Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict

2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict

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2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict
Part of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict

Map of Gaza

Date27 December 2008–present
LocationGaza Strip & Southern Israel
ResultConflict ongoing
 Israel (IDF) Hamas
Islamic Jihad[1]
Popular Resistance Committees[2]
Flag of Israel Ehud Barak (DefMin)
Flag of Israel Gabi Ashkenazi (CoS)
Flag of Israel Yoav Galant (SoCom)
Ismail Haniyeh
Mahmoud az-Zahar
Ahmed al-Ja'abari
Osama Mazini
176,500 (10,000 deployed,[3] backed by tanks, artillery, gunboats,[4] and aircraft.)10,000 - 20,000 Hamas operatives in Gaza[5][6]
Casualties and losses
Total Killed: 10
Soldiers: 7[7][8]
Civilians: 3[9][10][11]

Wounded: 68 soldiers, 119 civilians ("wounded" includes shock victims)[12]

Total Killed: 670+[13][14]
Militants: ~150[15]
Policemen: 138[16]
Civilians: ~300 (MoH & UN),[17]
Unknown: 80
Wounded: 2,800[18]
Note: Casualty figures in Gaza cannot yet be independently verified [19]
1 Egyptian border guard officer killed and another wounded.[20]

The 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, part of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began on 27 December 2008 (11:30 a.m. local time; 9:30 a.m. UTC)[21] when the Israel Defense Forces launched what they called Operation Cast Lead (Hebrew: מבצע עופרת יצוקה‎, Mivtza Oferet Yetzuka), targeting the members and infrastructure of Gaza's governing party, Hamas.[22][23][24] The conflict[citation needed] has been called the Gaza Massacre (Arabic: مجزرة غزة‎) in the Arab World.[25][26][27][28]

A six-month truce between Hamas and Israel ended on 19 December 2008.[29][30][31] Hamas blamed Israel for breaching the truce[32][33] and for not lifting the Gaza Strip blockade, and Israel blamed Hamas for increased rocket fire directed at southern Israeli towns and communities.[34] Israel's stated objectives in this conflict are to end Palestinian rocket fire and prevent the rearming of Hamas. Hamas demands the cessation of Israeli attacks and an end to the Israeli blockade.[35]

At least 225 people were killed on the first day of the Israeli attack.[36] By the first evening, Israeli Air Force fighter-bomber aircraft had bombed roughly 100 Hamas-run buildings and compounds (including police stations, prisons, and command centers) in four minutes during the first wave of the strike.[37][38] Israel also hit what it identified as Hamas-run institutions and bases in all of Gaza's main towns, including Gaza City and Beit Hanoun in the north and Khan Younis and Rafah in the south.[39][40][41][42][43][44] The attacks have also hit civilian infrastructure, including mosques and housing, with a great number of civilian casualties reported. Israel asserts many of these hid weapons and personnel, and that it is not targetting civilians.[45][46][47][48][49][50][51] The Israeli Navy has shelled targets in Gaza, instituting at the same time a naval blockade of Gaza, which has resulted in one naval incident with a civilian boat.[52][53][54][55]

Hamas has intensified its rocket and mortar attacks against Israel throughout the conflict, increasing the distance of attacks to as far away as 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the Gaza border, hitting civilian communities like Beersheba and Ashdod. These attacks have resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure. All schools in the area are closed.[56][57][58][59]

The IDF started massing infantry and armor units near the Gaza border and engaged in an active blockade of Gaza.[60] On 3 January 2009, a ground invasion began, with mechanised infantry, armor, and artillery units, supported by armed helicopters, entering Gaza.[61][62]

Both Israel and Hamas are under pressure for a humanitarian truce.[63][64] While Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak intially stated that this will be a "war to the bitter end"[65], Israeli defense officials have suggested as recently as January 6 that the operation could be "over in the next 72 hours".[66] Hamas officials stated their openness to accepting a truce that ends the Gaza Strip blockade.[63]

International reactions to the conflict have either condemned the Israeli operation, Hamas' attacks, or both. Many countries and organisations have called for an immediate ceasefire and have expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.[67][68] Israel has stated that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but is willing to open up limited areas in the Gaza Strip for humanitarian purposes.[69]The International Red Cross, United Nations and aid workers have reported of intolerable conditions and a deepening humanitarian crisis.[70]




See also: List of rocket and mortar attacks in Israel in 2008 and 2009.

