the 600 homes have been bulldozed or heavily damaged and much crop land has been razed. Meanwhile, 1,000s of Palestinians turn out for 4 rallies across Gaza organized by Hamas to celebrate the end of OCL. Israel allows 217 truckloads of goods (mostly humanitarian aid) into Gaza. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts synchronized, late-night house searches in Bethlehem and neighboring Aida and Dahaysha refugee camps, making no arrests; conducts similar, synchronized house searches in villages nr. Jenin and villages nr. Hebron, making no arrests; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Nablus. (HA, JP, REU, UNOSAT 1/20; NYT, WP, WT 1/21; DUS, MM, PCHR, WJW 1/22; DUS, MM, al-Ra’i 1/23; PCHR 1/29)
The 20th day of OCL is marked by serious diplomatic steps toward a cease-fire but also by Israel’s heaviest attacks on Gaza since operations began. Israel’s envoy receives the Egyptian-Hamas cease-fire offer in Cairo, returns to Israel to brief the security cabinet. Olmert dispatches Livni to Washington to finalize a bilateral “memorandum of understanding” (MOU) regarding U.S.-led international efforts to halt arms smuggling into Gaza.
Combat notes: The IDF sharply escalates air, naval, and ground attacks across Gaza. IDF ground forces push deep into Gaza City under cover of air strikes and heavy tank and artillery fire. Residents report almost constant air, naval, artillery bombardment from 1:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. local time, and particularly heavy ground engagements in al-Atatra n. of the city and Tal al-Hawa neighborhood on the southern outskirts, as well as in Jabaliya r.c. Thousands of Gaza City residents attempt to flee the fighting, but many cannot leave their homes because of the intensity of Israeli fire. During the operations, Israeli troops surround the home of Hamas’s Mahmud Zahhar (in hiding), killing his security guards. Gaza City fighting eases slightly in the afternoon, but IDF troops remain in the city overnight. The IDF also takes up new positions in Bayt Hanun’s alFarta and al-Nazzaza quarters under cover of heavy shelling and gunfire, ordering residents of the 2 areas (some 20 families) to evacuate.
The IDF reports carrying out more than 80 air strikes today, hitting at least 23 rocket and mortar launching sites, 19 groups of armed Palestinians, 6 suspected weapons depots (including 2 mosques in Gaza City, 1 in Rafah), 4 tunnels, 1 radio station in Gaza City. Air strike target areas include al-Atatra, Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (al-Rimal, al-Sabra, Tal al-Hawa, al-Yarmuk), Jabaliya, Khan Yunis, al-Maghazi r.c., Nussayrat r.c., Rafah, Yibna r.c. Heavy tank and artillery fire are reported in Abasan, Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (al-Sabra, Tal al-Hawa, al-Tuffah), Jabaliya, Khuza, al-Mughraqa, al-Nasser (n. of Rafah), Nussayrat r.c., al-Qarara, Rafah. UNRWA reports 100s of Palestinians fleeing areas of northeastern Rafah to escape heavy bombardments. Reports of Israel using white phosphorous munitions spike sharply, with confirmed use in 3 areas (Abasan, Khuza, al-Qarara) and suspected use in 5 areas (Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Khan Yunis, Nussayrat r.c.). Israeli naval bombardment concentrates on Khan Yunis and the neighboring al-Mahatin area. Closecombat fighting is reported around Jabaliya r.c.
In a major air strike on Jabaliya, the IDF assassinates Gaza’s acting Interior M Said Siyam in his brother’s home, along with his brother and nephew, Hamas internal security head for Gaza Salah Abu Sharah, 4 Palestinians in an adjacent home. In addition, IDF air strikes hit buildings in Gaza City housing UNRWA’s main food depot (3 white phosphorous missiles incinerate tons of food and medicine brought in during the humanitarian lulls); Palestinian Red Crescent Society offices and the adjacent al-Quds Hospital (both hit repeatedly over a 5-hr. period; the patient wing of the hospital is not targeted); and the shared media offices of Abu Dhabi TV, al-Arabiyya TV, Reuters, and the Russian TV channel Rusiya al-Yaum, causing serious damage and injuring 2 journalists. A number of other hospitals in Gaza City are damaged by Israeli mortar fire. Palestinian medical workers say the Palestinian toll is at least 1,090 dead (including 375 children, 150 women, 14 medical workers), more than 5,000 wounded.
Palestinians fire 15 rockets and 8 mortars into Israel, seriously injuring a 7-yr.-old Israeli boy in Beersheba and causing significant damage in 2 instances (both by Qassams in Sederot); at least 3 of the rockets are Grads (2 in and nr. Beersheba, 1 in Gadera).
The Palestinian toll is estimated to be at least 1,090 dead, more than 5,000 wounded.
