Israel prepares for invasion to destroy Hamas
Israeli bombs land on Gaza, July 1st, 2014, within hours of the bodies of the three murdered Israeli boys being found.
The strikes, which Israel says are in response to rocket attacks, may presage a long-term operation against Hamas
By Renee Lewis, Al Jazeera
July 08, 2014
Israel’s ongoing military incursion into Gaza on Tuesday, consisting of more than 50 air and naval strikes, could be extended into a longer-term military engagement as officials said a ground operation was under consideration.
The Israeli government on Tuesday approved the call-up of up to an additional 40,000 reservists, adding to the 1,500 already called up, Israeli news website Haaretz reported.
The attacks mark the worst outbreak of violence between Israel and Gaza since an eight-day war in 2012, and there was no indication that a lull in Israeli strikes would be forthcoming. At least 14 Palestinians have been killed in the latest strikes.
Five Palestinians were killed in the initial attacks, according to Palestinian Maan News Agency, with more than 50 injured. According to Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, one of the Palestinians killed overnight was a reported member of the Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. Four more Palestinians were killed in an airstrike on a vehicle traveling in the Strip.
At least seven more were reportedly killed in an airstrike on a house in Khan Younis in Gaza, which also injured 25 others. Local residents said the house belonged to the family of a Hamas member. After an initial strike on the house, dozens gathered on the roof, at which point, Reuters reported, the home was hit by another airstrike. The Israeli military had no comment on the attack.
One Palestinian in Gaza City was reported killed in the fresh strikes, Maan reported. Maan reported three killed in northern Gaza.
Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said on its website on Tuesday: “If the enemy does not stop its bombing of houses policy, we will expand range of firing.” The group said it has rockets capable of reaching as far north as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Forty additional Israeli strikes have been reported throughout Tuesday against the besieged territory. The offensive, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, was said to be a response to a marked uptick in rocket attacks from Gaza that reached their highest level in years on Monday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday the military operation against Hamas would be expanded — including the option of a ground invasion into Gaza.
A source in Netanyahu’s office quoted the prime minister as saying: “The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] must be ready to go all the way. All options are on the table, including a ground invasion.”
“We are preparing for a battle against Hamas which will not end within a few days,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a release.
Israeli tanks position themselves near the Rafah crossing, July 7th. Photo by Baz Ratner / Reuters.
According to Haaretz, Hamas politician Ismail Ashkar said Tuesday, “There will be no respite from the fighting as long as the attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank continue.”
He said also that any halt to attacks was dependent upon the release of Palestinian prisoners freed as a part of the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap — dozens of whom were recently rearrested by Israel in its crackdown following the deaths of three Israeli teens which it blamed on Hamas. Hamas has denied involvement in their abductions.
Ashkar said the other condition for peace was for Israel to end its blockade on Gaza, which has been in place since 2007 when Hamas took power in the occupied territory. Since then, Israel’s military has controlled all movements in and out, including borders, air space and the sea.
Netanyahu did not put a time limit on the operation, but diplomatic officials said it could be “for a long time.” He said the notion that “quiet would be met with quiet” was no longer the governing principle with regard to Israel and the Gaza Strip, and that it was time to “take off the gloves” against Hamas. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday called on Israel to halt its latest attacks.
The Israeli military said that more than 100 rockets had been fired at Israel, representing a sharp increase in the attacks that had been on the wane in recent months. Flights in and out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv have been diverted north because of rockets fired from Gaza, Haaretz reported.
Al Quds brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, said it had launched 60 rockets at Israel on Tuesday – targeting Beersheva, Ashkelon and Netivot.
“It is our right to defend our people who are going through this battle alone without Arab or Islamic support,” an Islamic Jihad spokesman told Maan. “We are in the middle of the battle supporting our people … and we are committed to protecting them.”
Hamas, though initially thought to be reluctant to launch rockets at Israel, has also claimed credit for some of the rockets. Seven Israelis were reportedly lightly wounded in Ashdod — and another wounded when he fell while running to a bomb shelter, with the rest suffering from shock, Haaretz reported.
