Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)
Operation Cast Lead – Update No. 1 1
The Israeli Air Force attacks near the border security fence (Photo: Yehuda Peretz, courtesy of The Israel Project, December 27).
The Israeli Air Force attacks in Gaza City (Al-Jazeera TV, December 28, 2008).
Rocket fired from within a densely populated area, Gaza City
(Edi Israel for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, December 27).
1. At 11:30 on December 27 Israeli Air Force planes struck a number of targets of Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations in an operation dubbed “Cast Lead.” The attack came in response to a long period of rocket and mortar shell fire targeting populated areas in the western Negev, causing casualties and property damage, and seriously disrupting the daily lives of the residents. Hamas and the other organizations responded to the Israeli attack with rocket and mortar shell fire into Israel. The IAF strikes and the terrorist organization attacks continued into December 28 and 29.
2. The objective of Operation Cast Lead is to protect the quarter of a million Israelis living in the western Negev from the continual rocket and mortar shell fire and other terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. The operation intends to strike a severe blow to the terroristnetworks of the various organizations and make it difficult for them to carry out rocket and mortar shells attacks, abductions and other types of lethal attacks originating in the Gaza Strip.
3. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the action was intended primarily to improve the security of the residents of southern Israel , although it was liable to take time and patience would be required to complete the mission (announcement by the prime minister to foreign and local correspondents, December 27). On December 27 Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel would strike a strong blow against Hamas to make fundamental changes in the security situation and ensure that no more rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip and that no other attacks were carried out. He said it would not be easy and the operation would not be short, but as deep and broad as required (Haaretz, December 28).
4. Since 2001 the residents of the western Negev have lived under the threat of rocket fire, which gradually became one of the central means of attack employed by the Palestinian terrorist organizations. Since 2001, 3984 rockets and 3,943 mortar shells have been launched at Israel, 2 seriously disrupting the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of western Negev residents, and causing personal injury and property damage. 3
5. The Egyptian-brokered lull arrangement which went into effect on June 19, 2008, was supposed to bring quiet to the residents of the western Negev and the Gaza Strip. However, in reality, using a variety of excuses, from its inception the terrorist organizations violated the arrangement . During the six months of the lull, the terrorist organizations fired 223 rockets and 139 mortar shells , most of them during the six weeks between November 4 and December 19. 4
6. In addition, Hamas and the other terrorist organizations exploited the lull to build up their military capabilities, including smuggling vast amounts of weapons into the Gaza Strip through tunnels dug under the border with Egypt (including rockets with a range long enough to reach the outskirts of the city of Beersheba). They ramped up their military training, prepared an extensive underground network of tunnels and developed weapons of their own (See the Appendix for a list of Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center Bulletins dealing, among other things, with the terrorist organizations’ military buildup).
7. The lull arrangement, which was continually subjected to gross violations, finally expired on December 19, when Hamas and the other terrorist organizations formally announced it had ended. Once it was over, the terrorist organizations began attacking Israel with rocket and mortar shell fire. The attacks peaked on December 24, when at least 60 rockets and mortar shells were fired, most of them by Hamas, at the cities of Ashqelon, Netivot and Sderot, and at the populated areas close to the Gaza Strip. Hamas spokesmen also threatened to widen the range of the missile fire and to initiate suicide bombing attacks in an attempt to limit Israel ‘s freedom of action and ability to respond, and to force it to open the Gaza Strip crossings even as rocket and mortar shell fire continued.