On 19 June 2008, a six-month Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreement went into effect between Hamas and Israel.[30] On June 24, 2008 Israel raided Nablus (West Bank) killing two Palestinians, including a commander of Islamic Jihad (an organisation independent of Hamas).[71] Later, on the same day, three Qassam rockets were fired into Sderot, Israel, causing two minor injuries. Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility, stating that this action was in response to the Israeli raid. [72] Hamas subsequently pressured the group into abiding by the ceasefire.[73]

On 26 June, Hamas warned Israel that its closure of the Gaza border was seen as a major cease-fire violation. Nonetheless, Hamas called on other Palestinian factions to abide by the truce, and a rocket attack on Israel by Fatah was condemned by Hamas. Rocket and mortar attacks continued at a rate of several rockets per month, often with no one taking responsibility.[74]

On 4 November 2008, Israeli troops raided the Gaza Strip and killed six Hamas gunmen. The Israeli military claimed that the target of the raid was a tunnel that Hamas was planning to use to capture Israeli soldiers. Hamas termed this raid a "massive breach of the truce".[75]

On 13 December 2008, Israel announced that it was in favor of extending the cease-fire, provided Hamas adhered to its conditions.[76] Having previously asserted that an end to the truce would carry huge popular support and that there are daily Israeli attacks,[77] on 20 December Hamas officially announced that they would not be extending the cease-fire, citing Israeli border closures as the primary reason, and resumed its shelling of the western Negev.[78] Hamas blamed Israel for the end of the ceasefire, saying it had not respected its terms, including the lifting of the blockade, under which little more than humanitarian aid has been allowed into Gaza. Israel said it initially began easing the blockade, but resumed it when Hamas failed to fulfill the agreed conditions, including ending all rocket fire and halting weapons smuggling.[40]

The New York Times summed up the situation leading to the complete breakdown of the cease-fire and the dramatic increase in hostilities thus:

Opening the routes to commerce was Hamas’ main goal in its cease-fire with Israel, just as ending the rocket fire was Israel’s central aim. But while rocket fire did go down drastically in the fall to 15 to 20 a month from hundreds a month, Israel said it would not permit trade to begin again because the rocket fire had not completely stopped and because Hamas continued to smuggle weapons from Egypt through desert tunnels. Hamas said this was a violation of the agreement, a sign of Israel’s intentions and cause for further rocket fire. On Wednesday [24 Dec 08], some 700 rockets hit Israel over 24 hours, in a distinct increase in intensity.[39]

On December 23, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, said that his group was willing renew the truce if Israel refrained from operating in Gaza, and lifted its blockade of the Gaza strip.[79] The same day the IDF killed three Palestinian militants, stating that the militants were planting explosives on the Gaza border.[80] Israel was also reluctant to open the border crossings, which had been closed since November.[81] On 24 December the Negev was hit by more than 60 mortar shells and Katyusha and Qassam rockets, and the IDF was given a green light to operate.[82] Hamas claimed to have fired a total of 87 rockets and mortar rounds that day at Israel, code-naming the firing "Operation Oil Stain".[83]

On 26 December 2008, Israel reopened five crossings between Israel and Gaza for humanitarian supplies. Despite the movement of relief supplies, militants fired about a dozen rockets and mortar shells from Gaza at Israel on Friday.[84] Fuel was allowed in for Gaza's main power plant and about 100 trucks loaded with grain, humanitarian aid and other goods were expected during the day.[85] Israel also reopened border crossings and announced, for the sake of Hamas deception, that it would continue deliberations on what course of action to take on 28 December.[86] Rocket attacks continued — about a dozen rockets and mortar bombs were fired from Gaza into Israel, one accidentally striking a northern Gaza house and killing two Palestinian sisters, aged five and thirteen, while wounding a third.[87] According to Israeli defense officials, the subsequent Israeli offensive took Hamas by surprise, thereby increasing their casualties.[86]

