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  • January 14, 2009

    Egypt announces that Gaza- and Damascus-based Hamas officials have agreed on a cease-fire offer to be present to Israel (see Quarterly Update). Israel agrees to send an envoy to Cairo on 1/15 to...

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  • January 13, 2009

    The IDF significantly increases attacks on Gaza for the 2d straight day, as international mediation efforts led by Egypt to secure a cease-fire also intensify.

    Combat notes: The IDF...

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  • January 12, 2009

    Olmert’s security cabinet revives discussion of opening phase 3 of OCL (see 1/9), agreeing to make a final decision whether to expand or wind down operations within 2–3 days, by which time the IDF...

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  • January 11, 2009

    The IDF launches its deepest ground incursions into Gaza City since OCL began, conducting a 2-front assault from the north and the south; troops pull back to the outskirts of Gaza City by...

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  • January 10, 2009

    Israel warns of an expanded ground war in Gaza and begins moving more tanks and reservists to the Gaza border. The IDF drops leaflets and sends out automated phone messages across Gaza, warning of...

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  • January 9, 2009

    The Israeli security cabinet reportedly begins internal debate on opening phase 3 of OCL, which would involve deep incursions into Gaza’s built-up areas to deal a crushing blow to Hamas. Israeli...

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  • January 7, 2009

    Israel agrees in principle to the 1/6 Egyptian-French cease-fire proposal, agreeing to send an envoy to Cairo on 1/8 to discuss details with Egyptian officials. On the ground, Israeli air, naval,...

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  • January 2, 2009

    Israel’s security cabinet authorizes the IDF to open phase 2 of OCL at its discretion by sending ground troops into Gaza “to destroy the terrorist infrastructure of the Hamas in the area of...

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  • December 28, 2008

    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...

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Egypt announces that Gaza- and Damascus-based Hamas officials have agreed on a cease-fire offer to be present to Israel (see Quarterly Update). Israel agrees to send an envoy to Cairo on 1/15 to be briefed on the plan. Meanwhile, Israel’s intense air, naval, and ground assaults on Gaza continue.

Combat notes: Under cover of air strikes and heavy shelling, IDF troops take up new positions in s. Gaza’s al-Fukhari area nr. the Sufa crossing (occupying several homes and expelling the residents) and al-Shuka village; Israeli fire is so intense that rescuers cannot reach the wounded or retrieve the dead. The IDF reports carrying out approximately 120 air strikes today (70 of them after nightfall) that kill 10s of Palestinians. Targets include at least 24 groups of armed Palestinians, 16 smuggling tunnels, at least 10 suspected weapons depots (including a Rafah mosque), and 24 rocket launching sites (killing senior IQB cmdrs. Walid Za‘abud and Muhammad Dash nr. al-Zaytun). Air strike target areas include Bani Suhayla, Bayt Lahiya, Gaza City (areas northwest of the city and al-Nasser, al-Sabra, al-Sha‘af, Shaykh Ridwan, al-Shuja‘iyya, Tal al-Hawa, al-Yarmuk, al-Zaytun), Khan Yunis, Khuza, al-Mughraqa, Nussayrat r.c., al-Qarara, Rafah, al-Shabura r.c., Twam, Yibna r.c. Heavy artillery and tank fire are reported in and around Bayt Lahiya (white phosphorous suspected), al-Bureij r.c., Gaza City (al-Sabra, al-Tuffah), Jabaliya town and r.c. Naval bombardment centers on Rafah’s Tal al-Sultan neighborhood.

Palestinians fire 14 rockets and 2 mortars, including 4 Grads (2 each in Ashdod and Beersheba), into Israel, causing no injuries. Gaza medical workers put the estimated Palestinian toll at 1,018 dead (including an estimated 300 children), 4,700 injured. The IDF reports 27 soldiers wounded (1 severely, 2 moderately, 24 lightly), mostly in ground fighting with Palestinians n. Gaza, including 7 soldiers wounded (1 severely, 1 moderately, 5 lightly) by a Palestinian antitank missile. The Israeli toll stands at 13–14 dead, more than 150 wounded.