Humanitarian notes: With diplomacy toward a cease-fire showing progress, Israel extends the daily humanitarian lull to 4 hrs./day, allowing in up to 170 truckloads of humanitarian aid; permits the Qarni crossing conveyor belt to resume operation for the 1st time since 12/27 for the import of grain. Israel also allows the ICRC and Palestinian Energy Authority to begin repairs to part of Gaza’s electricity network. (AFP, AP, HA, IDF, IFM, IHY, MM, RFM, UNOSAT, YA 1/15; HA, IDF Radio, JP, MA, MM, NYT, REU, Scotsman, WP, WT, XIN, YA 1/16; IFM, NYT, XIN 1/17; ITIC 1/19; PCHR 1/22, 1/29)
Citing unspecified security concerns, the IDF imposes a total closure on the West Bank through 1/17. The IDF also conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus. Jewish settlers fr. Yitzhar attempt to close a road nr. Nablus to Palestinian traffic, stone Palestinian cars; the IDF forces them to leave. (IDF 1/15; PCHR 1/22)
As OCL enters day 10, IDF ground forces tighten the circle around Gaza City and continue to operate against Palestinian rocketlaunching units across n. Gaza, still avoiding entering densely populated areas. Troops deploy to segment the Strip into 3 main operational zones: a northern zone running fr. the n. Gaza border south to Netzarim Junction (the Qarni Crossing–Netzarim settlement line drawn on 1/4); a central zone fr. Netzarim Junction to Khan Yunis; and a southern zone fr. Khan Yunis to the Rafah border. While IDF troops are still entering Gaza, IDF reservists have not yet been sent in.
Meanwhile, French pres. Nicholas Sarkozy begins a regional tour to press for a 48-hr. humanitarian cease-fire, meeting with Mubarak in Cairo and Olmert in Israel).
Combat notes: In Gaza City, residents and medical workers report that IDF troops are concentrated in the al-Shuja‘iyya, al-Tuffah, and al-Zaytun neighborhoods (al-Zaytun is a strategic high point, providing a view over the breadth of the Strip) and that fighting is so intense (involving heavy Israeli tank and helicopter fire) that bodies of the dead have been left lying in the street and ambulances are unable to reach the area. IDF troops occupy at least 3 high-rise buildings in eastern areas of Gaza City as observation posts, expelling the residents and exchanging heavy gunfire with Palestinian gunmen. Israeli aircraft drop leaflets over Gaza City warning residents to evacuate their neighborhood; 1,000s of Gazans report receiving automated phone messages form the IDF saying “We are getting rid of Hamas.”
In addition to carrying out air strikes in support of advancing ground troops, the IDF reports making 40 air strikes targeting tunnels on the Rafah border, weapons caches, homes of senior Hamas and PFLP mbrs. (most of whom are in hiding), the Gaza airport site. Target areas include Abasan, Bayt Hanun, Bani Suhayla, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (the center city, al-Tuffah, al-Shuja‘iyya, Tal al-Hawa, alZaytun), Jabaliya, Khan Yunis, Khuza, the al-Mawasi area (w. of Khan Yunis), Nussayrat, Rafah, al-Shabura r.c. (nr. Rafah), Shati’ r.c., al-Shuka, Yibna r.c. (nr. Rafah).
Of particular note: A home in Gaza City’s al-Zaytun neighborhood, where the IDF placed 110 Palestinians it had rounded up on 1/4, is hit by an air strike and repeatedly shelled, killing at least 30 mbrs. of an extended family (including 5 children age 4 and younger) and wounding scores; the IDF bars relief workers fr. reaching the scene until 1/7. A shell fired from an Israeli naval vessel hits a Palestinian home in Shati’ r.c., killing a family of 7 asleep in their beds. A late-night air strike hits an UNRWA school in Shati’ r.c. being used as a shelter, killing 3 members of a single family. The IDF also makes air strikes hitting the offices of the Hamas-affiliated al-Risala for a 2d time (see 1/3). Photographs and live footage of the ongoing operations clearly show IDF artillery firing white phosphorus shells on densely populated areas, though Israel denies using the munitions. The IDF fires flechette shells on residential areas nr. Bayt Hanun, killing at least 1 Palestinian, wounding at least 3.
Palestinians fire 28 rockets, 5 mortars into Israel, hitting Ashdod, Ashqelon, Beersheba, Sederot, and Shaar Hanegev, damaging an empty kindergarten in Ashdod, injuring 2 Israelis in Shaar Hanegev.
More than 40 Palestinians are killed today (almost half of them children), bringing the estimated Palestinian toll to 550 dead, 2,500 injured. The Israeli toll reaches 9–10 dead, more than 70 wounded: 3 IDF soldiers are killed, 24 wounded (4 seriously) by friendly fire when their unit is hit by an Israeli tank shell outside Gaza City; an IDF officer is killed during an exchange of fire in n. Gaza, possibly by an IDF tank shell; 6 IDF soldiers are wounded in clashes with Palestinians nr. the e. Gaza border.