Rockets have in subsequent stages of the conflict reached as far as the cities of Gan Yavne[88] and Gedera[89], 40 km inside Israel, validating the IDF "Color Red" warning system.[90] Israel and outside observers allege that Iran appears to be using Hamas militants in Gaza as proxies to terrorise Israel. They claim that Iran supplied Hamas with components to allow it to upgrade the range and accuracy of its rockets that it was firing into Israel.[91]

A poll conducted before the December 24 rocket attacks indicated that 46% of Israelis did not support the invasion of the Gaza Strip, while 40% did.[92]


The details of the operation had reportedly been in planning for over six months, from the approximate time that the temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was signed. On 19 November, the operation plan was submitted for Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak's final approval. On 18 December, Barak met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv to approve the operation. Later, the Israeli cabinet unanimously voted in favor of the strike, leaving it for the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister and the Foreign Minister to work out the timing.[93] According to The Jerusalem Post, the head of the IDF's Southern Command had been calling for a military operation against Hamas since the group took over Gaza in the 2007 Battle of Gaza, but had been opposed at the national level. The paper said that a "technological threshold" had been set for the beginning of the operation, namely when Hamas became capable of manufacturing improved rockets with a greater accuracy and shelf-life. This condition was met by December 2008, when Hamas was in the middle of the rockets' production cycle.[86]

Planning for the operation itself began more than six months before it was finally implemented. The plan included a large intelligence-gathering operation by Aman and the Shin Bet to map out Hamas security targets.[86] According to Haaretz, sources in the defense establishment said Barak instructed the IDF to prepare for the operation over six months ago. This intelligence-gathering effort brought back information about Hamas' security infrastructure, permanent bases, weapon silos, training camps, the homes of senior officials and coordinates of other facilities.[93]

Implementation of the plan was subsequently delayed in order to see how Hamas would react after the cease-fire's expiration. On 24 December the Israeli cabinet met to talk about the proposed operation, and approved it unanimously after a five-hour meeting.[86] Egyptian Foreign Minister Abou el Gheit said that Egypt didn't have prior knowledge of the date of the attack.[94] A final meeting of defense and intelligence chiefs took place on the morning of 26 December, followed by a meeting between Olmert, Livni, and Barak. They gave the final orders for the operation to the Israeli Air Force, and that night, into the morning of 27 December, various Israeli political leaders were told of the decision.[86]

According to the Israeli government and the UN, there were widespread warnings of attacks in the form of telephone calls or leaflets dropped by the IDF to the people of Gaza.[95][96] The UN reported that in some cases the strikes occurred only five minutes after the flee call. [97] Given the high population density in Gaza and the proximity between their homes, this has caused "considerable" panic and uncertainty among residents.[96] Finally, Amnesty International reports that in the densely populated areas of Gaza there were no "safe" places for civilians.[98]

Launched during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the operation was named after a line in the children's Hanukkah song "In Honor of Hanukkah" (Hebrew: לכבוד החנוכה‎) by Hayyim Nahman Bialik in which a dreidel made of "cast lead" is mentioned.[99][100]


Initial bombardment

Israel launched its military operation at 11:30 a.m., December 27, when more than 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters entered Gazan airspace, killing 225-292 Palestinians and wounding more than 1,000.[101][102][103][104] The IAF, responding to intense Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel,[105] dropped more than 100 bombs on 50 targets,[105] which included Hamas paramilitary bases, training camps, and underground Kassam launchers. It also hit Hamas headquarters, government offices and police stations.

About 140 members of Hamas security forces had been killed, including police chief Tawfiq Jabber, the head of Hamas’ security and protection unit[106] and the police commander for central Gaza,[107] along with at least 15 civilians. Children had been reported among the casualties.[106][108]

The day has become referred to by some Palestinians as the Massacre of the Black Saturday,[109] because of the magnitude of casualties inflicted. The Israeli attack is considered to be the bloodiest one-day death toll in 60 years of conflict with the Palestinians.[110]

Week of air strikes

Following the first day of air raides, the Israeli Air Force continued to inflict massive damage in the coming week to the Palestinian infrastructure. Among their targets were ministerial buildings, Hamas training camps, offices of the Popular Resistance Committees, homes of Hamas commanders, etc. A number of high-ranking Hamas commanders were killed in the attacks, including: Nizar Rayan, Abu Zakaria al-Jamal, Jamal Mamduch and others. Many of the killed Hamas leaders had died along with their families in their own homes. By January 3, 2009, the death toll among Palestinians was at 400, 25% of them civilians.