Humanitarian notes: The IDF allows at least 108 truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza during the lull. A group of Israeli human rights groups (including Amnesty International–Israel, B’Tselem Gisha, Physicians for Human Rights–Israel) characterize Israel’s restrictions on aid and access to Gaza by relief groups and medial workers as a “blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes.” (AP, BBC, CBS News, HA, IDF, IFM, JAZ, MM, QA, REU, RFM, XIN 1/14; AYM, HA, IDF, IFM, IHY, JAZ, MA, MM, NYT, PCHR, WP, WT, YA 1/15; ITIC 1/19; PCHR 1/22, 1/29)

The IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in and around Hebron and Jenin, in Bayt Sahur, and nr. Nablus. (PCHR 1/22)

Unidentified assailants fire 3 rockets fr. s. Lebanon into n. Israel. (Up to a dozen rockets total may have been fired, with others landing inside Lebanon). The IDF returns fire. No damage or injuries are reported. (MM, MNR 1/14; WP 1/15)

The IDF significantly increases attacks on Gaza for the 2d straight day, as international mediation efforts led by Egypt to secure a cease-fire also intensify.

Combat notes: The IDF tightens the cordon around Gaza City (focusing attacks on the outlying neighborhoods of Shaykh Ajlin, Tal al-Hawa, and al-Zaytun and open areas n. of the city), with troops reportedly taking fire from Palestinian rocket-propelled grenade antitank missiles and mortars. The IDF also launches a major incursion into Jabaliya under heavy shelling, engaging in heavy exchanges of fire with Palestinian gunmen, killing at least 13. In s. Gaza, the IDF continues heavy attacks on Khuza, including air strikes, intense shelling, and widespread bulldozing of some 50 houses and farms; Israeli fire is so heavy and constant that residents report being unable to reach the injured or flee their homes to seek shelter outside the village; IDF troops pull back fr. Khuza after nightfall.

The IDF reports carrying out more than 160 air strikes across Gaza. Air strike target areas include Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, Gaza City (al-Sabra, Shaykh Ridwan, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya r.c., Khan Yunis, Khuza, Nussayrat r.c., Rafah, al-Shuka, Tal al-Za‘atar, and the Twam area. Israeli gunboats shell Nussayrat r.c. Heavy tank and artillery fire are reported nr. Bayt Lahiya (white phosphorous suspected) and in Dayr al-Balah, Jabaliya town, Khan Yunis (white phosphorous suspected), Khuza, Nussayrat r.c. (confirmed use of flechette shells). For a 2d day, nearly half of the air strikes take place after nightfall, targeting Gaza City. Palestinians report 12 hrs. of constant Israeli bombardment of the Rafah border, with the IDF claiming to destroy 90 smuggling tunnels. (The IDF also demolishes 1 tunnel on the Gaza–Israel border nr. the Nahal Oz crossing.) Specific targets include a Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City, 31 groups of armed men, 25 rocket-launching sites, and 13 suspected weapons manufacturing and storage facilities.

On the ground, the IDF reports a total of 6 soldiers wounded (2 moderately, 4 lightly) in 2 exchanges of gunfire with Palestinians. In a 3d incident, IDF reservists open fire on an IDF paratrooper unit, seriously wounding 1 and moderately wounding 3. Palestinians report around 70 Gazans killed today, putting the estimated Palestinian toll at 971 dead and 4,400 wounded. The Israeli toll stands at 13–14 dead, more than 125 injured. (Israeli military intelligence confirms that 1 soldier killed on 1/6 or 1/8 was targeted by a suicide bomber, stating that several Palestinian suicide bombers, including some women and some dressed as IDF soldiers, have approached combat units.)

Palestinians fire about 11 rockets and 6 mortars into Israel, causing no reported damage or injuries.

Humanitarian notes: The IDF observes another 3-hr. lull, allowing 102 truckloads of aid into Gaza. (The IDF states that 1,028 truckloads of humanitarian goods have been allowed into Gaza since 12/27.) During the lull the ICRC rescues 100 Palestinians trapped in Jabaliya. Heavy IDF attacks in Rafah force UNRWA to close a medical center just n. of the border to ensure the safety of patients and to open more shelters for displaced residents. Human Rights Watch calls Israel’s 3-hr./day breaks to facilitate humanitarian aid “woefully insufficient.” Other aid groups (including Doctors Without Borders, the ICRC, the UN) complain that they are still able to import and distribute only a fraction of the emergency supplies available for Gaza because of Israeli delays and restrictions. (BBC, HA, IDF, IFM, MA, MM, REU, YA 1/13; AYM, IDF, IFM, MM, NYT, WP, WT, YA 1/14; NYT, PCHR, WP, XIN 1/15; ITIC 1/19)