Humanitarian notes: Israel allows 80 truckloads of food, medicine, and medical equipment into Gaza, but the UN says much more is needed. Relief agencies (including the ICRC, UNRWA, and UNSCO) warn that two-thirds of the Strip is still without power, suffering freezing winter temperatures; 250,000 Gazans are without any running water; and water supplies for another 500,000 Gazans are expected to run out within days because of lack of fuel for pumps and backup generators. Shifa hospital, which has been running fully on generators for 3 days, warns that it has only a 2-day supply of generator fuel. (BBC, CNN, IDF, IDF Radio, MM, NYT, REU, RFM, UNIS, UNOSAT, WT 1/5; AFP, BBC, Guardian, HA, IDF, IFM, Israel Radio News, MA, MM, NYT, WP, WT, YA 1/6; IFM, PCHR, WJW, WT 1/8; Committee to Protect Journalists, MM, YA 1/9; NYT, WP 1/10; NYT 1/17; WP 1/27; BBC 2/23)
The IDF arrests 2 12-yr.-old Palestinians at an OCL protest nr. Hebron; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Bethlehem and in al-Bireh, Ramallah. Clubwielding PASF officers violently disperse a protest against OCL by students attempting to march fr. Ramallah’s Birzeit University to a main IDF checkpoint at Atarot. (PCHR 1/8)
IDF ground forces backed by naval and air support continue to enter Gaza overnight, with troops taking up positions across n. Gaza (from which most Palestinian rockets have been fired), surrounding Gaza City, retaking the former Netzarim settlement site nr. the Gaza coast south of Gaza City, and bifurcating the Strip into e. and w. (cutting a swath roughly from the Qarni and Nahal Oz crossings to Netzarim on the coast, driving 1,000s of residents from Juhur al-Dik, al-Mughraqa, and al-Zahra’ with heavy artillery and tank fire), but not entering dense urban areas.
Combat notes: IDF-Palestinian ground fighting is described as “fierce,” characterized by heavy IDF artillery fire and heavy Palestinian sniping and mortar fire. Because the IDF stays out of built-up areas, there are few reports of close-quarter combat or heavy exchanges of gunfire. While ground troops concentrate in the north, Israeli air strikes and naval bombardment focus equally on the north and south, hitting more tunnels on the Rafah border and targeting Hamas leaders for assassination. (The IDF claims to assassinate Hamas rocket cmdr. Hussam Hamdan and IQB and long-range rocket cmdr. Muhammad Hilu in Khan Yunis, senior IQB mbr. Muhammad Shalbush in Jabaliya, but there is no independent confirmation.)
The IDF reports hitting 45 sites and carrying out 40 air strikes during the day, striking a produce market in Gaza City, several mosques, a medical building and 3 mobile clinics in Shati’ r.c. run by a Danish charity, homes of at least 4 Hamas mbrs. (most of whom have gone into hiding), and suspected weapons depots across Gaza. Target areas include Abasan, Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (al-Daraj, Tal al-Hawa, al-Tuffah, al-Yarmuk, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya, Juhur al-Dik, Khan Yunis, al-Mughraqa, al-Nasser (n. of Rafah), Rafah, Shati’ r.c., al-Shuka, al-Zahra’. After dark, IDF troops conduct door-to-door searches on the outskirts of Gaza City.
Palestinians fire 29 rockets (including at least 12 Grads) and 5 mortars into Israel, hitting Ashdod, Ashqelon, Netivot, Ofakim, and Sederot; 1 house in Sederot is damaged and 1 Israeli woman lightly injured.
At least 47 Palestinians (including 4 paramedics) are killed and 400 wounded (including 3 paramedics) during the day; 1 IDF soldier is killed, 1 is seriously wounded in a heavy exchange of gunfire nr. Jabaliya; 15 IDF soldiers are wounded (3 seriously) by Palestinian mortar fire inside Gaza. The UN and Palestinian medical workers estimate the Palestinian toll to have reached at least 507 dead, 2,400 injured. The Israeli toll stands at 5–6 killed, more than 40 injured.
Humanitarian notes: The Israeli FMin. announced a new joint office of the FMin. and Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, called the Humanitarian Affairs Coordination Center (HACC), to coordinate humanitarian organizations operating on aid transfers to the Strip. The UN reports that shortages of fuel, electricity, and water are worsening. Gazan hospitals report drastic shortages of anesthesia, surgical equipment, heaters, spare parts. (AP, BBC, IDF, JAZ, National Public Radio, OCHA, REU, WT 1/4; IDF, IFM, NYT, RFM, UNOSAT, WP, WT 1/5; BBC 1/6; IFM, PCHR 1/8; WP 1/27)
In the West Bank, the IDF fatally shoots 1 Palestinian demonstrator who attempts to climb the separation wall nr. Qalqilya; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in al-Arub r.c. nr. Hebron, nr. Jenin. Israel’s High Court rules that the IDF may seal 2 floors of the home of the East Jerusalem Palestinian who killed 8 students at the Mercaz HaRava yeshiva in Jerusalem in 3/6/08, even though the gunman was killed during the attack and sealing the home would serve only to punish his extended family; another floor of the home will not be sealed because it is being rented to an unrelated family. (PCHR 1/8)
Israel begins phase 2 of OCL, a massive ground advance into Gaza, in the evening. The IDF states that “the objective . . . is to destroy the terrorist infrastructure of the Hamas in the precise area of operation, while taking control of some of [sic] rocket launching areas used by Hamas in order to greatly reduce the quantity of rockets fired at Israel and Israeli civilians.” Israeli FM Livni acknowledges that Israel has broader aims, stating that toppling Hamas is “a strategic Israeli objective,” but that it might take more than one large-scale military operation such as OCL to do the job.