Ground invasion

On the evening of January 3, Israeli ground troops began entering Gaza for the first time since the operation began.[111][112] The intention of the ground invasion, termed the 'second stage' of Operation Cast Lead, according to the Israeli Defense Forces website, is to secure areas within the Gaza strip from which rockets have been launched even after the previous Israeli operations.

Israeli ground troops entered Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza in the early hours.[113] Israeli forces reportedly bisected Gaza and surrounded Gaza City, but restricted their movements to areas that were not heavily urbanised.[114] The Israeli military said forty sites had been targeted, including targets for weapons depots and rocket launch sites.

Another three Hamas commanders were killed on 4 January: Hussam Hamdan, Muhammad Hilou and Mohammed Shalpokh.

As Israeli tanks and troops seized control of large parts of the Gaza Strip, tens of thousands of Gazans fled their homes amidst artillery and gunfire, and flooded into the heart of Gaza city.[115] Gun battles reportedly broke out between Israel and Hamas on the streets of Gaza, as Israel surrounded the city.[116][117] On the 6th of January at least 125 Palestinians and 5 Israeli soldiers were killed.[118]

Despite the ground operation by the IDF rocket attacks by Hamas continued against southern Israel.

UNRWA school attack

On January 6, two tank shells exploded outside a school run by UNRWA, spraying shrapnel on people inside and outside the building, where at least 350 Palestinians had sought refuge from fighting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants.[119][120] 42 people were killed in the attack.[121] The strike took place near the Al-Fakhura school in Jabaliya in northern Gaza and was the third deadly Israeli attack near United Nations-run schools on January 6.[122]

The IDF claimed mortars from inside the school were fired at Israeli forces, and that Israeli soldiers were responding to them.[123][124] The IDF also claims that numerous Hamas gunmen were inside, utilising the civilian refugees as human shields,[125] and claimed to have found their bodies following the attack.[126] Hamas called the claims "baseless".[127]

UNRWA said it was "99.9 percent sure" there were no militants in the school and called for "an independent investigation to establish the facts".[128] Ban Ki Moon condemned the attack, saying it was "totally unacceptable".[129]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had ordered officials to look into taking Israel to international courts over the "massacre".[130] The U.N. wanted an inquiry into both the assault and the Israeli allegations about militants firing from its schools.[130] Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said that Israel's fight against Hamas was “genocidal” and called for Ehud Olmert to be tried for war crimes.[131] Venezuela government also expelled the Israeli ambassador.[130][131]

Temporary humanitarian truce

On January 7, due to problems with distributing aid to the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, Israel initiated a three-hour "humanitarian truce". The Israeli army refrained from attacks from 1 to 4 pm, though there are reports of some exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Hamas during that period. During the temporary truce, Israel allowed 80 aid trucks to enter the strip, and delivered industrial fuel for Gaza's power plant. Additionally, access was grated to previously closed regions, to allow residents to stock up on supplies. According to Israeli sources, they plan to repeat this move daily. Fighting resumed immediately following the end of the truce.[132][133]


Medical sources in Gaza and the UN reported that 670 Palestinians were killed as of 7 January; the civilian death toll was 300,[134][135] including at least 195 children,[136] while more than 2,800 have been injured. Hamas claims 10 of its fighters have been killed.[137] Five Israelis (two soldiers and three civilians) have been killed in the same period by Palestinian rockets,[138] and 5 soldiers were killed and 32 were injured during Israel's ground offensive.[137] On 31 December, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip published a list of 187 of the people killed.[139]