In the West Bank, IDF troops at the Tarqumiyya crossing nr. Hebron fatally shoot a Palestinian who allegedly attempts to grab the gun of a border patrol officer after being denied permission to cross the checkpoint. Late in the evening, the IDF conducts arrest raids, house searches in Bayt Awa, Dura, and Kafr Khalil (all nr. Hebron). A Jewish settler driving nr. Azun village e. of Qalqilya opens fire on Palestinian youths who stone his car, killing 1 Palestinian teenager, wounding 2. (HA 1/13; PCHR 1/15)

A Jordanian soldier fires on an Israeli border patrol unit operating along the Negev border with Jordan n. of Elat. The border police return fire. No injuries are reported. (MM 1/13; WT 1/14; JPI 1/23)

Olmert’s security cabinet revives discussion of opening phase 3 of OCL (see 1/9), agreeing to make a final decision whether to expand or wind down operations within 2–3 days, by which time the IDF believes ground forces will have done all they can from the open and suburban areas they currently hold to weaken Hamas’s ability and desire to fire rockets.

Combat notes: The IDF significantly increases attacks, particularly around Gaza City, and continues to send troops into Gaza. Palestinians report (AYM 1/12) heavy clashes with the IDF n. of Bayt Lahiya, in Daraj and al-Shuja‘iyya neighborhoods on the eastern boundary of Gaza City, and in Dahadih and al-Zaytun to the south of the city. Overnight, the IDF also sends troops back into Khuza (see 1/11) under heavy artillery fire (possibly including white phosphorous), occupying a number of homes as staging posts and prompting 1,000s of residents to flee their homes.

The IDF reports carrying out more than 120 air strikes (half of them after nightfall, targeting Gaza City), uncovering 1 boobytrapped home and 2 booby-trapped tunnels. Targets include the PA Interior Min. offices in n. Gaza, more than 35 tunnels on the Rafah border, homes of Hamas leaders, at least 22 mortar and rocket launching sites, at least 26 groups of armed men, at least 10 “Hamas outposts,” 2 suspected weapons depots and manufacturing facilities, 2 mosques, 2 hotels. Air strike target areas include Bayt Lahiya, Gaza City (city center and Shaykh Ridwan, al-Sudaniyya, Tal al-Hawa, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya town, al-Maghazi r.c., Nussayrat, Rafah, al-Shabura r.c., al-Shuka, Tal al-Za‘atar, the Twam area (northern outskirts of Gaza City), Yibna r.c. IDF gunboats shell Nussayrat, Rafah, a fishing port w. of Rafah. Heavy tank and artillery fire are reported in Bayt Hanun, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (al-Shuja‘iyya, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya town, al-Mughraqa, Twam.

Israeli attacks are so intense that reliable updates on Palestinian casualty estimates are not possible. The IDF estimates killing at least 30 Palestinians in air strikes. UNRWA reports at least 19 Palestinian children killed and 52 children injured in nighttime operations (possibly overlapping with air strikes), 1 paramedic killed by tank fire in Jabaliya during the day. The IDF reports 8 soldiers wounded (1 severely, 1 moderately, 6 lightly) in various incidents, all after nightfall; 3 of the soldiers are injured when they trigger a setup in a booby-trapped house.

Palestinians fire 17 rockets and 7 mortars into Israel, with 1 rocket in Ashqelon and 1 in Sederot causing damage but no reported injuries.

Humanitarian notes: The IDF observes the daily 3-hr. humanitarian lull, allowing 120 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. UNRWA estimates that internally displaced Gazans number now 90,000: 30,000 seeking shelter in UNRWA schools; 60,000 in the homes of friends and relatives. (AP, AYM, BBC, HA, IDF, IFM, JP, MA, MM, al-Ra’i, REU, RFM, WP, YA 1/12; HA, MM, NYT, REU, WP, WT, YA 1/13; AYM, HA, MM, NYT, WP, WT 1/14; PCHR 1/15; BBC, WJW 1/16; ITIC 1/19)

In the West Bank, unidentified armed Palestinians fire on an IDF patrol nr. Kiryat Arba settlement, wounding 3. In response, the IDF raids, searches Palestinian homes nr. Kiryat Arba, making no arrests. The IDF also conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Hebron. (HA 1/13; PCHR 1/15)

The IDF launches its deepest ground incursions into Gaza City since OCL began, conducting a 2-front assault from the north and the south; troops pull back to the outskirts of Gaza City by nightfall. To accommodate expanded operations, the IDF commits its first significant influx of reservists into Gaza, numbering in the 1,000s, using them to hold IDF positions, freeing up regular combat troops to thrust deeper into Gaza City.