8. To realize its terrorist policy, Hamas repeatedly demonstrated it was ready to sacrifice the basic interests of the Gaza Strip Palestinians . That was manifested on December 24, when the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings were shelled, the former vital for delivering supplies from Israel into the Gaza Strip and the latter for the passage into Israel of Palestinians with humanitarian needs. In recent years the crossings, which are lifelines for the Gazans, have been attacked, contributing to the difficulties in managing them and leading to the shortages and hardships in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli Air Force Attack on the First Day of Operation Cast Lead
9. At around 11:30 on December 27, the Israeli Air Force attacked many targets of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. The targets had been marked by intelligence collected during the months preceding the attack. Fighter planes and attack helicopters carried out approximately 180 sorties, targeting Hamas headquarters, command posts, training camps and weapons stores. During the day launching squads on their way to fire rockets and mortar shells were also attacked, as were rocket launching sites (IDF Spokesman, December 27). According to the Palestinian media, on December 27, 250Palestinians were killed and more than 750 injured . Information about some of the targets follows:
Headquarters and Bases
10. On December 27 headquarters, bases, training camps and weapons stores belonging to Hamas’s military-terrorist wing and its security services were attacked:
i) Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and Executive Force headquarters in the northern Gaza Strip : Hamas commandeered the compound after it took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. It served to store weapons and equipment, as well as housing Russian BRDM armored patrol cars (confiscated from the Palestinian security services operating in the Gaza Strip before the Hamas takeover). Hamas used two of the vehicles in the attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing on April 19, 2008, during which seven IDF soldiers were wounded. The headquarters also served as Hamas’s main interrogation facility and a holding place for Fatah prisoners. In addition, it was a base from which terrorist attacks were dispatched (IDF Spokesman, December 27).
ii) Headquarters and weapons store of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades at Tel Zaatar, in the Jabaliya area : Hamas took control of the compound during internal confrontations, and used it for military training (IDF Spokesman, December 27).
iii) Hamas’s Al-Islam post in the northern Gaza Strip : In the past it served the Palestinian Preventive Intelligence. Hamas commandeered the building when it took over the Gaza Strip, and it serves as a base for the Executive Force (which was integrated into the police). It also served as a post for senior members of Hamas shore patrol and a facility for detaining and interrogating Fatah activists and individuals suspected of collaborating with Israel (IDF Spokesman, December 27).
iv) Hamas’s main headquarters compound in Gaza City : In the past it was Yasser Arafat’s office in Gaza, and is currently Hamas’s Gaza City headquarters. The office of Ismail Haniya, head of the Hamas administration, is located in the compound. The headquarters also served as a point for Executive Force patrols to gather before they went out into the city. In addition, there were police cars and armored patrol cars confiscated by Hamas when it took over the Gaza Strip.
v) Hamas post and training camp in the central Gaza Strip : The building was used to store weapons (IDF Spokesman, December 27).
vi) Hamas training camp : The camp also served as a central post for Hamas’s auxiliary force in the southern Gaza Strip, and included a prison facility and weapons store (IDF Spokesman, December 27).
vii) Headquarters and weapons store belonging to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and the Special Force : In the past it was called the “ Palestinian Prisoner Tower ” at Tel al-Hawa, south of Gaza City, and was used as living quarters for Fatah prisoners who had been released. After Hamas took over the Gaza Strip it served as headquarters for its security services, housing a weapons store and offices. No ordinary civilians currently live there. During fighting snipers were positioned in the building and rocket launchers were located on the roof (IDF Spokesman’s website, December 27).
Rocket Launching Sites and Squads
11. On December 27 a number of squads on their way to launch rockets were attacked. An underground rocket launching site located in a residential area was also hit.
Left: Underground pit from which rockets were launched, located near residential buildings.
Right: The attack exploded a rocket in the pit (Photos: Israeli Air Force, December 27).
Weapons Manufacturing Facilities
12. The Israeli Air Force attacked facilities used for the manufacture and storage of weapons , including lathes for producing rockets. The Palestinian media reported that a lathe belonging to the Barke family in Khan Yunis and two others, one in Gaza City and one in Rafah, were attacked on the night of December 27.
13. Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV : Before dawn on December 28, Al-Aqsa TV station was attacked, Hamas’s main propaganda tool . According to reports in the Palestinian media, no one was injured and only the building suffered damage. Broadcasting stopped for a short time and was later resumed. The station’s CEO appeared in a broadcast to say that the station had moved to another location (Al-Aqsa TV, December 28). Al-Aqsa TV broadcasts propaganda and incitement against Israel and is often used by the terrorist organizations to claim responsibility for attacks against Israel.
14. According to the Palestinian media, on December 27 more than 250 Palestinians were killed in IAF air strikes and more than 750 were wounded . Most of those killed belonged to Hamas, its internal security services and to other terrorist organizations. A number of senior figures were also killed:
i) Tawfiq Jabber , chief of the Hamas police in Gaza City. In the past a trusted colleague of Arafat, during the past two years he was often attacked by Fatah for making it possible to suppress Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip.
Tawfiq Jabber (December 27, PALDF)
ii) Ismail al-Ja’abari , responsibility for Hamas’s security and police defense services in Gaza. His role consisted mainly of providing protection for senior Hamas figures. He held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was appointed to his post by his brother, Ahmed al-Ja’abari, commander of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza, in June 2007 (Hamas’s PALDF Forum, Al-Zeituna and Al-Jazeera TV forum website, December 28).
Ismail al-Ja’abari (Al-Jazeera TV forum website, December 28).
iii) Ten Popular Resistance Committees operatives, among them Muhammad al- Adgham, commander of the artillery unit . On December 28 the PRC website reported that he died in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City.
iv) Police officers’ course cadets.
v) Ahmed ‘Ashur , governor of the Central Gazan District.
15. Most of the casualties either wore Hamas uniforms and carried its weapons or worked for it. According to Palestinian media reports, a small number of civilian were also injured because Hamas headquarters and bases were located in populated areas. UNRWA’s commissioner general for the Palestinian Authority, Karen Abu Ziyyad, announced the death of one of the organization’s employees, who was in a police station in Gaza at the time. She made it clear that the organization was no connection between UNRWA and Hamas. When asked by CNN on December 27 why the civilian population had been harmed, she said that many civilians had been killed because of the density of the population and the fact that civilian buildings were close to strategic targets .
Massive Rocket Fire into Israel
16. Hamas responded to the IDF attack with intensive rocket fire , most of it long-range, and mortar shells. On December 27, 61rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory and 33 mortar shells were fired . 5 Dozens of rockets hit the cities of Sderot, Ashqelon and Netivot, as well as villages near them. One Israeli civilian was killed, 11 were wounded and 11 went into shock :
i) Netivot : Bebert Vaknin, 58, was killed when his house suffered a direct rocket hit. Four civilians were wounded, two critically and two seriously.
ii) The village of Mivtahim in the southern Gaza strip : Two rockets hit the village of Mivtahim in the northern Gaza Strip, one of them directly striking the synagogue. One civilian was seriously injured, and an 80-year old man was slightly wounded.
17. Hamas claimed responsibility for most of the rocket fire and threatened to continue it.
The Gaza Strip Crossings into Israel and Egypt
18. Despite the massive attacks against Israel before and during Operation Cast Lead, the Israel government authorized the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip on the eve of the operation. On December 26, Defense Minister Ehud Barak authorized the passage of trucks carrying medical equipment, fuel and cooking gas, as well as a wide variety of other goods, through the Kerem Shalom, Nahal Oz and Karni crossings. A spokesman for the UN secretary general told a press conference that more than 100 trucks had passed through the crossings, including 40 for relief agencies operating in the Gaza Strip (website of the French Embassy in the United States, December 27).
19. On December 28, the second day of Operation Cast Lead, additional trucks carrying humanitarian aid were permitted to enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing. On December 28, 23 trucks passed through (IDF Spokesman, December 28).
20. Egypt, which had recently criticized Hamas, said it would open the Rafah crossing to allow wounded Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to receive medical treatment in Egypt, and that it would send ambulances, equipment and drugs to the Gaza Strip (Palestinian media, December 27).
