For seven years, but especially since the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the Hamas takeover in June 2007, Israeli communities alongside the Gaza Strip have been subjected to a relentless barrage of rockets and mortar bombs. Israeli military forces had no choice but to respond in order to protect the civilian communities in the south. Unfortunately, given the terrorists' propensity to use the local Palestinian population as human shields, Palestinian civilians have also lost their lives.
As a result of Hamas's difficulties in dealing with Israeli pressure placed on the terrorist group, as well as with IDF activity, an Egyptian proposal came about that would end terrorism from the Gaza Strip and the resulting Israeli military operations.
It must be emphasized that this proposal was not a result of Israeli negotiations with Hamas. Rather, all contacts on this matter were with the government of Egypt. The Israeli position regarding Hamas as a terror organization has not changed one iota. The Egyptian initiative does not bestow any legitimacy on Hamas, and Israel will continue to press for the justified isolation of Hamas by the international community.
The Egyptian initiative led to a "state of calm," which began on Thursday, 19 June 2008.
The goals of the calm are the total cessation of terrorism and firing at Israel by all factions, the end of Palestinian smuggling and military build-up and progress in securing the release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. If quiet is restored to the southern part of the country, Israel will increase the amount and scope of goods that enter the Gaza Strip, leading to an improved quality of life for the Palestinian civilian population.
Israel will be closely monitoring the situation to insure that the proposal is being implemented in full on the ground. Results on the ground will serve as the test that determines whether this initiative has been successful.
Any terrorist act originating from the Gaza Strip - regardless of which organization is responsible - will be considered as a fundamental breach of the understandings. Israel will hold Hamas responsible for the violations and their consequences. Israel hopes that calm will be achieved, but it will respond to every infraction. Due to the many doubts and uncertainties surrounding the proposed calm, Israel has other options prepared.
Israel is aware the calm is likely to be fragile and short-lived, but believes that it is important that every avenue that could lead to a non-violent solution to the problem of Gaza be exhausted.
Israel could have launched a military action to deal with the Gazan terrorism, but instead chose the de-facto calm. It does so in the hope the calm will end the terror attacks emanating from Gaza, preventing any further violence that will cause bloodshed among Israeli and Palestinian civilians. Israel takes the Egyptian initiative seriously and very much wants it to succeed.
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Rockets and mortars fired at Israel from Gaza despite calm
Sderot home damaged by a Kassam rocket fired on June 24
(Photo: Edi Israel)
A total of 223 rockets and 139 mortar shells were fired during the period of calm, most since November 4, 2008.
June 24, 2008 - Mortar shell fire; three rocket hits identified in Sderot
June 26 - Rocket hit identified in an open field near Kibbutz Gevim
June 27 - Two mortar shells fired at the Karni crossing
June 28 - Mortar shell fired at the Karni crossing
June 30 - Rocket hit identified near Kibbutz Mefalsim
July 3 - Rocket hit identified in an open field north of Sderot
July 6 - Sniper opened fire on farmers working in the fields of Kibbutz Nahal Oz
July 7 - Mortar shell fired near the Karni crossing
July 8 - Mortar shell landed in an open field in the Eshkol regional council district (northwestern Negev)
July 10 - Two rockets landed in an open field near Kibbutz Gevim. Two mortar shell hits were identified about three kilometers (1.9 miles) southwest of the Sufa crossing and another west of the village of Holit
July 12 - A rocket exploded in an open area in the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council district in the northwestern Negev
July 13 - Two mortar shells exploded on the Gaza side of the security fence near Kibbutz Nahal Oz
July 15 - Mortar shell landing detected
Aug 6 - A rocket hit was identified near Kissufim.
Aug 9 - A rocket hit was identified in an open field in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council area.
Aug 11 - A rocket hit was identified near a residential area in Sderot
Aug 15 - A rocket hit was identified near Gevaram near Ashqelon
Aug 17 - A rocket hit was identified near Re'im in the western Negev
Aug 19 - A rocket hit was identified near Nir Am in the western Negev.
Aug 25 - A rocket hit was identified near a community in the western Negev. Several hours later, another rocket hit was identified nearby.
Sept 16 - A rocket hit was identified in a building site about 50 meters from a residential area in Sderot, causing a fire. One resident was treated for shock.
Sept 21 - Israeli security forces detained a terrorist sent by Hamas to infiltrate into Israel through the Egyptian border, abduct IDF soldiers and transfer them to the Gaza Strip to use them as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails.