Combat notes: The intensified IDF assault on Gaza City begins before dawn, with tanks and troops based in the fmr. Netzarim settlement advancing fr. the southwest, supported by helicopter gunships and F16s, resulting in some of the heaviest fighting since OCL began, especially in Shaykh Ajlin. Simultaneously, the IDF steps up attacks on the northern outskirts of the city. The IDF reports (IDF 1/11) finding 10s of booby-trapped houses, buildings, and tunnels, accusing Hamas of booby-trapping 30 homes in one neighborhood (location not given). Ground forces also move into Khuza in s. Gaza under heavy artillery fire, bulldozing several homes and razing tracts of agricultural land before withdrawing late in the evening.

The IDF reports hitting nearly 70 targets across Gaza today and making more than 40 air strikes. Targets hit include 23 smuggling tunnels (including 2 located under the homes of Hamas mbrs.), at least 15 “armed cells,” 11 suspected weapons depots, several rocket-launching sites. Air strike target areas include Bani Suhayla, Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, Gaza City (Shaykh Ridwan), Khan Yunis, al-Maghazi, al-Mughraqa, Nussayrat, Rafah, al-Shabura r.c., Yibna r.c., al-Zawayda (c. Gaza). Heavy tank and artillery fire is reported in Bayt Hanun (white phosphorus use confirmed by Amnesty International), Gaza City (al-Shuja‘iyya, Tal al-Hawa, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya, Khuza, Khan Yunis (possibly involving white phosphorous).

Palestinians fire 20 rockets and 8 mortars into Israel, including at least 1 Grad that hits an empty kindergarten in Ashdod (damage but no injuries) and 2 rockets that hit Beersheba (some light injuries). The IDF reports sustaining no casualties but killing around 45 armed Palestinians, bringing the estimated Palestinian toll to at least 876 dead, 3,600 wounded.

Humanitarian notes: The IDF observes the daily 3-hr. humanitarian lull but does not release figures on the number of trucks permitted entry.

Of note: Today’s IDF air strikes on tunnels along the Rafah border damage 10 homes in Egyptian Rafah, seriously wound 2 Egyptian border policemen and lightly wound 1 border policeman, 2 Egyptian children (ages 2 and 5). Egyptian security officials say that the Israeli drones and planes have violated Egyptian air space daily since OCL began and that previous Israeli air strikes during OCL have damaged buildings and 1 mosque, shattered windows, and caused power shortages inside Egypt. (AFP, HA, IDF, WP 1/11; IDF, MM, NYT, WP, WT 1/12; WT 1/13; PCHR 1/15; ITIC 1/19; MM, QA 1/22)

The IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in Bayt Umar and Sa’ir, both nr. Hebron. (PCHR 1/15)

Israel warns of an expanded ground war in Gaza and begins moving more tanks and reservists to the Gaza border. The IDF drops leaflets and sends out automated phone messages across Gaza, warning of an escalation in fighting.

Combat notes: IDF tanks and artillery pound Gaza throughout the day. The IDF reports making air strikes on about 120 targets, including the home of IQB head Ahmad Jabari (presumed to be in hiding), at least 15 rocket-launching sites, 21 suspected weapons depots (including a mosque and school in Rafah, the homes of several Hamas mbrs.), 16 tunnels, 3 Hamas outposts, 1 police station, and 2 vehicles allegedly transporting weapons. In Khan Yunis, an air strike destroys Gaza European Hospital’s fuel depot, electricity generator, and water supply system. Target areas include Bani Suhayla, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Gaza City (al-Nasser, Shaykh Ridwan, al-Shuja‘iyya), Jabaliya, Khan Yunis, al-Maghazi, Nussayrat, Rafah. IDF ground forces engage in heavy exchanges with Palestinians in and nr. Bayt Lahiya. Heavy IDF tank and artillery fire are reported in Jabaliya (where 8 family mbrs. are killed by an IDF tank shell that lands outside their home), Khuza (possibly involving white phosphorus, burning 15 homes and 100s of individuals), Nussayrat, and Tal al-Hawa in Gaza City. The IDF claims to kill 16 armed Palestinians, including Hamas’s “leading authority on Grad rockets,” IQB cmdr. Amir Mansi, during a strike on a rocket-launching site. The estimated Palestinian toll reaches 820–840 dead.