Public Disturbances in Judea and Samaria, and among Israeli Arabs
21. Operation Cast Lead led to public disturbances in Judea and Samaria and in East Jerusalem to protest the IDF action in the Gaza Strip. Dozens of Palestinians demonstrated on Salah Al-Din street in East Jerusalem, setting fire to dumpsters and confronting police. In one incident a Palestinian tried to run over a policeman, who was not seriously injured; the attacker was detained. Near the village of Beitar Illit a child was injured when Palestinians threw stones.
22. Israeli Arabs also protested the IDF action in the Gaza Strip, marching in protest in a number of cities with mixed Jewish-Arab populations (Acre, Nazareth, Jaffa ). In some instances stones were thrown at cars.
First Reactions to Operation Cast Lead
23. Khaled Mashal , head of Hamas’s political bureau in Damascus, said that Hamas would not surrender or let Israel enforce a lull arrangement on Israeli terms. He said the Palestinians would not compromise on two basic demands: an immediate stop to the attacks in the Gaza Strip, and the lifting of the “siege” forever. He called on Egypt and Saudi Arabia to meet their commitments to the Palestinians. He claimed Hamas was not a threat to Egypt, and praised its efforts to open the crossings and deliver aid to the Gaza Strip (Al-Jazeera TV, December 28). ( Note : as opposed to other Hamas spokesmen, who continue attacking Egypt ).
24. Khaled Mashal also called on the residents of the West Bank to rise up against Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that he was aware they were “exhausted.” He exhorted them to go out into the streets and ignite a military intifada against Israel, waging a jihad and carrying out suicide bombing attacks (Al-Quds TV and Al-Jazeera TV, December 28).
25. Other senior Hamas figures said the following on December 27:
i) Ismail Haniya, head of Hamas administration , said that between 250 and 300 Palestinians had been killed in the Israel attack and more than 750 wounded. He said Hamas was determined to continue its path to victory or death for the sake of Allah, calling for the unity of the Palestinian people. He called on the Arab countries to do something to end the “siege” and open the Rafah crossing, and to stop their “crime” of collaborating with Israel (“the enemy”) (Al-Aqsa TV, December 27).
ii) Taher al-Nunu, Hamas administration spokesman , said that the IAF strikes had damaged all the headquarters of the security services. He claimed that Israel had attacked mosques and other places which had no relation to the “resistance” [i.e., the terrorist organizations]. He repeatedly stated that Hamas had no intention of renewing the lull arrangement or surrendering to the Israel attack (Al-Quds TV, December 27).
iii) Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman , claimed that Israel had received a green light for its attack from various elements around the world and the Middle East, including Egypt, mentioning the meeting of the Israeli foreign minister and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He called on the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (and the other military-terrorist wings) to launch rockets “wherever they could reach, and as many as possible,” at to carry out every sort of terrorist attack against Israel (Al-Aqsa TV, December 27).
iv) Musa Abu Marzuq , deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, claimed that the real objective of the Israel attack was to end the Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. He added that the “resistance” [the terrorist organizations] would carry out suicide bombing attacks and launch rockets, saying that the “resistance” in the West Bank was standing firm, as it was in the Gaza Strip (Al-Arabiya TV, December 27).
v) Talal Nasser, Hamas spokesman , called for suicide bombing attacks and rockets falling on Ashqelon, Beersheba and every other place (Al-Alam TV, December 27).
26. Although the IDF attack was precise, and those killed were mainly terrorist organization military and security operatives, Hamas, as usual, initiated a deceptive propaganda campaign intended to vilify Israel and represent it as attacking civilians. The attacks were described using the Arabic terms for “slaughter,” “holocaust” and “genocide.” The campaign was echoed by the popular TV station Al-Jazeera, which, as usual, acted as a mouthpiece for Hamas, showing pictures of parts of dead bodies and the wounded, and using the term “holocaust.”
