During the offensive, Israeli occupation targeted 37 houses; 67 security and training sites; 20 workshops; 25 public and private institutions; seven mosques and three educational institutions.
What: Israel waged a three-week military offensive against the Gaza Strip, killing almost 1,400 Palestinians and wounding thousands more.
Where: The Gaza Strip
When: 27 Dec 2008 – 18 Jan 2009
On 27 December 2008, the Israeli occupation launched a massive military offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Strip had been placed under an Israeli-led siege a year earlier, subjecting the 265 square-kilometre-enclave to a land, air and sea blockade. Codenamed Operation Cast Lead, this offensive began at 11am on a Saturday morning, with Israeli Air Force jets firing on targets across the territory. Ynet reported at the time that “80 jets, warplanes and helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of targets [during] the initial strike.” Among the targets were the small fishing port and the main police compound in Gaza City.
Throughout the first week of the assault, the Israeli occupation relied on aerial attacks to pound Gaza. A report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights for the week 24–31 December 2008 (cited in the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, sometimes known as the Goldstone Report) found that Israel “launched at least 300 air and sea strikes against the Gaza Strip. These strikes targeted 37 houses; 67 security and training sites; 20 workshops; 25 public and private institutions; seven mosques and three educational institutions.”
Police stations in particular came under deliberate attack across the Strip. The “Arafat City” police headquarters in Gaza City, as well as three other stations, were attacked within the first few minutes of the assault on 27 December. The UN report states that, over the course of Israel’s military operations, 248 members of the Gaza civil police force were killed, which means that more than one out of every six fatalities was a police officer.
Israeli Defence Minister at the time, Ehud Barak, claimed that there were three objectives for launching the offensive: “Dealing Hamas [which, since winning the 2006 Palestinian elections, had governed the Gaza Strip] a forceful blow; fundamentally changing the situation in Gaza and bringing the rocket attacks against Israeli citizens to a halt.” Barak ordered a “special situation on the home front” for all Israeli communities within a 13-mile radius of the nominal border of the coastal enclave, which was quickly expanded to include the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.
the Israeli occupation also drafted around 6,700 army reservists, in case it decided to widen the operation. Given that the assault was launched during election season, all contenders halted their campaigns in a show of support for the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who had also launched an offensive on Lebanon just two years earlier.
Escalation and ground invasion
On the eighth day of the offensive – 3 January 2009 — the Israeli occupation launched a ground invasion of Gaza. Israeli infantry entered the enclave from the north, supported by artillery fire and fighter jets. The Palestinians in Gaza, it must be remembered, have no artillery or other heavy weapons, no tanks, no air force and no navy. They faced the full might of one of the world’s strongest and best equipped armed forces with AK47s.
The UN report details how the Israeli occupation tried to cut the Strip in two – bisecting the territory from Karni (Al-Muntar) Crossing in the east, through Al-Nuseirat south of Gaza City, to the coast – before focusing troops in the north. For a further five days the northern towns of Al-Atatra and Beit Lahia came under heavy attack, with the UN report detailing “[Israel’s] alleged use of human shields, the alleged widespread mistreatment of civilians, including detentions, and transfers of large numbers to Israeli prisons in unlawful circumstances.”
Israelis use of chemical weapons
In the later stages of the offensive, reports began to surface claiming that the Israeli occupation had used white phosphorous — a chemical which creates a smokescreen for offensives but which causes severe burns and organ failure — during its attack on the people of Gaza.
The Israeli occupation initially denied these reports, but investigations by several human rights organisations documented evidence to the contrary. A 2009 Amnesty International report found that “Israeli forces made extensive use of white phosphorus, often launched from 155mm artillery shells, in residential areas, causing death and injuries to civilians.” Among the targets were the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) headquarters and Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City; an UNRWA primary school in Beit Lahia, north of Jabalia and numerous residential areas.
Amnesty explained that:
“White phosphorus is extremely dangerous for humans as it causes deep burns through muscle and down to the bone, continuing to burn until deprived of oxygen. It can contaminate other parts of the body, or even people treating the injuries, poisoning and irreparably damaging internal organs.”