Sept 30 - One mortar shell was fired during Rosh Hashanah, which fell inside the Gaza Strip.
Oct 21 - A rocket was fired at the western Negev.
Oct 31 - Terrorists tried to lay an explosive device near the security fence north of the Sufa crossing. IDF soldiers approached the terrorists, who fired two anti-tank missiles at them. The force returned their fire and the terrorists escaped.
On the basis of intelligence information, on the night of November 4 an IDF force entered the Gaza Strip to prevent an abduction planned by Hamas to be carried out through a tunnel under the security fence, about 250 meters inside Gazan territory. When the operation was over the IDF forces left the Gaza Strip. Six IDF soldiers were wounded, two of them seriously. During the action seven Hamas terrorist operatives were killed and number of operatives were wounded.
The Palestinian terrorist organizations, led by Hamas, reacted immediately by launching several dozen rockets and mortar shells at western Negev population centers, in gross violation of the calm arrangement. Between November 4 and 12 sporadic rocket and mortar shell fire continued, with a total of 91 rockets and 38 mortar shells fired. Three landed in the Ashkelon region, one in the center of a residential area; three women were treated for shock. One rocket fell in an Israeli village and caused damage to a greenhouse.
In response to the death of four operatives during the prevention of the IED attack on November 12 (armed terrorists in the process of laying an explosive device near the border security fence in the central Gaza Strip), the Palestinian terrorist organizations initiated a massive barrage of rocket and mortar shell fire.
Nov 12 - Five rockets and eight mortar shells were launched at Israeli population centers near the Gaza Strip and at IDF forces.
Nov 13 - Five rockets and three mortar shell were fired at Israeli population centers and IDF forces.
Nov 14 - In the morning hours the Israeli Air Force attacked a terrorist squad on its way to fire rockets, wounding a number of Hamas operatives. In response, 17 rockets were fired at Israeli towns and villages. Four longer-range standard Grad 122mm missiles were fired at Ashkelon , one landing in the center of the city. Earlier, a rocket hit a residential dwelling. In addition, seven mortar shells were fired.
Nov 15 - One rocket and two mortar shells were fired at Israeli population centers and at IDF forces.
Nov 16 - The Israeli Air Force attacked a Popular Resistance Committees squad on its way to launch missiles near the Nahal Oz crossing. Four terrorist operatives were killed. During the day five rockets were fired, one of which hit a house in Sderot and slightly wounded a resident.
Nov 17 - 13 rockets were fired at Israeli towns and villages during the day.
Nov 18 - Rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel territory during the afternoon.
At noon on Friday, November 28, 2008, an IDF force identified terrorists laying an explosive device near the Gaza Strip border security fence in the region of Abasan, near Khan Yunis. A firefight developed, resulting in the death of one terrorist and the wounding of four others. In rapid response, the Palestinian terrorist organizations launched a massive barrage of 17 mortar shells directed at the Nahal Oz area. One rocket was also fired, which landed in an open area. Hamas claimed responsibility for most of the fire along with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations, such as the PRC. One of the mortar shells - a standard 120mm , apparently manufactured in Iran and smuggled into the Gaza Strip - hit an IDF base in the Nahal Oz region, wounding eight soldiers, one of them critically.
Iranian-made 120 mm mortar shell with auxiliary motor (IICC)
This was not the first standard 120mm mortar shell attack against Israel. On February 24, 2008, such shells fell near Kibbutz Sa'ad in the western Negev , fired by Palestinian terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. An examination of the remains showed that a shell manufactured by Iran (copy of mortar shells produced by the Israeli military industry in the 1970s and supplied to Iran). The rockets are equipped with auxiliary motors to increase their range from six to ten kilometers (less than four to more than six miles). On June 5, 2008, a 120mm mortar shell hit a factory in Kibbutz Nir Oz, killing Amnon Rosenberg, 51, from Kibbutz Nirim, and wounding four others, two of them seriously. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
On December 5-7, rocket and mortar shell fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel escalated, with the firing of 14 rockets and 12 mortar shells, one rocket hitting Ashkelon's industrial zone.
Hamas continues military buildup despite calm
Members of the Jerusalem Brigades (terrorist-operative wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad), on training in the Gaza Strip, practicing rocket and automatic rifle fire
(Photos: PALDF forum, August 14 - Courtesy IICC)
Practice firing of Kassam rockets near Palestinian homes
Rocket fire practice near Palestinian greenhouses