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Middle East Issues





Timeline and Causes of “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza


Background

 
Sept. 12, 2005
Israel completes its withdrawal of all Israeli civilians and soldiers from the Gaza Strip and turns the territory over to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority.
 
Sept. 24, 2005
Within weeks of Israel's full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Hamas fires a large barrage of rockets from that territory into Israel, injuring 5 Israelis. According to the New York Times, "Hamas carried out the attacks after falsely claiming that Israel was responsible for the explosion of its weaponry during a march in Gaza on Sept. 23 ...." Israel retaliates with airstrikes, and Palestinian groups continue to fire rockets into Israeli towns.
 
October-December 2005
In the final three months of 2005, 145 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza strike Israel.
 
January 2006
Hamas trounces the more pragmatic Fatah party in Palestinian parliamentary elections.
 
June 25, 2006
Hamas gunmen infiltrate Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing two Israeli soldiers and kidnapping a third. Israel retaliates by launching Operation Summer Rains, meant to secure the release of the captured soldier, Gilad Shalit.
 
November 2006
Operation Summer Rains ends with Gilad Shalit still held in Gaza.
 
2006 – An estimated 861 rockets and 57 mortar shells fired from Gaza strike Israel.
 
June 2007
Hamas forces violently crush Palestinian troops loyal to Abbas, take full control of the Gaza Strip.
 
2007 – An estimated 896 rockets and 740 mortar shells fired from Gaza strike Israel.
 
 

Six-Month "Calm"

 
June 19, 2008
An Egyptian-brokered tahdia, or lull in fighting, between Israel and Hamas officially starts.
 
June 21, 2008
Two days after the start of the lull, three rockets and one mortar shell fired from Gaza strike Israel.
 
July 4, 2008
Already during the first three weeks of the tahdia, 11 rockets and mortar shells are fired from Gaza into Israel.
 
July 23, 2008
Speaking during a visit to the rocket-battered town of Sderot in southern Israel, presidential candidate Barack Obama stated, "I don't think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens. The first job of any nation-state is to protect its citizens. And so I can assure you that if ... somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."
 
July 27, 2008
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expresses concern about the continued smuggling of arms from Sinai into the Gaza Strip.
 
Nov. 3, 2008
Since the start of the truce, about 38 rockets and mortar shells are fired from Gaza into Israel.
 
Nov. 4, 2008
Acting on intelligence that Palestinian militants were poised to infiltrate Israel and kidnap soldiers, Israeli troops cross several hundred yards into Gaza to destroy a tunnel that was to be used for the infiltration. A firefight erupts between Hamas gunmen and Israeli soldiers. One Hamas gunman is killed. Hamas launches mortar shells at Israeli targets, and an Israeli airstrike kills several Hamas members preparing to fire mortars.
 
Nov. 5, 2008
Responding to the previous day's fighting, Hamas launches dozens of rockets and mortar shells into Israeli cities and towns. Israel strikes a rocket launching cell in Gaza.
 
Nov. 6, 2008
After the previous day's sharp increase in rocket fire, rocket and mortar attacks against Israel dip to an average of a few per day. This frequency continues until mid-December.
 
Dec. 14, 2008
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal says on Lebanon's Al Quds television that the truce expires after 6 months, and that the group will not be renewing the truce.
 
Dec. 15, 2008
Israeli official Amos Gilad argues on Israel's Channel 2 that the truce does not expire.
 
Dec. 17, 2008
With the end of the truce approaching, the number of rocket and mortar shells fired into Israel increases sharply. Along with the basic Qassam rockets, Palestinians begin to fire a larger amount of relatively advanced and destructive Grad (or Katyusha) rockets. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians live within the area affected by Palestinian rockets.
 
Dec. 19, 2008
Hamas declares the tahdia to be officially over. During the six-month truce, 223 rockets and 139 mortar shells were fired into Israel from Gaza.
 
Dec. 25, 2008
A day after about 60 rockets and mortars strike Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urges Palestinians to stop the attacks, and threatens a powerful response. The rocket attacks continue in the days that follow.
 