The rights organisation added: “Although using white phosphorus as an obscurant is not forbidden under international humanitarian law, air-bursting white phosphorus artillery shells over densely populated areas of Gaza violated the requirement to take necessary precautions to protect civilians.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) agreed with Amnesty’s assessment, claiming that the manner in which Israel used the chemical could constitute a war crime. HRW’s “Rain of Fire” report argued that while “white phosphorus munitions did not kill the most civilians in Gaza […] their use in densely populated neighbourhoods […] violated international humanitarian law (the laws of war), which requires taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm and prohibits indiscriminate attacks.”
On 8 January 2009, the UN Security Council approved resolution 1860 calling for a ceasefire in the Strip by a 14-0 margin. The United States abstained in the vote. The resolution called for an “immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.” It condemned “all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism,” calling for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment.”
Both the Israeli occupation and Hamas declared the resolution invalid. The offensive continued for another 10 days, only coming to a close after a brutal 22 days. “The ferocity of the attack was unprecedented in the more than six-decade-old conflict between Israelis and the indigenous Palestinians,” the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) observed.
According to figures from Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, 1,390 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. Among those killed were 344 minors and 110 women. B’Tselem estimates that 759 of those killed in Gaza were Palestinians who did not take part in hostilities, and yet were still killed by Israeli forces.
What happened next?
Donald Macintyre, former Jerusalem bureau chief for the Independent, said in his book Gaza: Preparing for Dawn that following Operation Cast Lead, “It was impossible to ascribe ‘victory’ to either side.” He argued that the Israeli occupation’s “bellicose pre-war talk of ‘crushing’ or ‘removing’ Hamas” proved to be “little more” than talk, while Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s claim of victory was “at least as hollow”.
Gaza, however, has never recovered from the 2008 offensive. While acknowledging that its economy was already being strangled by the siege, the UN report found that Israeli military operation “destroyed a substantial part of the Gaza Strip’s economic infrastructure and its capacity to support decent livelihoods for families.” The figures speak for themselves: 700 businesses were damaged or destroyed, with direct losses totalling approximately $140 million; the agricultural sector suffered direct losses worth $170 million; and over 3,354 houses were completely destroyed, with a further 11,112 partially damaged, according to figures from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). A separate UN report estimated the cost of Gaza’s losses and damage at $1.1 billion.
In the years since, the Israeli siege of the Strip has prevented the reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed during its 2008 offensive. To add insult to injury, Gaza has also since been the target of two more offensives at the hands of the Israeli occupation: the 2012 offensive, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defence, and the 2014 offensive, dubbed Operation Protective Edge. Almost 4,000 Palestinians were killed during these three offensives. Today, 54 per cent of Gaza’s almost 2 million-strong population is unemployed, while 53 per cent live under the poverty line in what has been described as one of the worst humanitarian situations in the world.
A decade later, the Israeli occupation continues to shirk responsibility for its actions. Earlier this month, an Israeli court ruled against Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor who lost three of his daughters during an Israeli air strike on his home in Jabalia, in the north of the Strip. Abuelaish’s story was made famous after he discovered that his children — 13-year-old Bessan, 15-year-old Mayar and 20-year-old Aya – had been killed while he was speaking to an Israeli TV channel; his suffering was broadcast live across the country and later shared widely around the world.
Despite Abuelaish’s grief and the international attention his story received, the court still ruled that Israel bore no responsibility for the girls’ deaths, instead calling it an “unfortunate side effect” of the offensive.
Saleh al-Arouri (L2), deputy leader of Hamas and Ahmad Bahar (C), deputy head of the Palestinian Legislative Council take part in the 19th Friday of Palestine’s “Great Return March,” on Gaza-Israeli border in Shuja’iyya neighborhood in Gaza City, Gaza on 3 August, 2018
Hamas Parliamentarian Bloc yesterday held a meeting for its MPs in the parliament headquarters in the Gaza Strip in defiance of the decision of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve parliament, a statement said.