The Palestinian Authority
27. On December 27 Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas was in Saudi Arabia, and on December 28 in Egypt. He met with the Saudi Arabian king Abdallah and with Egypt President Hosni Mubarak to discuss the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina criticized the Israeli “aggression” and demanded that the international community put an end to it (Wafa News Agency, December 27). Mahmoud Abbas called for stabilizing a new lull, saying that Egypt would renew its efforts to effect one (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, December 28). The Salam Fayyad government announced an emergency medical service situation and three official days of mourning.
28. The Palestinian media reported that there were strikes and protest demonstrations in cities in Judea and Samaria. In Ramallah there were a number of demonstrations, and at one of them, in the northern part of the city, demonstrators confronted IDF soldiers. In Nablus there were three protest marches attended by hundreds; in Bethlehem there was a demonstration attended by a few dozen people; in Tulkarm there was a widely-attended protest march; in Hebron there was a protest march of hundreds of people. Hatem Abd al-Qader , chairman of the Fatah Jerusalem committee, announced a general strike of all the Palestinian workers in Jerusalem.
29. Senior Hezbollah figures condemned the IDF attacks, claiming that it was the result of an American decision and an Arab “conspiracy.” Hezbollah spokesmen encouraged the Gazans to adhere to their positions and to refuse all concessions, and called on the Arab world, the UN and the Security Council to stop the “crimes” being carried out in the Gaza Strip. Omar al-Musawi , a member of Hezbollah’s political bureau, accused Egypt and the Palestinian Authority of colluding with Israel, and said they were responsible for the events in the Gaza Strip (Al-Jazeera TV, December 27).
30. In the southern (Shi’ite) suburb of Beirut there was a protest demonstration attended by hundreds of Lebanese in front of the Egyptian embassy. In the Ein al-Hilweh, Nahr al-Bared and Al-Badawi refugee camps Palestinians held protest demonstrations. At the demonstration at Ein al-Hilweh the demonstrators yelled “Hosni Mubarak, agent, traitor to the [Arab] nation.”
31. On December 25, two days before the Operation Cast Lead began, the Lebanese army dismantled eight rockets , with delay mechanisms, aimed at Israel. They were north of the town of Nakura in the western sector; their location was reported by a local resident. Four of the of them were 122mm Grad rockets, and four 107mm rockets.
One of the rockets aimed at Israel, dismantled by the Lebanese army
on December 25 (Reuters, December 25).
32. So far it is unclear which terrorist organization tried to attack Israel with rockets and violate the quiet in place along the Lebanese border since the end of second Lebanon war. The Hezbollah headquarters in south Lebanon said that the organization did not customarily place “anonymous rockets” and that “when [Hezbollah] wants to shell places in the enemy country it will make an announcement taking responsibility” (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, December 27). The Lebanese media suggested that Fatah al-Islam , a radical Sunni Islamist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, was responsible (Al-Safir, December 27), or possibly a “well-organized” Palestinian network (Al-Hayat, December 27).
Responses from the Arab-Muslim World
33. Egyptian Foreign Minister Abu al-Ghait attacked Hamas at a press conference broadcast by Egyptian television ( December 27, 1300 hours). He said that Egypt had repeatedly warned Hamas about “the situation,” and that if [Hamas] did not listen it would have to bear responsibility, and could not blame others. He added that Israel had publicly warned Hamas that if the rocket fire continued, Israel would employ a military response. He angrily noted that before Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni came to Egypt on Thursday, 60 rockets had been fired into Israeli territory, an attempt to sabotage the Egyptian efforts to reach a lull and a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
34. Other Egyptian spokesmen criticized the IDF action but some of them pointed the finger of guilt at the Palestinians. For example, a presidential announcement stated that Egypt had warned against military escalation and the effect it would have on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the stability of the Middle East. The Israelis and Palestinians, according to the announcement, had not cooperated with Egyptian efforts, but nevertheless Egypt would continue pressing for a new lull arrangement (Middle East News Agency, December 27). Abu al-Ghait said that Egypt still called for all the organizations to come to Cairo to deliberate, and for the Palestinians to close ranks (Middle East News Agency, December 27).