"Operation Cast Lead"

 
Dec. 27, 2008
The Israeli air force begins wide-scale attack against Hamas targets. Over the next few days, Hamas headquarters, smuggling tunnels, rocket factories and other targets are destroyed; hundreds of Palestinians, mostly Hamas fighters, are killed; Israelis huddled in bomb shelters as scores of Palestinian rockets and mortars are fired into Israel. 
 
Dec. 31, 2008
A Grad rocket stikes a kindergarten in the Israeli city of Beersheva. The school is empty at the time. 
 
2008 – An estimated 1,571 rockets and 1,531 mortar shells fired from Gaza strike Israel.
 
Jan. 1, 2009
Israel bombs the home of Hamas terror leader Nizar Rayyan, killing him and members of his family.
 
Jan. 3, 2009
Israel ground troops enter Gaza.
 
Jan. 5, 2009
A Grad rocket hits an empty kindergarten in the Israeli city of Ashdod.
 
IDF footage of Palestinians firing mortars from a UN school in Gaza on Oct. 29, 2007.
Jan. 6, 2009
Israel expressed regret after about 40 Palestinians at a Gaza school were reportedly killed by an Israeli shell. An initial investigation by Israel concluded that Hamas fighters were likely firing mortars from the area of the school, and that Hamas mortar crewmen Immad Abu Iskar and Hassan Abu Iskar were among the casualties. According to the Associated Press, two nearby residents told reporters "they saw a small group of militants firing mortar rounds from a street near the school..." (AP, "Gaza truce proposed after Israel shelling kills 30," 1/6/09). The Israeli army pointed out that Palestinians have launched attacks from UN schools in the past.
 
Jan. 7, 2009
While the head of the UN school denies militants were inside the school, the New York Times quotes a witness in Gaza saying that militants were indeed active in the area, and had even solicited the involvment of civilian children in their activities: "A young witness from Jabaliya, Ibrahim Amen, 16, said that he had seen one of the militants, whom he identified as Abu Khaled Abu Asker, in the area of the school right before the attack. Ibrahim said he saw the militant after he answered calls for volunteers to pile sand around the camp 'to help protect the resistance fighters.' Ibrahim went to pile sand near the school with his brother, Iyad, 20, who was then injured by the Israeli mortar fire."
 
Jan. 8, 2009
The United Nations Security Council passes resolution 1860, which, among other things, calls for "an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza" and condemns "all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism."
 
Jan. 9, 2009
Hamas rejects the UN resolution, with Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marouk asserting that the organziation "was not consulted on this resolution, our vision and the interests of our people were not taken into consideration." He added that "this resolution does not concern us unless someone comes to enforce it on the ground. When it is enforced on the ground, whatever party which tries to enforce it will have to deal with...(Hamas)." Israel also rejects the resolution. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert states that "the IDF will continue operations in order to defend Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions with which it has been assigned in the operation. This morning's rocket fire against residents of the south only proves that the UN Security Council Resolution 1860 is not practical and will not be honored in actual fact by the Palestinian murder organizations."
 
Jan. 17, 2009
The Israeli cabinet votes in favor of implimenting a unilateral 10-day ceasefire, conditioned on an end to Hamas hostilities. Hamas insists it will continue fighting.
 
Jan. 18, 2009
After firing a barrage of rockets into Israel, Hamas announces a ceasefire, conditioned on a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza within one week. Several more rockets are fired from Gaza after the announcement.
 
Jan. 27, 2009
Palestinians kill an Israeli soldier and wound 3 others when they detonate a roadside bomb near an Israeli army patrol along the Gaza border. Israel retaliates.
 
Feb. 1, 2009
Over a dozen rockets and mortars are fired into Israel from Gaza. Israel's military intelligence chief says that Hamas has not acted to stop the sporadic rocket attacks that have continued since the latest ceasefire, even if it is not itself launching rockets.
 
Feb. 10, 2009
Amidst continued rocket fire from Gaza, Islamic Jihad admits that a Palestinian killed while approaching Gaza's border fence with Israel was on his way to attack Israelis.


To view this timeline in Spanish, see "Cronología y causas de la 'Operación Plomo Fundido' en Gaza" at the ReVista Web site.


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