Israeli actions: Before phase 2 begins in the evening, the IDF launches artillery strikes on some 40 targets concentrated in open areas around Bayt Hanun, east of Rafah, and along Gaza’s main north–south artery in an apparent effort to clear the areas of mines and tunnels, to move Palestinians away from those areas in preparation for the insertion of ground forces.
The IDF also continues air strikes and naval bombardments across Gaza. Target areas include Bayt Lahiya, Gaza City (al-Nasser, al-Rimal, al-Shuja‘iyya, al-Tuffah, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya, Juhur al-Dik, Khan Yunis, Khuza, al-Mughraqa, Nussayrat, Rafah, al-Shuka (e. of Rafah). Targets include 2 mosques in Bayt Lahiya and Jabaliya, killing at least 13 worshipers and injuring 30 during evening prayers; a car in Khan Yunis, assassinating senior Hamas military cmdr. Muhammad Ma‘aruf; 2 PA security compounds in Gaza City; the al-Aqsa Radio and the al-Risala newspaper offices in Gaza City; tunnels on the Rafah border; suspected rocket-launching sites and weapons depots. By evening, the Palestinian toll reaches at least 460 dead and more than 2,000 wounded.
At dusk, the IDF drops leaflets on n. Gaza warning residents that troops will soon operate in this area and that they should evacuate for their safety. Around 8:00 P.M. local time, the IDF cuts power to the Strip and begins sending ground forces into n. Gaza, taking up positions on the outskirts of Bayt Hanun and Bayt Lahiya (occupying homes as operational bases); securing areas e. of Gaza City nr. the Qarni crossing, but notably keeping a distance from Jabaliya (considered a Hamas stronghold), and just inside the s. Gaza border e. of Rafah (with tanks firing flechette shells at houses and agricultural areas, killing 1 Palestinian and wounding 7 inside their homes). Heavy gun battles are reported, with Hamas issuing a statement that it is firing mortars at IDF ground forces. After ground operations begin, the IDF announces a naval blockade of Gaza out to 20 nautical miles.
Palestinian actions: During the day, Palestinians fire 28 rockets and 7 mortars into Israel, hitting as far as Ashdod and Ashqelon to the n., and Netivot to the e., lightly damaging 3 homes and an apartment building, lightly injuring 2 Israelis.
Of note: Embedded with some IDF ground units are the first Israeli journalists and 2 foreign reporters (BBC and Reuters) allowed into Gaza since late 10/08. These journalists have been given “trusted” status by the government for their “long history of relations with the IDF” and are under the strict rules of the IDF censor; the general ban on foreign journalists is still in place, despite a 12/31 High Court ruling ordering the government to allow journalists access. (AFP, AP, BBC, IDF, IFM, ITV, Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC] press release, REU, YA 1/3; HA, IFM, JAZ, JP, NYT, OCHA, WP, WT 1/4; NYT, UNOSAT, WP, WT 1/5; IFM, PCHR 1/8; HA 1/11; JP 1/22; JPI 2/6; Harpers 3/09)
The Israeli cabinet rejects the 12/30 French proposal for a 48-hr. humanitarian truce, complaining that it lacked a mechanism to guarantee enforcement. Damascusbased Hamas leader Khalid Mishal says Hamas will consider any cease-fire proposal that includes a lifting of Israel’s embargo, but in Gaza, Haniyeh states that Hamas would not consider any proposals until Israel halts its attacks and opens Gaza’s border crossings, including Rafah.
In a briefing to Olmert’s security cabinet, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin states that Hamas’s weapons development facilities have been “completely wiped out” and “Hamas’s ability to govern Gaza has been significantly impaired.” Senior Israeli military sources speaking anonymously state that no major hardened targets remain standing but that Hamas’s military wing, the Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades (IQB), “has to a large extent survived the initial onslaught.”
The IDF continues to mass troops and tanks on the Gaza border, stating explicitly for the 1st time that a ground invasion is likely once wet weather clears. The security cabinet increases the number of reservists activated to more than 9,000.
