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  • January 18, 2009

    Israel’s unilateral cease-fire goes into effect early in the morning as planned, marking the official end to OCL. The IDF begins withdrawing ground troops fr. Gaza early in the morning and...

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  • January 15, 2009

    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...

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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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Israel’s unilateral cease-fire goes into effect early in the morning as planned, marking the official end to OCL. The IDF begins withdrawing ground troops fr. Gaza early in the morning and releases reservists from call-up later in the day, with Olmert stating that Israel intends to pull out of Gaza as quickly as possible. Israel generally observes its cease-fire during the day, but maintains a policy of firing on Palestinians who stray close to the Gaza border fence or approach withdrawing troops. After firing 15 rockets into Israel early in the day (lightly injuring 2 Israelis in Ashdod), Hamas and other Palestinian factions declare their own Gaza cease-fire but warn that they would resume fighting if Israel does not withdraw quickly. (Unidentified factions fire 4 rockets after Hamas’s announcement, causing no injuries.) Egypt, France, the EU, and the Arab states shift their mediation efforts to securing a lasting truce and securing donor aid to fund Gaza reconstruction. 

Combat notes: The IDF carries out 3 air strikes against 1 group of armed Palestinians that fires on IDF ground forces nr. Wadi al-Silqa and 2 rocket-launching sites nr. Bayt Hanun; no injuries are reported. IDF troops on the s. Gaza border fire on a group of Palestinians inspecting damage to agricultural land nr. the border, killing 1 Palestinian civilian. The Israeli navy fires a missile at the PA General Intelligence compound in n. Gaza. Israeli warplanes continue low-level overflights of the Strip throughout the day, keeping many Palestinians off the streets. By day’s end, the IDF pulls troops in n. Gaza back into the buffer zone along the n. Gaza border; redeploys outside Gaza City’s al-Dahadih, al-Sha’af, Tal al-Hawa, and al-Zaytun neighborhoods; pulls troops out of al-Zahra’ in c. Gaza; withdraws from the al-Fukhari area and al-Mughraqa in the south.

Palestinians attempting to return to their homes in Gaza City’s northwestern neighborhoods find widespread devastation (especially in Twam, used as a staging area for the IDF’s tank corps), prompting 100s to return to UNRWA shelters. Residents of al-Atatra and al-Salatin areas on the northern outskirts of Gaza City similarly report 10s of homes and 3 schools destroyed, large tracks of agricultural land razed, significant damage to infrastructure. In s. Gaza, residents of the al-Fukhari area report at least 30 homes demolished, large areas of agricultural land razed since troops occupied the area on 1/14. Rescue workers combing the rubble in heavily damaged areas in and around Gaza City report finding at least 35 bodies in the Twam area, 95 bodies in al-Zaytun neighborhood, 24 bodies in Atatra and Izbat ‘Abid Rabbuh, 5 in Jabaliya. Palestinian workers begin repairing water and electricity lines in various areas. Israel allows 150 truckloads of humanitarian goods into Gaza. (AFP, IDF, IFM, NYT, WP, WT 1/18; HA, IDF Radio, MM, NYT, WP, WT 1/19; NYT 1/20; PCHR 1/22; FT 1/28; PCHR 1/29)

The IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin. (PCHR 1/22)

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)

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)