Ahmad Bahar, the first deputy speaker, stressed during the meeting that Abbas’ decision to dissolve parliament “is illegal” and reiterated that the parliament “is to continue its work.”
The Palestinian factions in Gaza attended the meeting and announced their support for the elected parliament against the “unilateral” measures taken by Abbas “which do not serve the national interests.”
Bahar accused Abbas of “ignoring the parliament and the Palestinian law”, noting that the Constitutional Court is illegal.
He also condemned the PA security forces which detained the Parliament Speaker Aziz Dwaik along with a number of other MPs in the occupied West Bank, preventing them from reaching the parliament headquarters in Ramallah.
Israel allocated three million shekels ($790,000) to setup an international network of lawyers and financial legal groups to combat the Boycott, Divestment of Sanctions movement last week.
Palestinian co-founder of BDS Omar Barghouti said that this proves how afraid Israel is of this peaceful movement.
Speaking to Al-Wattan Voice, Barghouti said that since the rise of the extreme right-wing in Israel in 2015, the Israeli government has considered BDS as a primary threat to its “colonial apartheid enterprise”.
“Israel is currently turning from the stage of self-defence in its battle with BDS to the stage of attack,” Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan has said, according to Al-Wattan Voice.
“The failure of the Israeli occupation government to slowdown the growth of the BDS pushed it to wage a desperate psychological battle in addition to its legal and intelligence one,” Barghouti said.
“Israel has started to lose the general liberal current in the West because of its violent crackdown on BDS activists and enforcing laws that deter the freedom of speech,” he said.
He highlighted the case of the EU, which defended the right to boycott Israel and recognised that they are guaranteed as part of the right to freedom of expression.
“BDS is to escalate its activities among artists, economists, academics and athletes all over the world in order to increasingly isolate the Israeli colonial apartheid regime and the institutions and companies involved in crimes against the Palestinians,” Barghouti added.
Legal tools are also being used to defend BDS activists who are being spied on by Israel in violation of the laws of the countries in which they live, Barghouti said.
Egyptian judge Mohammed Shirin Fahmi (background) listens to the testimony of former president Hosni Mubarak (front), who was ousted following a popular uprisal in 2011, during a session in the retrial of members of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood over charges of plotting jailbreaks and attacks on police during the 2011 uprising, at a make-shift courthouse in southern Cairo on December 26, 2018
Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday claimed that 800 members of Hamas broke into Egyptian prisons during the January 25 Revolution, Al-Watan Voice reported.
He claimed that they infiltrated the Egyptian border from the Gaza Strip in order to support the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mubarak was in court to testify as part of a retrial in which former President Mohamed Morsi and others are accused of orchestrating prison breaks and breaches of Egypt’s eastern border during the uprising that forced Mubarak from power in February 2011.
Quizzed on alleged infiltration by foreign militants, he said his head of general intelligence had told him on 29 January 2011 of hundreds of people crossing Egypt’s border from the Gaza Strip to support the Brotherhood.
“He told me that there are armed groups which have infiltrated the borders with great numbers, around 800 people,” he told the court.
But he declined to answer questions on the role of militant groups, so as not to discuss state secrets without authorisation. “I want permission to speak about this, I am requesting permission so as not to commit an offence,” he said.
During the trial Mubarak came face to face for the first time with Morsi, who became the country’s first democratically elected president after the revolution.
Palestinian Authority Security forces raid a Palestinian home in the occupied West Bank [file photo]
Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces yesterday detained Palestinian Parliament Speaker Aziz Dwaik and a number of MPs to prevent them from reaching their office.
In a recorded statement sent to MEMO, Aziz Dwaik said: “We had a press conference to comment on the [decision of the Constitutional Court] to dissolve parliament. We were surprised with this detention.”
He added: “While we were at the checkpoint, we received a phone call from the intelligence agency which told us to bring two photographs and go to their office in Hebron.”
Dwaik said that the conference was coordinated with the different PA parties related, stressing it was permitted by the highest chief of the intelligence agency.