35. The Egyptian media also reported on Egyptian activity through various diplomatic channels : Egypt protested the IDF action to Israeli foreign minister and the Egyptian foreign minister sent urgent messages to the UN Secretary General, the Quartet and the members of the Security Council to stop the IDF action. An “Egyptian source” said that Egypt had informed Hamas in the Gaza Strip that it was willing to accept Gazans wounded in the Israeli attack and would send convoys of medical aid to the Gaza Strip (Middle East News Agency, December 27). An Egyptian security source said that the Egyptian security forces had deployed additional men along the Gaza Strip border lest the Palestinians try to break through (Agence France Presse, December 26).
36. Syrian President Bashar Assad held telephone conversations with Arab leaders and called for an exceptional Arab summit to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip and ways of stopping the “Israeli aggression” (Syrian News Agency, December 27). Syrian presidential aide Butheina Shaaban called the events in the Gaza Strip “slaughter and merciless murder.” She criticized the international silence and said that Hamas was the legitimate government and leadership of the Palestinian people (Al-Jazeera TV, December 27).
37. A protest march was held in Al-Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, attended by supporters of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations. There were also protest marches in Aleppo and a mass march was expected to be held in Damascus on December 28.
38. During the days the preceded the Israeli attack the Syrian media supported Hamas’s decision to end the lull arrangement, as well as the escalation in rocket and mortar shell fire initiated by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations. Their support was part of a vicious anti-Israeli propaganda campaign, accompanied by anti-Semitic references, waged by Syria against Israel. 6
39. Hassan Qashqawi , a speaker for the Iranian foreign ministry, and other Iranian spokesmen, harshly criticized the Israel attack and demanded that the international community and the Security Council intervene to prevent Israel from continuing its “crimes” and “terrorism” in the Gaza Strip. In Tehran and Qom students held protest demonstrations (December 27 and 28).
40. There were also reports that an Iranian aid ship was supposed to leave the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran and set sail for the Gaza Strip on December 27 with a cargo of 2,000 tons of medical equipment and food. A team of Red Crescent workers and a number of correspondents are also on board. The trip is supposed to take two weeks (Al-Alam TV, December 25). The Iranian foreign minister Mottaki said that Iran had received authorization from Egypt to transfer the aid to Gaza (Islamic Republic News Agency, December 27).
41. King Abdallah of Jordan appealed to the international community to exert pressure on Israel to stop its attack on the Gaza Strip immediately. He also contacted other Arab leaders to promote an Arab effort which would end the Israeli action and bring about a return to the negotiating table (Jordanian News Agency, December 27).
42. On December 27 a solidarity rally attended by thousands was held in Amman ; it turned into a march. A number of Islamic Movement activists gave speeches criticizing the Arab world for its position vis-à-vis the events. The crowd shouted “Death to Israel.” Jordanian security forces prevented the march from reaching the Egyptian embassy. There were other rallies throughout Jordan in support of the Palestinian people.
Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center Bulletins about Hamas, 2008
4 The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center Bulletin “The Anatomy of Six Months of the Lull Arrangement “ is available on the Hebrew website and will be shortly translated into English..
5 As of 1600 hours, December 28, 12 rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory and 10 mortar shells were fired. This Bulletin does not include attacks carried out on December 28.
6Ghazi al-Dada wrote an anti-Semitic column for the Syrian newspaper Tishrin, saying that “the Israeli appetite for Palestinian blood is never satisfied…That is because [bloodthirstiness] is a basic component of Zionist ideology, which believes that Palestinian blood is necessary for making Zion matzot (a political use of the ancient blood libel against the Jews). Anyone who reads history closely knows that…”(Tishrin, December 23). The Syrian media occasionally inserts anti-Semitic motifs into its attacks on Israel.