Saturday, September 24, 2005

Before dawn, Islamic Jihad and Hamas fire more than 30 rockets fr. Gaza at Sederot and the Negev, 3 of which lightly wound 3 Israeli security guards, 2 civilians. Early in the morning, the IDF fires missiles fr. helicopters at warehouses and an alleged weapons factory in Gaza City and Jabaliya r.c., marking Israel’s 1st military operations against Gaza since disengagement; orders the Rafah crossing shut, saying it will allow humanitarian aid only into Gaza through the Sufa crossing; fires missiles fr. naval vessels at Palestinian fishermen who attempt to go out to sea; drops leaflets on Gaza warning of harsh retaliation against further rocket fire; warns the PA that it is responsible for preventing attacks fr. Gaza. Abbas meets with Hamas officials in Gaza, secures their pledge to halt all armed demonstrations. Hrs. later, IDF aircraft fire 5 missiles at 2 cars in n. Gaza, assassinating 2 Hamas mbrs. (Nafiz Abu Hassanian, Rawad Farhat); 2 other Hamas mbrs. may have been targeted but escape. During the day, IDF fighter jets bomb open areas along the n. Gaza border used by Palestinians to launch rockets, while tanks, artillery, infantry gather along the n. Gaza border in preparation for a major operation. Meanwhile, the IDF seals the West Bank, fires on Palestinians waiting to cross a checkpoint outside Nablus, wounding 3 (1 seriously); conducts patrols in Jama‘in village nr. Nablus; raids 20 houses in Hebron, interrogating and photographing residents. In the evening, Sharon convenes his security cabinet, which approves an “all-out continuous offensive” called Operation First Rain, using artillery, air strikes, assassinations in Gaza, saying that if Palestinian violence continues after several days, the full cabinet will convene to consider sending infantry back into the Strip. (JP, REU, WP, YA 9/24; AP, HA, IMEMC, JAZ, NYT, WP, WT, XIN, YA 9/25; MEI, PCHR 9/29; IDF press release 10/9)