Israeli actions: The IDF carries out some 60 air strikes, and the Israeli navy shells Gaza from the sea. Among the 66 sites hit by the IDF are Haniyeh’s office, the Tal al-Hawa Mosque in Gaza City (Israel claims it was used as a weapons depot), a major Islamic Jihad weapons depot in Khan Yunis (killing senior Islamic Jihad military cmdr. Amar Abu Ghalula, 3 other Islamic Jihad mbrs.), more tunnels on the Rafah border, at least 8 homes, 1 medical clinic, Hamas posts (including money exchanges). Target areas include Abasan, Bayt Hanun, Gaza City, Jabaliya r.c., Khan Yunis, Nussayrat r.c., Rafah. The estimated Palestinian toll reaches 393 dead, more than 1,900 wounded.
The IDF claims to have destroyed 200 smuggling tunnels since 12/27; a Palestinian source in Rafah says the Israelis seem to know which tunnels are commercial and which are used by Hamas, and have been selectively targeting Hamas tunnels.
Palestinian actions: Palestinians fire 49 rockets, 15 mortars into Israel, causing no serious injuries; 4 longer-range rockets land in Beersheba, 25 mi. n. of the Gaza border, 1 of which hits an empty school, causing significant damage to 1 room.
Humanitarian notes: Israel allows 93 truckloads of food, medicine into Gaza. UNRWA issues a $34-m. emergency appeal for additional food, medical, and reconstruction aid for Gaza in the wake of OCL; the appeal is in addition to a $275-m. emergency appeal for the West Bank and Gaza for 2009 issued earlier in the month. UNRWA Commissioner-Gen. Karen AbuZayd, warning of the dire conditions in Gaza (where she currently is based), states that for the first time in her 8 yrs. with UNRWA she has begun to see Palestinians begging on the streets of Gaza.
Of note: Residents in Egyptian Rafah report a heavy military, border police, and plain-clothed intelligence presence on the Egyptian side of the border, which Egypt has declared a closed military zone, preventing demonstrations, keeping journalists away, and preventing breeches of the Rafah border from either direction. (AFP, AP, BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Center, FT, IDF, IFM, JP, REU, UNIS, UNOSAT, XIN 12/31; IDF, JP, NYT, PCHR, WP, WT 1/1; WT 1/2; IDF, Sabah 1/3; WP 1/4; IFM, PCHR 1/8; NYT 1/11)
In the West Bank, observers report that Palestinian sympathy for Hamas is growing, even though overall public reaction to OCL has been muted, largely because PA security forces have been breaking up explicitly pro-Hamas demonstrations. The IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in and around Hebron, nr. Nablus. (PCHR, WP 1/1)
International diplomacy to end OCL clicks into gear with France proposing that Israel and Hamas impose a 48-hr. humanitarian truce to try to defuse the violence and restore the Gaza cease-fire, with humanitarian groups, Egypt, the EU, the Quartet, and the U.S. opening mediation channels (see Quarterly Update). Israel’s security cabinet meets to discuss the French proposal but does not formally respond.
Israeli actions: The IDF conducts 70 air strikes on Gaza, while the Israeli navy continues shelling from the sea, killing at least 10 Palestinians and wounding 40, bringing the death toll to about 370. The IDF reports hitting 110 individual sites, with primary targets being tunnels on the Rafah border, suspected weapons factories and rocket-launching sites, civil and naval police stations, and groups of resistance mbrs. In Gaza City, at least 20 air strikes hit Haniyeh’s offices, PA Interior Min., and main PA government complex in Gaza City, all of which had been targeted previously; 1 air strike hits an ambulance, killing 1 paramedic, seriously wounding a doctor and the driver. Part of Gaza’s main power grid is also hit, cutting all power to Gaza City. A fuel depot in Rafah is destroyed. In al-Bureij r.c., a mosque and health clinic are hit. In Khan Yunis, a money exchange is destroyed. At least 7 homes across the Strip are targeted. Target locations include Abasan, Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City, Jabaliya town and r.c., Khan Yunis, al-Maghazi (c. Gaza), al-Mughraqa, al-Qarara, Rafah. The IDF launches a YouTube channel to broadcast declassified videos of its operations in Gaza, “other footage of interest to the international community” (JPI 1/8) and begins regular briefings for Internet bloggers worldwide.