The UN has stated that during the first three days of the operation there are over 300 dead, of which at least 60 are women or children.[140] However, Israel claimed most of the deaths during this period were members of Hamas security forces,[141][142] including Tawfik Jaber, the chief of Hamas police in Gaza.[101] As of 31 December, the death toll among Gaza Strip residents had reached 410, according to the director of the al-Shifa Hospital, Dr. Hussein,[139] and more than 1,720 people were wounded, "hundreds" of them seriously.[143] In the first 48 hours of the airstrikes, at least 32 Palestinian children were killed.[96] A day earlier, the United Nations humanitarian chief had said that about 320 Palestinians had been killed and 1400 injured. The UN said that civilian casualties, defined only as women and children, were 62.[24] Israel said that most of the deaths and injuries were Hamas militants, and said it takes careful steps to avoid harm to bystanders.[144] In a press conference in Gaza City on 29 December, a de facto Hamas Interior Ministry spokesperson, Ihab al-Ghusein, stated that most of the victims of the attacks were "Gazans at work, not activists launching rockets."[16] According to the New York Times, not all Hamas members necessarily fully accept the organisation's ideology; young men might be simply tempted by the steady work of the police force as jobs are scarce in Gaza due to an international embargo on Hamas.[145] A police spokesperson, Islam Shahwan, stated that "at least 95% of the security services buildings" were destroyed, and that 138 police officers had been killed: nine in Rafah, 29 in Khan Younis, 70 in Gaza City and 30 "in the north."[16] Israeli military sources claim to have killed 150 Hamas gunmen.[146]

On the Israeli side, three civilians and one soldier have been killed by rocket attacks since the Gaza offensive began.[142] Two soldiers have been killed in Gaza fighting, while four additional soldiers were killed by friendly tank fire.[147][7]

BBC News, quoting Hamas run media sources, reported that Hamas claimed to have captured two IDF soldiers during the Israeli ground offensive,[148] though the Israeli army has declared this to be an attempt at spreading demoralising disinformation.[149] According to The Jerusalem Post, the Hamas government has placed dozens of Fatah members under house arrest out of fear that they might exploit the current IDF operation to regain control of the Gaza Strip. The Jerusalem Post quotes Fatah officials in Ramallah saying that at least 75 Fatah activists were shot in the legs, and others had their hands broken. The newspaper also quotes "sources close to Hamas" saying that Hamas had executed more than 35 Palestinians who were suspected of collaborating with Israel and were being held in various Hamas security installations, out of fear that Israel might try to rescue them during a ground offensive. [150] On January 5, news sources reported that Hamas claimed that it had killed nine Israeli soldiers while fighting them in the Gaza strip. Israel denied these claims.[151][152]

One Egyptian border guard was killed and one was wounded by Hamas gunmen.[6]

Humanitarian crisis in Gaza

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs states that the Gaza strip humanitarian crisis is significant and cannot be understated.[97] The UN states that the situation is a "human dignity crisis" in the Gaza strip, entailing "a massive destruction of livelihoods and a significant deterioration of infrastructure and basic services". Fear and panic are widespread; 80 percent of the population cannot support themselves and are dependent on humanitarian assistance.[97] A psychiatrist, who is the head of Gaza's mental health program, has estimated that nearly half of the population will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.[153]

Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni has stated that there's no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,[154]and that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is "completely as it should be". [155] The head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, has criticised Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for declaring that there's no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. He also criticised the Security Council for not responding faster to the crisis.[155] The International Red Cross said the situation was "intolerable" and a "full blown humanitarian crisis."[156]

On 7 January, Israel agreed to a three-hour humanitarian truce, allowing supplies and fuel into Gaza. It stated that it consider similar concessions in the future.[133]


The "entire civilian population" in the Gaza strip remains vulnerable.[157] There is a sense of "panic, fear and distress" throughout the whole strip.[97][157] Civilians have implemented a self-imposed curfew since no public warning systems or effective shelters exist. [157] People have been evacuating their homes and staying in streets for long hours exposed to further danger, or staying with relatives. [96] Civilians face insecurities while re-stocking basic food items, water and cooking gas. [157] Most families are holed up in one or two rooms that are considered the safest in the home, without electricity and with barely running water. Children have no outlets and entire families are moving to safer places at night. [157]

The Palestinian Red Cross estimates that thousands of homes have been damaged and it became "increasingly difficult" for their residents to stay in them due to the cold weather.[158] The UNRWA has prepared its schools to act as temporary shelters for displaced persons. [96] As of January 1st, approximately 400 people spend the night under the UNRWA emergency shelters.[159][97] As reported by both the Save the Children Alliance and the Al Mezan Center, prior to the IDF ground operation, more than 13,000 people (2000 families) have been displaced in the strip. [158] The majority of those families seek shelter with relatives, while 1,200 people are staying on the temporary emergency shelters provided by the UNRWA. [158] As of the tenth day of war, 5,000 persons are displaced and currently staying on the UNRWA shelters. The numbers are quickly increasing and the UNRWA stocks are quickly running out. [160]