The Gaza operation comes amid tensions that have boiled over since June 12, when three Israeli teenagers went missing in the West Bank. Hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank were arrested in the crackdown, which comes weeks after Hamas and Fatah had signed an agreement to form a technocratic unity government in the West Bank and Gaza with elections set for later in the year.
After the bodies of the three Israeli teens were found in the West Bank last week, a Palestinian teenager was abducted and burned to death by hardline Israelis seeking revenge. Six Israelis were arrested in connection with the murder over the weekend and three reportedly confessed to the crime on Monday. The crime set off massive street protests in East Jerusalem that pitted Palestinian youths against Israeli security forces.
Late Monday, according to Maan, an Israeli settler from the Nof Zion settlement in East Jerusalem reportedly opened fire on a group of Palestinian youths in front of a grocery store, but no injuries were reported and Israeli police gave no comment on the matter.
Haaretz reported Tuesday that two Arab Israelis were arrested for allegedly trying to kidnap a 15-year-old girl in a Jerusalem suburb.
With wire services
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has launched rockets into Israel over the past few days while Hamas turns a blind eye.
By Asmaa al-Ghoul, trans. Pascale Menassa, Palestine Pulse, Al Monitor
July 07, 2014
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The situation in the Gaza Strip has escalated dangerously, raising concerns that another major conflict is imminent. Eight Palestinians were killed, six of them from Hamas’ military wing the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and 10 were wounded following a series of strikes by Israeli warplanes over different locations in Gaza late on July 7 and in the early morning of July 8.
During the past few days, news has circulated about indirect communication between Cairo and Hamas to set up a cease-fire agreement in Gaza with Israel. A Hamas official confirmed to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that there has been no Egyptian brokerage for the truce and that “Egypt has distanced itself this time.”
In previous statements, Hamas leaders had set the lifting of the blockade in Gaza as a condition for any truce. However, this has yet to materialize.
“We agreed with the factions during a meeting held two days ago not to launch missiles, but 20 missiles are launched every day. Therefore, it seems that some parties have breached the agreement,” the Hamas official said.
“These missiles undoubtedly provoke a crisis, but Israel knows that Hamas is the side that controls things. After the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was burned alive by settlers, the pressure has increased. So we are disregarding these missiles,” he confirmed, adding, “Hamas can face the war militarily as an organization, and it has capacities. It has developed its defense forces and missiles more than before. There won’t be a war, but there aren’t any initiatives to solve this escalation soon.”
Khaled al-Batsh, a leader of the Islamic Jihad movement, told Al-Monitor after the meeting of the factions in the movement’s headquarters that he disagreed with the Hamas official. He clarified that the meeting was not for the factions to agree to the truce, but to discuss the salary crisis and the failure to implement the reconciliation provisions.
“The Islamic Jihad movement has not claimed responsibility for the missile launching, and there is general consensus among the factions in the Gaza Strip. However, there hasn’t been any agreement on a cease-fire so far, and the factions have the right to defend themselves from the persistent Israeli attacks. We affirm the importance of the Egyptian role and Egypt’s previous and future efforts to support the Palestinian cause. The current tensions push us to demand reform of the relationship between Hamas and Egypt, which will not give up its historical role to stop the Israeli aggression,” Batsh said.
On July 6 the Israeli army tweeted, “Over 150 Gaza rockets have hit Israel in less than a month.”
The rockets fired from Gaza in recent days have largely been the work of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), its spokesperson Abu Jamal told Al-Monitor. He said the armed wing of the PFLP’s “missiles during the past few days were part of their duty to defend the people and land. They did not constitute a form of reactive resistance, rather a strategic one until the end of the occupation. … Everybody knows that the enemy is ahead of us on the technological level. That’s why we are being extremely cautious. We often launch the missiles and leave the place within seconds.”
“We reject the truce or any collusion with the enemy under this condition. All we heard in the past two days was that the enemy is going after the truce. We didn’t give any written or oral consent, and we will not seek any direct or indirect negotiation under the continuing aggression on Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank cities. Any current truce would isolate Gaza and allow the occupation to take over the West Bank and Jerusalem. We reject this,” he said.