Palestinian actions: Palestinians fire 41 rockets, 10 mortars into Israel, damaging 1 home in Sederot and causing several light injuries (excluding shock); 1 rocket lands in Beersheba, 25 mi. fr. the Gaza border, marking the farthest strike to date; 2 other long-range rockets land in Ashdod. Humanitarian notes: Israel allows 93 trucks into Gaza (50 carrying medical supplies and food donated by aid groups; 43 carrying commercial goods), but Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital says it is out of 150 kinds of medicine and 230 other medical supplies, including gloves, scissors, sterilization equipment, nitrogen for anesthesia. Fuel shipments are still cut off; Gaza’s power plant shuts down for lack of fuel. (BBC, HA, Independent 12/30; IDF, IFM, NYT, REU, UNOSAT, WP, WT 12/31; JP, PCHR 1/1; ITV 1/2; IDF 1/3; WP 1/4; IFM 1/8; NYT 1/13)
In the West Bank, a Palestinian worker in Mod’in Ilit settlement, angry over Israel’s war on Gaza, stabs, wounds 4 Jewish settlers before being shot and wounded by a paramedic who arrives on the scene. The IDF fires live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, percussion grenades, tear gas at Palestinians demonstrating against OCL in al-Fawar r.c. nr. Hebron, wounding 3 (including teenagers ages 13, 14); makes simultaneous afternoon incursions into Beita and Hawara villages nr. Nablus, imposing curfews through 12/31; conducts simultaneous late-night raids, house searches on 4 villages nr. Jenin, firing on residential areas in all cases, causing no injuries and arresting only 1 teenager; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in Abu Dis and Jalazun r.c. nr. Ramallah, and nr. Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm. (PCHR, WJW 1/1)
As Israel continues widespread air and naval bombardment of Gaza for a 3d day, Israeli DM Barak declares “all-out war” on Hamas. The IDF declares a 2-mi. buffer zone around the Strip a closed military zone and continues amassing tanks and troops there, indicating further preparations for a ground invasion. Israeli military officials speaking anonymously say they have expanded the IDF’s target list to include Hamas’s support network and symbols of Hamas power, stating that “there are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorists against Israel” and that “anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target.”
Israeli actions: The IDF reports hitting 100 sites today, including more Islamic University buildings (including the engineering dept., library); homes and offices of Hamas leaders; PA government buildings (including the Interior Min., Finance Min., Foreign Min., Labor Min., Construction and Housing Min., and a PA presidential guest house); Bani Suhayla’s municipal building; the alZawiyya Mosque in Jabaliya r.c. and Omar Bin al-Khattab Mosque in al-Bureij r.c.; more civil and naval police stations; more tunnels along the Rafah border; the headquarters of Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV; Gaza’s port (for a 2d day); and 1 Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades training site. Target areas include Abasan, Bani Suhayla, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (city center, al-Rimal, al-Sabra, Shaykh Ajlin, Tal al-Hawa), Jabaliya town and r.c., Khan Yunis, Nussayrat r.c., al-Qarara, Rafah, Shati’ r.c., Tal al-Za‘atar. Just before strikes on Rafah, Israeli Military Intelligence makes 10,000 automated calls to Rafah residents warning of pending air strikes, breaks into Palestinian radio broadcasts to urge residents across Gaza to move to city centers. Palestinian medical officials report at least 364 Palestinians dead, 1,500 wounded since 12/27.
Palestinian actions: Palestinians fire 66 rockets, 14 mortars into Israel (twice as many as in the previous 24 hrs.), killing 3 Israeli civilians (1 each in Nahal Oz, Ashdod, Ashqelon; 1 of them an Israeli Palestinian) and wounding 5 (3 of them Israeli Palestinians), with 2 rockets hitting 23 mi. north in Gan Yavne/Ashdod. A Palestinian mortar hits an IDF base in Netivot, s. and e. of the Nahal Oz crossing, killing 1 IDF soldier (a Druze), seriously wounding 1, lightly injuring 4. The Israeli toll stands at 4–5 dead, about 20 injured. Reports circulate (e.g., NYT 12/30) of Hamas gunmen executing at least 5 accused collaborators with Israel inside hospitals; the 5 had been jailed for collaboration and transferred to hospitals after being wounded in IDF air strikes on jails.
Humanitarian notes: Israel allows 40 truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza; Egypt allows 23 truckloads of emergency goods in, some wounded out through Rafah. International aid groups (including Amnesty International, the UN) say aid transfers are insufficient, warn that the death toll is rising in part because of lack of medicines and medical supplies, food, and fuel.
Of note: One Israeli air strike heavily damages the UN Special Coordinator’s Office (UNSCO) headquarters in Gaza City, prompting the UN to issue a formal complaint. Egyptian TV reports that captured IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit has been wounded in an Israeli air strike in recent days; Hamas does not comment. (BBC, CNN, HA, Houston Chronicle, IFM, REU, White House press briefing, YA 12/29; BBC, IDF, Independent, NYT, WP, WT 12/30; IDF, UNOSAT 12/31; JP, PCHR, WJW 1/1; ITV 1/2; IDF 1/3; NYT, WP 1/4; WT, UNOSAT 1/5; IFM 1/8; Committee to Protect Journalists 1/9)
In the West Bank, the IDF fires rubbercoated steel bullets, percussion grenades, tear gas at Palestinians demonstrating against OCL in Issawiyya, Shu‘fat r.c., al-Tur neighborhood in East Jerusalem, causing no serious injuries; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in East Tura village nr. Jenin, Hebron. (PCHR 1/1)
As massive Israeli strikes on Gaza enter a 2d day, IDF Southern Command head Maj. Gen. Yo’av Galant says (HA 12/28) that the IDF aims to “send Gaza decades into the past” in terms of Hamas’s leadership, weaponry, and smuggling capabilities while achieving “the maximum number of enemy casualties.” Israel’s security cabinet authorizes the IDF to call up 6,500 reservists, and the IDF begins massing tanks and troops on Gaza’s border, indicating planning for a ground incursion. Israel’s Homefront Command orders 80 factories and businesses within 3 mi. of the Gaza border to close indefinitely for their safety (a move expected [WJW 1/1] to cost Israel’s economy $1 m./day), indicating concerns of increased Palestinian rocket fire once ground operations begin. Israeli Military Intelligence breaks into Palestinian radio broadcasts to warn Gazans against cooperating with Hamas. The IDF drops 300,000 leaflets across Gaza warning residents to evacuate areas where Hamas is operating or storing weapons or to remain at their own risk. The Israeli FMin. opens an international media broadcast outlet in Sederot (a main target of Palestinian rockets), begins tours of Sederot and other Gaza border communities for foreign media, diplomats, and VIPs. (Israel continues to prevent the foreign media fr. entering Gaza.)