Fuel and electricity

The only power plant in Gaza is not operational due to the lack of industrial fuel and spare parts.[157][97] As of 1 January, power outages last 16 hours per day.[157][97][96] Due to localised damage following the airstrikes, some electrical lines have been cut, causing some areas to suffer from power cuts lasting 24 hours.[157][97] In addition, due to the damage caused by the air strikes to 15 electrical transformers, as much as 250,000 people in central and northern Gaza have no electricity supply during the entire day and night.[97] On the first of January, a 5MW line from Egypt to Rafah was damaged, extending the power cuts to Rafah, which usually has a continuous supply.[97] Fuel for heating and cooking are no longer available and most of the 240 gas stations in Gaza City have been closed.[97]

As of 4 January, there's almost total blackout in Gaza City, North Gaza, Middle Area and Khan Yunis. [158] 90% of the telephone network, including both cellular service and land lines, is down, since it depends on backup generators with dwindling fuel stocks.[161][158] Since the Israeli ground operation, 75% of Gaza's electricity has been cut off and the Palestinian technicians face difficulties reaching damaged lines because of the military attacks.[160]


Since 5 November, there has been a shortage of chlorine for water treatment due to Israeli blockades, increasing the risk of outbreak of water diseases.[96] On 27 December, Israeli airstrikes extensively damaged two water wells, rendering a population of 30,000 Palestinians without water.[96] Since Wednesday 31 December, sewage and water systems in Beit Hanoun were hit at five locations causing considerable damage to the main sewage pipeline leading to sewage water pouring into the streets. [157] [97] On 2 January, airstrikes in the Al Mughraga area damaged a main drinking water pipe, cutting off water supplies to 30,000 people in Nuseirat Camp.[162] The UN sums the situation that as of 2 January, 250,000 people in Gaza City and northern Gaza are without water supply; seven water wells were seriously damaged and cannot be repaired due to bombardments.[97]

As of the fourth of January, and as reported by the Palestinian Coastal Municipality Water Utility (CMWU) throughout the UN reports, 70% of the Gaza strip 1.5 million population have no access to water. [158] The CMWU also fears that continued shelling near the Beit Lahiya sewage lagoon will cause a massive sewage overflow. In addition to agricultural areas, up to 15,000 people are directly at risk.[97][158]


Weakened by the eighteen-month Blockade of the Gaza Strip, as of 31 December the central drug store reported that 105 drugs and 255 medical supplies of the essential drug and supplies list are still unavailable, and approximately 20 percent of the ambulances were grounded due to lack of spare parts.[96] Ambulances are experiencing difficulties in reaching the injured because of continuous fire. [158] Hospitals also suffer a "severe" shortage of cooking gas, which is expected to be totally depleted in the coming days. Due to this shortage, the WFP distributed canned meat and high energy biscuits. [97] As a result of shortages,[163] dozens of Gaza Arabs are being treated in Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital,[164] while others are crossing into Egypt from Gaza for treatment.[165] According to the World Health Organisation, there are at least 1,000 medical machines out of order. As of the eighth day of war, this shortage of equipment and spare parts was still a "main challenge" but the Ministry of Health stated that "while conditions at hospitals are extremely precarious, the situation has stabilised, following the large volume of medical supplies received". [162]

As of the fourth of January, all of Gaza City hospitals have been without main electricity for 48 consecutive hours, depending entirely on back-up generators. The hospitals warn that the generators are close to collapse. [158] On the fourth of January, UNRWA had to close four out of its eighteen health centers because of hostilities in the vicinity, [158] with one more center closed by the next day. [160] For the second consecutive day, Israeli authorities have refused to allow an International Committee of the Red Cross emergency medical team into Gaza to help the staff of Shifa hospital. [158] On the fifth of January, generators at the Ministry of Health ambulance stations, vaccine stores, labs and warehouses shut down due to the lack of fuel, till the UNRWA delivered some short term fuel. [160] Humanitarian organisations are receiving urgent requests for strong pain killers, body gas, bed sheets for wrapping the dead, and an urgent need for neuro-, vascular-, orthopedic- and open heart surgeons. [160] Collateral damage to hospitals, broken windows as an example, are not being repaired. The Palestinian Red Cross has been unable to respond to many calls due to the military operations. [160]


