Israel launches new assault on Gaza

Israel’s armed forces launched multiple air-strikes across the Gaza Strip Nov. 14, after killing Ahmad al-Jaabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing the Qassam Brigades, in a missile strike on his vehicle in Gaza City. Palestinian officials said at least six people have been killed in the airstrikes, including a 7-year-old child in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City, and an infant in home in the city’s Shujaiyya neighborhood. Medics identified two of the casualties as Hamas fighters. Another 50 are reported injured. The strikes were aimed at Hamas police and security forces headquarters across the Strip. “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a Twitter message.

Immediate calls for revenge were broadcast over Hamas radio and the al-Qassam brigades vowed to strike back. “The occupation has opened the doors of hell,” the Qassam Brigades said in a statement. Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishiq said al-Jaabari’s blood would be “a curse on the occupier, and a fire which will set the ground ablaze under the occupiers’ feet.” Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya said Israel would pay a “heavy toll” for the assassination. “The battle is now open, and I advise the enemy to watch Hamas and Palestinian resistance’ response.”

“Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences,” the Islamic Jihad movement said, adding that its fighters have received orders to “respond fiercely” to the killing of al-Jaabari. All militant factions in the Gaza Strip are on a state of alert and will retaliate “in hours,” Abu Ahmad said. 

The spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees made a similar statement. “Cowardly settlers had better flee to shelters where we will bury them and they will never be able to leave,” Abu Mujahid told Ma’an News Agency. A truce which ended five days of deadly fighting earlier this week is now over, the PRC’s military wing, the al-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, said in a statement.

Three Palestinian fighters and four non-combatants had been killed and some 40 wounded by Israeli fire between Nov. 11 and Nov. 13, when the truce was announced. Eight Israeli civilians were injured by some of the 115 rockets fired from Gaza in retaliation. Four Israeli soldiers were also wounded by the Gaza-fired missile that hit their jeep and sparked the fighting.

Israel’s military spokesman Yoav Mordechai said the assassination could draw rocket attacks from Gaza and stretch into days of fighting. “The days we face in the south will, in my estimation, prove protracted,” Mordechai told Israel’s Channel 2 TV. “The homefront must brace itself resiliently.” Asked if Israel might send ground forces into Gaza, Mordechai said: “There are preparations, and if we are required to, the option of a entry by ground is available.” (Ma’an News, Ma’an NewsNYT, Nov. 14; Reuters, Nov. 13)

  1. Gaza escalating fast
    More than 80 rockets were fired from Gaza after the Israeli air-strikes Nov. 13, hitting Beersheba and Ashdod. Ashkelon also targeted but those were apparently among the 27 rockets claimed to have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.The Israeli cabinet authorized the army to issue emergency orders mobilizing reserve units for what is now being called Operation Pillar of Defense. The US State Department issued a statement saying: “We support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties.” (YNet, Nov. 14)

  2. New Gaza invasion?
    Israel continued air-strikes on the Gaza Strip Nov. 16 as troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers massed near the territory—raising fears of an imminent ground invasion. The death toll in Gaza has now climbed to 19, including five children, according to Palestinian health official. (AP, Nov. 16)

    Air raid sirens sounded in Tel Aviv  for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War. Reports conflict as to whether a Tel Aviv-bound rocket, claimed by Islamic Jihad, landed in empty land in a nearby suburb or crashed into the sea. (WP, Nov. 15)

    Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil arrived in the Gaza Strip Nov. 16 to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. Israel said it will suspend all military action during Kandil’s three-hour visit as long as the Hamas also halts fire. (Reuters, Nov. 16)

    Hamas had actually been attempting to restrain Islamic Jihad before the new fighting, leading Aluf Benn to wryly charge in Ha’aretz that “Israel killed its subcontractor in Gaza… Ahmed Jabari was a subcontractor, in charge of maintaining Israel’s security in Gaza.”

    The Nov. 11 rocket attack on an IDF jeep that sparked the current crisis was fired by  the Salah a-Din Brigades, military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza. (Ha’aretz, Nov. 13)

  3. Hamas misses Jerusalem; Israel hits refugee camp
    A rocket landed in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem Nov. 16, marking the first time since 1970 that a rocket has been fired at the city. Hamas claimed it was targeting the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, but the rocket landed outside the city and there were no casualties.

    The current conflict also marks first time Tel Aviv has come under attack since the 1991 Gulf War. Analysts say it is the first time Gaza militants have deployed such powerful missiles.

    Two Israeli women and a man were killed Nov. 16, when a rocket fired from Gaza hit a building in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi. (BBC News, The Guardian, Nov. 16)

    An Israeli air-strike on al-Maghazi refugee camp killed al-Qassam Brigades leader Ahmad Abu Jalal and three others, bringing the death toll to 28 since Israel’s new assault on Gaza began. (Ma’an News Agency, Nov. 16)

    Israel also hit the Hamas cabinet building in Gaza City, causing extensive damage. The building appears to have been empty. (Economic Times, Nov. 17)

  4. Israeli reserve call-up dwarfs that of Cast Lead
    The Israeli Cabinet on Nov. 16 authorized the call-up of 75,000 reserve troops as the air assault against Gaza intensified, adding to speculation a ground invasion is imminent. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008, Israel mobilized some 10,000 reserves in preparation for the ground incursion. The Israeli government had already given its approval to ready 30,000 reserve troops the day before, 16,000 of which have already been mobilized. (RT, Nov. 17)

    Interestingly, Jewish Policy Center noted Nov. 1:

    The emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, last week became  the first head of state to visit the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control over the area in 2007. While al-Thani used the visit to promise $400 million in aid to Gaza for various building projects, the emir’s trip was as much for his and Hamas’s political gains as it was humanitarian causes.

    JPC writes that the visit “illustrates a realignment in the region that hastened with the Arab uprisings and continues today, as once-shunned Islamist movements are being pushed to the forefront of Middle East politics.” 

    Is Israel reacting to fears of the Hamas regime’s normalization?