Israeli actions: The IDF reports air and naval bombardment of 100 sites across Gaza, bringing the number of targets destroyed since operations began to more than 210. The 2-day Palestinian toll rises to an estimated 300 dead (including at least 22 children, 9 women, 60 other civilians) and 1,300 injured (including at least 235 children and 200 women). Target areas include Abasan, Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, Bani Suhayla (s. Gaza), Bir al-Naja (n. Gaza), Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (city center, al-Rimal, Shaykh Ridwan, Shati’ r.c., al-Shuja‘iyya, Tal al-Hawa, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya town and r.c., Khan Yunis, Khuza (east of Khan Yunis), Nussayrat r.c., al-Qarara (s. Gaza), Rafah, Shati’ r.c., and Tal al-Za‘atar (nr. Jabaliya).
The IDF’s primary targets are around 40 tunnels along the Rafah border, hit with GBU-39s. Other major targets include several buildings at Islamic University (including a science building Israel claims was connected to rocket manufacturing); Gaza City’s PA ministry compound, the offices of acting PM Ismail Haniyeh, and the main police station (destroying the Saraya; allowing about 50 Fatah prisoners to escape, but killing at least 4); Rafah’s main PASF, governorate, and municipal complexes; more civil and naval police stations, metal workshops believed to make rockets; the Gaza City and Rafah ports; at least 3 mosques (Imad ‘Akel Mosque in Jabaliya r.c., Izzeddin al-Qassam Mosque in Abasan, al-Rimal Mosque in Gaza City) alleged to be weapons depots; a Palestinian Energy Authority building in Khan Yunis; a private medical warehouse; and at least 8 homes and 3 apartment buildings.
Palestinian actions: Palestinians fire 17 rockets, 18 mortars into Israel, injuring at least 6 Israeli civilians (including cases of shock). The rockets include 1 manufactured Grad/Katyusha that lands in Gan Yavne 20 mi. inside Israel, outside Ashdod, the farthest to date. In the evening, 100s of Palestinians attempt to flee Gaza through small breaches in the border wall apparently caused by IDF air strikes; they are sent back by Egyptian security forces, who exchange fire with the crowd, leaving at least 1 Palestinian, 1 Egyptian border policeman dead, 4 Palestinians, 5 Egyptian border policemen, an 8-yr.-old Egyptian child wounded.
Humanitarian notes: Israel allows the entry to Gaza of 100 truckloads of food and medical aid, 10 ambulances, and fuel for hospitals, donated by Jordan, Turkey, and international aid organizations. The shipments include 4 truckloads of pharmaceuticals from the PA central pharmacy in Ramallah (the 2d PA delivery since the PA had blocked the shipments of medicine to Gaza in early 9/08; see 12/16), transferred by the PA at UNRWA request. Humanitarian groups, however, continue to warn of deteriorating medical conditions and lack of food in Gaza and urge Israel to allow unrestricted entry of aid. OCHA reports power outages of up to 16 hrs./day in Gaza City, n. Gaza, and c. Gaza; says all flour mills have shut down for lack of grain imports, threatening widespread bread shortages. (AFP, AP, BBC, HA, IDF, IFM, JAZ, OCHA, REU 12/28; IDF, JP, al-Masryun[Egypt], NYT, SFR, WP, WT 12/29; BBC, Defense Update [online], Global Research [online], WP 12/30; REU, UNOSAT 12/31; JP, PCHR, WJW, WP 1/1; IDF, NYT 1/3; WP 1/4; IFM 1/8; WP 1/10)
Across the West Bank, Palestinians protest against OCL, clashing with the IDF at numerous points (Abu Dis, Issawiyya, and al-Ram nr. Jerusalem; Bani Na‘im nr. Hebron; Ni‘lin and Silwad nr. Ramallah), leaving 3 Palestinians dead, 31 Palestinians, 1 IDF soldier, 1 Israeli child injured. In at least one instance, PASF breaks up one protest by 100s of Palestinians in Ramallah when demonstrators unfurl Hamas banners; the PASF reportedly (NYT 1/3) has been ordered to prevent any popular displays of support for Hamas. The IDF conducts daytime house searches nr. Jenin, making no arrests; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in Bil‘in and nr. Hebron, Nablus. Palestinians stone a Jewish settler vehicle nr. Hebron, lightly injuring an 8-yr.-old girl. (PCHR, WJW 1/1)
After early morning consultations with senior cabinet mbrs., the IDF launches its major offensive on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead (OCL), at 11:25 A.M. local time (4:25 A.M. EST). Israeli DM Barak acknowledges (WP 12/28) that OCL has been planned for several months, stating that the aim is “to strike Hamas severely so as to change the situation from its base,” cautioning that “it won’t be short.”