“About 30 to 40 security members detained us,” he said while inside a car along with three other MPs, adding that they were released after about one hour.
“They treated us impolitely and with clear disrespect,” he said.
On Saturday, the Constitutional Court, which was formed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, issued a decision to dissolve parliament.
Chief of the PA Security Forces Adnan Al-Damiri said he would carry out the decision of the Constitutional Court.
Dwaik did not recognise this decision as it was issued by an “illegal” court, stressing that such courts, according to the Palestinian law, “must be approved” by him as head of parliament and this did not happen.
Hamas, which holds a majority in parliament, also rejected the decision.
Ahmed Bahar, a Hamas official and deputy parliament speaker, held a press conference in Gaza and said: “The decision of the Constitutional Court is illegal.” He called for carrying out presidential, parliamentary and Palestinian National Council elections.
Palestinians carry the dead body of Faris Hafez al-Sarasawi, 12 years old Palestinian child who was killed by Israeli forces in “Great March of Return” demonstrations, during his funeral ceremony in Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza City, Gaza on October 06, 2018
Israeli occupation forces have killed 253 Palestinian protesters and wounded thousands more during the “Great March of Return” protests in the besieged Gaza Strip, Quds Press reported yesterday.
According to a report issued by Abdullah Al-Hourani Centre for Studies the Israeli occupation is withholding the bodies of 11 Palestinian martyrs killed during the protests.
Forty-five children were among those killed during the protests, the organisation said, including Bayan Abu-Khamash who was just 18 months old.
Meanwhile, the centre reported that 25,477 protesters were wounded, including 13,750 who were admitted to hospital and the others that were treated in the field.
Some 4,379 children were among the wounded, half of them were shot or wounded by shrapnel as a result of artillery shelling and air strikes. It also stated that 2,050 men and 263 journalists were among the wounded.
Since 30 March, thousands of Palestinians have been protesting along the eastern fence of the Gaza Strip, calling for lifting the 11-year-old Israeli siege and for their right to return to the homes from which their families were forced out as a result of the 1948 Nakba which led to the creation of the state of Israel.
Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian-owned properties, in the Burqa village of the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus, on Wednesday.
Ghassan Daghlas, an official who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank, said that Israeli settlers threw rocks at Palestinian vehicles passing by.
The windows of the vehicles were damaged, no injuries were reported, according to Ma’an News Agency.
Israeli settlers also damaged traffic signs, uprooted trees and destroyed the front door of a local pharmacy.
Many Palestinian activists and rights groups have accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israelis committing violent acts against Palestinians.
Better known as “price tag” attacks, extremist Israeli settlers use violent acts of retribution on Palestinians and their property to demonstrate their opposition to Israeli restrictions on settlements and their outposts, in the occupied West Bank.
The “Higher Planning Committee” of the Civil Administration office, the executive branch of Israel’s illegal military occupation, has approved the construction of 1550 units in a number of colonies in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli sources said the committee approved the new construction plan, Tuesday, in colonies in several parts of the occupied West Bank.
The new plan aims at building 1100 units in the West Bank, in addition to advancing plans for an additional 450 units.
The sources added that an approval includes 150 new units in colonies in Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, 300 in Givat Ze’ev colony north of Jerusalem, and 300 in Nave Daniel and Karmie Tzur, in Gush Etzion colonialist bloc, south of Bethlehem.
Israel also intends to deliberate for the approval of 129 units in Avnei Hefetz illegal colony, 121 in Yitzhar, 82 in Ofra, near Nablus, 55 units in Tzofim and 42 in Alfei Menashe, near Qalqilia in northern West Bank.
Another plan will be discussed to build two Industrial Zones between Avnei Hefetz and Beit Illit, near Tulkarem, in northern West Bank.
All of Israel’s colonies in the West Bank, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem, are illegal under International Law, the Fourth Geneva Convention and various international treaties.
The Palestinians continue to lose their lands for the illegal constructions, in addition to the Annexation Wall which isolated large areas of orchards and lands, across the West Bank.