Palestinians fire 9 rockets and 10 mortars into Israel, the fewest since OCL began on 12/27; 3 Grad rockets strike Ashqelon (each causing damage and light injuries, including shock), others land in open areas nr. Ashdod and in the Negev (causing no damage or injuries). The IDF reports 7 ground troops lightly wounded in various exchanges.

Humanitarian notes: The IDF observes a 3-hr. humanitarian lull to allow relief agencies to recover casualties and distribute food but does not allow new aid through Gaza’s crossings on the Sabbath.

Of note: The IDF reports that ground troops have been facing extensive tunnel networks inside the Strip, especially in Gaza City, which the Palestinian factions are using to try to ambush soldiers. IDF sources and Israeli journalists embedded with IDF troops report recent incidents in which Palestinian fighters tried to lure troops into a boobytrapped building in al-Zaytun; left a weapons cache rigged with explosives where the IDF would find it (the booby trap did not detonate); and sent a suicide bomber on a failed attempt to attack a group of soldiers. The IDF also acknowledges that it has rounded up and interrogated scores of Palestinians to gain knowledge of local Hamas positions and tactics. Israeli intelligence officers acknowledge phoning Gazans, sometimes overtly and sometimes pretending to be sympathetic Arabs fr. abroad, to gain information about conditions and locations of Palestinian forces on the ground. (AP, BBC, IDF, REU 1/10; IDF, NYT, WP, WT 1/11; MM, QA, WP 1/12; al-Akhbar, MM 1/13; NYT 1/14; PCHR 1/15; WJW 1/16; ITIC 1/19; JPI 1/23)

The IDF fires live ammunition at Palestinians demonstrating against OCL in Bayt Awa nr. Hebron, seriously wounding a 13-yr.-old boy; fires live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians holding a similar protest in Sa’ir nr. Hebron, wounding 3 Palestinians; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in ‘Askar r.c. nr. Nablus, nr. Hebron. (PCHR 1/15)

The Israeli security cabinet reportedly begins internal debate on opening phase 3 of OCL, which would involve deep incursions into Gaza’s built-up areas to deal a crushing blow to Hamas. Israeli military and intelligence sources warn that the new goal would require deep, sustained incursions into Gaza’s densely populated areas, likely resulting in months of combat and heavy casualties.

Combat notes: Heavy IDF aerial, naval, and ground assaults across Gaza continue. The IDF reports carrying out more than 110 air strikes, in many cases to support troops battling on the ground. Targets include 20 “terror operatives” (possibly assassinations), more than a dozen rocket-launching sites and squads, more than 20 suspected weapons depots (including homes of 3 Hamas mbrs.) and other outposts, at least 10 homes and 1 apartment building, 2 tunnels on the Rafah border, a market in Bayt Lahiya, 1 ESF post in Gaza City, a mosque in Dayr al-Balah. Target areas include Abasan, Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr alBalah, Gaza City (city center and al-Nasser, Shaykh Ridwan), Jabaliya town and r.c., Khan Yunis, Khuza, Nussayrat, al-Qarara, Rafah, Shati’ r.c., open areas in central Gaza.

At least 1 air strike on a residential area e. of Jabaliya involves white phosphorous munitions that cause extensive fire damage to 4 homes. Another air strike hits the rooftop of a Gaza City building housing the offices of some 20 international press agencies, destroying broadcasting equipment and wounding 1 journalist.

IDF ground forces take up new positions in Juhur al-Dik and al-Mughraqa in c. Gaza, and al-Shuka in s. Gaza (bulldozing 13 homes). Heavy tank and artillery fire are reported in Bayt Lahiya, Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (al-Shuja‘iyya, alTuffah, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya. Heavy closequarter combat is reported in Gaza City and nr. Bayt Lahiya, with Palestinians firing antitank weapons and mortars and sniping at ground troops, moderately wounding 1 IDF soldier and lightly wounding 7.

Palestinians also fire 30 rockets and 1 mortar into Israel (including several Grads that hit Ashqelon), causing no reported damage or injuries.

At least 35 Palestinians are killed during the day, bringing the estimated Palestinian toll to around 795 dead and 3,300 wounded.