The Israeli shekel is a widely used currency in the Gaza Strip, and the territory needs at least 400 million shekels, or about $100 million each month in new currency to replace aging notes and to pay salaries.[166] Since 24 December, the ban on the entry of banknotes into Gaza has hampered several humanitarian programs run by the UNRWA, the largest humanitarian assistance provider in the Gaza Strip.[97][96] As of 5 January, the tenth day of the attacks, cash has still not entered the Gaza Strip and is urgently needed, including for the UNRWA cash distribution program to some 94,000 dependent beneficiaries, as well as for its "cash for work" program.[97][162][158][160]

Israeli media campaign

Haaretz reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni "instructed senior ministry officials to open an aggressive and diplomatic international public relations campaign in order to gain support for Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip." Israeli officials at embassies and consulates worldwide have mounted campaigns in local media, and to that end have recruited people who speak the native language. Israel has also opened an international media centre in Sderot.[167] Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee has criticised the international media coverage, claiming it has not shown the Israeli side.[168] Israel's consulate in New York began holding online press conferences on Twitter, a microblogging website, and the IDF Spokesperson's Unit has opened a channel on the website YouTube.[169]

On January 6, the New York Times reported that the blocking of media access to Gaza was part of an "unprecedented" effort on the part of the Israeli government to "control entirely the message and narrative for reasons both of politics and military strategy." According to the article, journalists prevented from entering Gaza had "full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been terrorising civilians," as well as to press tours of Israel by private groups funded by Americans.[170]

The Foreign Press Association of Israel issued a statement on January 6 addressing the situation:

The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs.

According to CNN, Israel is employing psychological tactics against Hamas by sending recorded phone calls to Gazans saying ""Urgent message, warning to the citizens of Gaza: Hamas is using you as human shields. Do not listen to them. Hamas has abandoned you and are hiding in their shelters", or dropping leaflets reading "that the IDF will continue using full force against Hamas...the toll will be very painful."[171] Aid workers have said that the children who survive the conflict will have to endure lifelong "psychological scars".[172] Meanwhile Hamas has sent its own messages to Israeli citizens' mobile phones, warning "rockets on all cities, shelters will not protect you."[173]


See main article: International reaction to the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict

Most members of the Arab League including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen have called for an end to the Israeli "attack" and/or "aggression". Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey[174] and Venezuela also criticised Israel. Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and the United States defended Israel's attacks and condemned Hamas.[175] Mauritania, one of three Arab League countries to hold diplomatic relations with Israel, recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv in the aftermath of the invasion of Gaza for "consultations."[176]

On January 6, Venezuela expelled the Israeli ambassador and Hugo Chavez called for Ehud Olmert to be tried for war crimes.[177]

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement on December 28 calling, "for an immediate halt to all violence",[178][179] the Arab League,[180] and the European Union made similar calls,[181] as did Argentina, Brazil, China, Hungary, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the Philipines, South Korea, and Vietnam.[178] Libya pushed to issue a Security Council Resolution urging for a cease-fire, an effort which the US blocked.[182][183]

The UN

 United Nations

Other International organisations and NGOs

  •  Arab League – The Arab League relocated and delayed its emergency summit from Cairo on December 28[187] to Doha on January 2, 2009.[188]
  •  OIC -Issued a communiqué condemnning the "brutal and sustained aggression". The communiqué also called for the Palestinian factions to end their differences and noted the OIC's continued aid works in Gaza and its support for the PNA and other "legitimate institutions". The OIC has requested all "peace loving nations" work to call the UN general assembly.
  •  European Union – A spokesman for the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief, Javier Solana, called "for an immediate ceasefire",[179] and France, which held the EU presidency until the end of December 2008, condemned acts of violence on both sides "with the same firmness."[189] The European Commission has expressed "deep concern" about the humanitarian situation.[190]
  •  African Union – The African Union condemned the air raids on the Gaza Strip, expressing deep concern at the number of casualties.[191]
  • Amnesty International called for an end unlawful attacks by both sides and for Israel to end the blockade of the Gaza Strip and allow international humanitarian access to meet Gaza's emergency needs.[192]
  • Human Rights Watch warned that the lack of accountability for past violations of international law by Israel and Hamas threatens civilians during fighting in densely populated areas.[193]