Israeli actions: After an initial “shock and awe campaign” lasting 3 min. and 40 sec., with 64 warplanes hitting more than 50 targets across the Strip, the IDF conducts periodic air strikes throughout the day, recording a total of 170 sorties against 150 targets, killing at least 228 Palestinians, wounding more than 700 (140 seriously), marking the highest single-day death toll and Israel’s largest offensive in the territories since 1967. The midday timing of the initial onslaught, just as schools let out for lunch, increases the number of civilian casualties, including an estimated 25 women and children. Israeli Military Intelligence sends automated calls to 20,000 Palestinians across the Strip warning of further air strikes targeting anyone with weapons or guns.
Targets struck are primarily civil police stations, military training bases, Hamas-related command-and-control centers, suspected weapons depots, and sites believed to manufacture rockets. Target areas include Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (the city center and al-Daraj, al-Shuja‘iyya, Tal al-Hawa, alTuffah, al-Zaytun neighborhoods), Jabaliya r.c., Khan Yunis, al-Mughraqa (s. of Gaza City), Rafah, Shati’ r.c., and al-Zahra’ (c. Gaza nr. Jabaliya).
Palestinian actions: Palestinians fire 59 rockets (including some that reach the farthest north to date), 19 mortars into Israel during the day, killing 1 Israeli civilian in Netivot, wounding 4. (The fatality may have occurred before the official launch of OCL.)
Humanitarian notes: Gaza’s hospitals report (BBC 12/27) overflowing wards and not enough surgeons or supplies to cope. Egypt temporarily opens the Rafah crossing to allow transportation of some wounded to Egyptian hospitals.
Of note: During the initial “shock and awe,” the IDF hits a police academy graduation ceremony in Gaza City, killing at least 60 new civil police recruits and the chief of Palestinian police Maj. Gen. Tawfiq Jabber. Other targets include Gaza City’s main jail (the Saraya, holding Hamas opponents, hitting only the gates), the PA Preventive Security headquarters in Gaza City, the PA security compound in Rafah (southern headquarters of the PASF, PA Internal Security Service, and PA civil police), PA naval police facilities in n. Gaza and Khan Yunis, Palestinian Telecommunication Company offices in n. Gaza, a Gaza City mosque identified by the IDF as “a base for terrorist activities,” Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV station, the agriculture control dept. in Khan Yunis, numerous police stations and training sites, at least 9 homes, several workshops (considered rocket-manufacturing sites), and Hamas’s Asda’ media center outside Khan Yunis. One IDF airstrike on a PA ministry building kills 8 Palestinian students at an adjacent UNRWA training center, wounding 19 others (8 seriously). Hamas and Palestinian human rights groups in Gaza estimate that the dead include around 165 civil police officers (including those at the graduation ceremony) and Hamas’s central district governor, Abu Ahmad Ashur. Some targets are hit with U.S.-supplied GBU-39 bunkerbusting munitions received as recently as 9/08 (see Quarterly Update in JPS 150 and the “Israeli Arsenal” document in this issue’s Special Focus section). (al-Arabiyya TV, BBC, HA, IDF, JAZ, Middle East News Agency [Cairo], Palestine News Agency, YA 12/27; AFP, AP, BBC, HA, IFM, JAZ, NYT, Radikal, REU, WP, WT, XIN 12/28; JP, NYT, Zaman [Ankara] 12/29; PCHR 1/1; BBC 12/30; UNOSAT 12/31; JP, WJW 1/1; WP 1/4; Eurasia Daily Monitor [online], NYT, UNOSAT 1/5; IFM, JPI 1/8; NYT 1/11)
In other Israeli-Palestinian violence, the IDF fires tear gas, percussion grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse Palestinians demonstrating against OCL in the East Jerusalem suburbs of Anata, Issawiyya, Shu‘fat r.c. An E. Jerusalem Palestinian, reportedly angry over events in Gaza, injures an Israeli border police officer in a deliberate hit and run in the city. The IDF also conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Bethlehem, Jenin. (HA 12/28; PCHR, WJW 1/1)