Humanitarian notes: The UN and other relief groups resume humanitarian aid transfers after receiving assurances fr. the Israeli government that they will not be targeted. During today’s 3-hr. humanitarian lull, Israel allows 41 trucks carrying food and medicine into the Strip. (Committee to Protect Journalists, Daily News, IDF, MA, MM, YA 1/9; IDF, NYT, WT, WP 1/10; NYT 1/11; PCHR 1/15)

Israel seals the West Bank through 1/10 citing unspecified security concerns. The IDF fires rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, percussion grenades at Palestinians demonstrating against OCL after Friday prayers in Bayt Umar nr. Hebron (injuring 2), Hawara s. of Nablus, Hebron (injuring 4), Issawiyya, Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem; also fires rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, percussion grenades at Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists attending weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the separation wall in Bil‘in (injuring 3 Palestinians, arresting 5), Jayyus (injuring 9, including 2 wounded by live ammunition, which is not used at the other rallies), Ni‘lin (injuring 5 Palestinians); conducts late-night house searches in Azmut nr. Nablus. Jewish settlers fr. Shilo nr. Ramallah beat and fire on 2 Palestinians collecting water at a well nr. the settlement, wounding 1. (IDF 1/9; PCHR 1/15)

Israel agrees in principle to the 1/6 Egyptian-French cease-fire proposal, agreeing to send an envoy to Cairo on 1/8 to discuss details with Egyptian officials. On the ground, Israeli air, naval, and ground attacks continue across the Strip, “tightening the noose” around Gaza’s population centers. IDF reservists begin to complete their training and deploy to staging areas on the Gaza border. IDF officials say that since Israeli troops entered Gaza on 1/3, Hamas and other Palestinian fighters have largely pulled back into the cities and refugee camps, sniping and engaging IDF troops on the edges of densely populated areas but not coming out to engage directly.

Combat notes: The IDF carries out more than 40 air strikes on targets across Gaza, hitting the PA presidential compound in Gaza City (already hit several times), 14 rocketlaunching sites, more tunnels on the Rafah border, 9 homes allegedly hiding smuggling tunnels, 4 groups of armed Palestinians, 1 Hamas outpost, 1 suspected weapons depot, 2 mosques (Bani Suhayla, Khan Yunis). Target areas include Abu Middayn (c. Gaza), Bani Suhayla, Bayt Lahiya, al-Bureij r.c., Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (Shaykh Ridwan), the al-Fukhari area (nr. Khan Yunis), Jabaliya, Khan Yunis, Khuza, Ma’an (e. of Khan Yunis), al-Maghazi, Nussayrat, Rafah, the Western Sawahira area (c. Gaza). Particularly heavy IDF artillery fire and exchanges of gunfire are reported in al-Atatra, the al-Salatin area northwest of Bayt Lahiya, the Izbat ‘Abid Rabbuh area e. of Jabaliya, alQarara, and al-Zaytun in Gaza City. In the afternoon, the IDF drops leaflets on houses nr. the Rafah border, ordering residents to evacuate their homes; aerial bombing there begins after dark.

Palestinians fire 17 rockets and 5 mortars into Israel, lightly injuring 2 Israelis; around a dozen are Grads that land in Ashdod and Ashqelon, the rest are Qassams that land closer to the Gaza border. With IDF troops now in control of open areas around Bayt Hanun and Bayt Lahiya, most rocket and mortar fire is coming from densely populated urban areas.

At least 29 Palestinians are killed today, bringing the estimated Palestinian toll to at least 682 dead and 3,085 injured. One IDF soldier is moderately wounded, 8 are lightly wounded in exchanges with Palestinians inside Gaza.

Humanitarian notes: In the afternoon, the IDF observes a 3-hr. cease-fire nr. Gaza City to allow 80 truckloads of humanitarian aid to enter the Strip and to give Gazans an opportunity to seek food, fuel, and medical care. Some Israeli gunfire is reported (WP 1/22) during the lull, leaving at least 2 Palestinian girls (ages 2, 7) dead and their father and sister wounded. Aid groups say the imports do not come close to relieving the dire crisis. Moreover, Palestinians are reportedly (NYT 1/8) running low on cash to buy supplies because Israel has barred the import of currency; banks are closed because of the fighting; and ATMs do not work because of the lack of electricity.