Civilian protests

Further information: Civilian protests to 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict

Protesters in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Major protests against Israel were held world-wide[194][195] in Istanbul (largest[196][197]), London,[198] Paris,[199] Berlin,[200] Moscow,[201] Athens,[200] Malta,[202] Amsterdam,[203] Dublin,[204] and Madrid,[200] dozens of American cities,[205] Iran,[206] Syria,[206] India,[207][208] Pakistan, Afghanistan,[209] Bangladesh,[207] Indonesia[201] the Philippines,[207] and throughout Africa.[201][210][211] In Israel demonstrations were held both in support of the operation and against it.[212] In Egypt, the protests resulted in the government's reopening of the Rafah border crossing to allow passage of food and medicine to Gaza.[213] Smaller pro-Israel demonstrations were held in San Francisco and New York City,[214][215] and other cities worldwide.[216][217][218]

Protesters in London, Paris, Oslo, and other cities clashed with the police.[219][220] One Palestinian man was shot dead during a clash between Israeli troops and Palestinian youth in the West Bank.[221] There were global isolated attacks against Jews, Israelis and Jewish targets, which were interpreted to be in response to the conflict.[222][223] In the first days after the beginning of the hostilities, over 300 Israeli Websites have been hacked and defaced with anti-Israeli and anti-US messages.[224][225]

Alleged violations of international law

Under international humanitarian law, warring parties are obliged to distinguish between combatants and civilians, ensure that attacks on legitimate military targets are proportional, and guarantee that the military advantage of such attacks outweigh the possible harm done to civilians. Violations of these laws are considered war crimes.[226]

By the Israeli Defense Forces

On 27 December, the United Nations Human Rights Council,[227] released a statement by Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories", [228] in his official capacity as Special Rapporteur. The statement described the Israeli airstrikes as "severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war." [229] In a Houston Chronicle article Falk wrote that he had "called on the International Criminal Court" to investigate Israeli leaders responsible for possible violations of international criminal law.[230]

The UNHRC statement argues that Israel has violated the principle of distinction by targeting "civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East." It contends that Israel's violation of the principle of proportionality is reflected in that its attacks have "destroyed every police and security office of Gaza's elected government," and "killed and injured hundreds of civilians."[229] But Justus Weiner and Avi Bell counter that targeting of military installations is not a violation of the principle of distinction, even if attacks cause collateral damage to civilians. They also defend the proportionality of the Israeli attacks on the grounds that they were not intended to cause excessive civilian damage, even if Israel erred in its estimates.[231]

Falk states that Israel has meted out collective punishment over Gaza Strip's entire 1.5 million people in response to "the actions of a few militants."[229] Weiner and Bell state that there is no precedent for prosecuting collective punishment under circumstances such as these. In any case, they argue, Israel's actions do not fall under the legal definition of collective punishment, because it has not imposed any criminal-type penalties.[231]

By Palestinian militants

The UNHRC statement by Falk also noted: "Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right [...] to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response."[229]

The BBC reports that, "Witnesses and analysts confirm that Hamas fires rockets from within populated civilian areas, and all sides agree that the movement flagrantly violates international law by targeting civilians with its rockets."[232]

Israel argues that Hamas blurs the line between civilians and combatants, and is therefore responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs writes that Hamas' use of "human shields" and "operational use of heavily built-up and densely populated civilian areas" violates Article 8(2)(b)(xxiii) of the Rome Statute. This statute defines as a war crime the act of "Utilizing the presence of a civilian […] to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations."[233]

Israel also defines Palestinian attacks as terrorist in nature, because they kill civilians in order to "sow terror" within the broader civilian population. This would constitute violation of the Laws of Armed Conflict, as outlined in Article 51(2) of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949.[233]

Picture Gallery

See also


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  10. ^|name="haaretz_2nd_israeli_soldier_casualty"/>

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