Regarding the coordination on the ground, Abu Jamal said that the PFLP does not work independently of other factions.
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades organized a press conference on July 3 with the Shehab News Agency.
When asked about the coordination between armed brigades, their spokesman Abu Abida told Al-Monitor, “Of course we are not alone. The resistance in all its forms is united on the ground. We agree with the factions and forces, and there is a high level of organization among us.”
When asked about his stance on the missiles that were launched from the Gaza Strip and breached the truce, he answered, “The occupation breached the truce, and you can all hear the daily shelling. Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades are well aware of the field situation, and they are directing the battles in the way they see fit. The Palestinian people have the right to face the Israeli occupation with all their power and tools. [Israeli forces] are the ones breaking the truce, not us.”
The Popular Resistance Committees also asserted that Gaza’s main armed factions are working together. Al-Monitor met with the spokesman for Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades of the Popular Resistance Committees, Khaled al-Azbat. “There is no truce or Egyptian brokerage. It is a big conspiracy against the Gaza Strip, targeting the first-rank leaders of the resistance,” Azbat said.
“As long as there is Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, there will be an organized response from the factions, and it doesn’t have to be declared,” he added.
He also confirmed, “The military wings are following a unified approach. The factions will be ready for any future battle. No meetings have been held to stop the missiles.”
As Gaza’s factions prepare for war, Gaza’s inhabitants, who hear the terrifying Israeli strikes, hold their breath each time a missile lands. They might be able to bear a war, but they do not wish to.
Palestinian militants of al-Nasser Brigades hold weapons during a news conference on cross-border escalation between Palestinians and Israel, Gaza City, July 5, 2014. Photo by Mohammed Salem.
Israel launches massive offensive in Gaza: “Operation Protective Edge”
By Saed Bannoura, IMEMC
July 08, 2014
After Israeli airstrikes Monday morning killed nine Palestinians in Gaza, the Israeli military stepped up the airstrikes on Gaza Tuesday morning, dropping more than 50 bombs on the besieged coastal Strip. Israeli officials announced that the airstrikes were just the first of many, in an operation they are calling “Protective Edge”.
The Israeli military has amassed a number of troops on the border. In the air strikes in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Israeli Airforce bombed the homes of four Hamas leaders in Gaza.
Many Palestinians, including children, have been injured in the Israeli strikes as the Israeli missiles targeted homes and civilian structures.
The barrage of bombs on Gaza came just after U.S. President Barack Obama urged ‘restraint by both sides’. At least seventeen Palestinians were wounded in Tuesday’s attacks.
Israeli officials claimed that around seventy homemade shells were fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel. These are crude shells that are little more than tubes with dynamite placed inside, which are fired blindly, without any possibility of aiming them. No injuries or damage were reported from the shells.
According to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahranoth, an unnamed Israeli official told the paper, “We are preparing for a long operation. Tonight the [army] attacked 50 targets in Gaza, three from the sea and the rest from the air.”
The official reportedly said, “We increased the number of attacks and will continue to do so in the coming days. Hamas has entered this round with a handicap”, and that the Palestinian political party that runs the government in Gaza is in the “worst state it has been in years.”
The attacks on both nights came in the early morning hours when Palestinian Muslims in Gaza were waking for early breakfast before dawn, since this is the month of Ramadan in which Muslims around the world refrain from eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset.
The month of Ramadan is usually a meditative and joyous period, in which Palestinians stay out in the streets late at night to greet family and friends. But the last week of Israeli settler and military violence has pushed many Palestinians to remain indoors, particularly at night.
The unnamed Israeli official that spoke to Yedioth Ahranoth claimed that the Israeli military used a tactic of dropping a small mortar on the roof of a home to “warn” the residents that it will be bombed, and then dropping a full-scale bomb a few minutes later.
In at least one instance, the Israeli official claimed that the military called the cell phone of the family they were targeting and told them to evacuate, bombing their home a few minutes after the phone call.
In the last major Israeli military operation in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead at the end of 2010, the Israeli military killed over 1400 people in about 3 weeks, an estimated 80% of whom were civilians. 14 Israelis were killed in the same time period, 9 of whom were soldiers.