The ICRC reports finding 16 bodies (7 women, 6 children, 3 men) and 18 seriously wounded Palestinians (including 4 emaciated children too weak to stand) in a cluster of destroyed houses in Gaza City’s al-Zaytun neighborhood. The ICRC received specific reports of these casualties on 1/3, but the IDF had barred ambulances and rescue workers fr. reaching the site; international aid workers finally enter the area with donkey carts to evacuate the wounded, ignoring IDF efforts to chase them away. The ICRC later attempts to return to the area to remove the bodies and check reports of additional casualties but is blocked by the IDF. The ICRC’s headquarters in Geneva issues a rare denunciation of Israel, calling (WP 1/8) the IDF’s handling of the incident “unacceptable,” stating that it had “failed to meet its obligations under international law to care for and evacuate the wounded.” (AP, Arutz 7, AYM, BBC, HA, IDF, JP, MA, MM, REU, RFM, RIA, YA 1/7; IDF, IFM, IHY, JP, MA, MM, NYT, PCHR, WP, WT, YA 1/8; WP 1/14; PCHR 1/15; NYT 1/17; ITIC 1/18; WP 1/22)

The IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in Hebron; fires rubbercoated steel bullets, tear gas, percussion grenades to disperse Palestinian and international activists demonstrating against OCL in Ni‘lin; no injuries are reported. (PCHR 1/8, 1/15)

Israel’s security cabinet authorizes the IDF to open phase 2 of OCL at its discretion by sending ground troops into Gaza “to destroy the terrorist infrastructure of the Hamas in the area of operation, while taking control of some of [sic] rocket launching area used by the Hamas”; authorizes the call-up of 10,000s of additional reservists. The IDF does not immediately take action.

Israeli action: The IDF continues air strikes and naval bombardment of Gaza, carrying out 65 air strikes and hitting 65 individual sites. Target areas include al-Atatra, Bayt Lahiya, Dahaniyya, Dayr al-Balah, Gaza City (Shaykh Ridwan, al-Shuja‘iyya, Tal al-Hawa, al-Yarmuk), Jabaliya, Khan Yunis, Nussayrat, Rafah, Tal al-Za‘atar. Primary targets include the homes of more than 12 senior Hamas officials (including senior IQB official Imad Akel, who reportedly is killed along with 3 children nearby; and Haniyeh’s chief of staff Muhammad Madhun and fmr. PA Refugee Affairs M Atif Udwan, who are believed to be in hiding); a car carrying Hamas’s Gaza City military cmdr. Muhammad (Abu Zakariya) al-Jamal, assassinating him; the Rafah airport site (already heavily damaged by yrs. of IDF attacks); the American International School in al-Atatra in n. Gaza; a public works dept. building southwest of Gaza City; tunnels on the Rafah border; and suspected weapons depots across Gaza. The estimated Palestinian toll reaches 431 killed, more than 2,200 injured.

Palestinian actions: Palestinians fire 26 rockets and 5 mortars into Israel, including 10 rockets that strike nr. Ashqelon, 1 of which causes damage and lightly injures 2 Israelis.

Humanitarian notes: The IDF escorts 226 foreigners who opt to leave Gaza to the Allenby Bridge crossing into Jordan; allows 64 truckloads of humanitarian goods into the Strip.

Of note: By this date, nearly all of Gaza’s police stations and government buildings have been destroyed. One senior Israeli security official states that “All of the offices and databases are gone. When all this is over, no civil servant will have an office to sit in.” (HA, IDF, IFM, ITV 1/2; AFP, AP, HA, IDF, Nation, NYT, REU, WP, WT, YA 1/3; Adalah 1/4; IFM, JP, PCHR 1/8; WT 1/22; JPI 1/23)

In the West Bank, the IDF fires rubber-coated steel bullets, percussion grenades, tear gas at Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists taking part in weekly nonviolent protests against the separation wall in Bil‘in (injuring 5 Palestinians), Ni‘lin (wounding 1 Israeli, 3 Palestinians), and Jayyus (injuring 3 Palestinians; 1 is hit with live ammunition). In Jerusalem, 100s of Palestinians clash with Israeli police after Friday prayers. Small demonstrations against OCL are reported in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank (including Bani Na‘im nr. Hebron, Bethlehem, Hebron, Issawiyya, Ramallah, Shu‘fat r.c.). IDF troops shoot at protesters in Bani Na‘im, wounding 5. The PASF breaks up large rallies against OCL in Hebron and Ramallah, firing tear gas at demonstrators, ripping up pro-Hamas placards and flags, beating and arresting suspected Hamas supporters, injuring at least 10 Palestinians. (HA, NYT, REU, WP, WT, YA 1/3; PCHR 1/8)

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)