Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)
December 31, 2008
Operation Cast Lead — Update No. 4


A poster with the photographs of several operatives belonging to Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades

A poster with the photographs of several operatives belonging to Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military-terrorist wing, killed in Operation Cast Lead. The poster was co-published with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The text on the bottom of the poster reads: “[They] are those who ascended to Heaven, Allah willing, in the massacre against the Gaza Strip in December 2008” (mypal, a Palestinian online forum, December 31). Hamas’s propaganda campaign attempts to play down the fact that most of those killed in the operation are terrorist operatives.



1. On December 30, the fourth day of Operation Cast Lead, over 50 additional terrorist sites were attacked by the Israeli Air Force and Navy. Targets included rocket launch squads, houses of terrorist operatives, weapons’ manufacturing sites, administration facilities, and Hamas’s symbols of power. According to Palestinian reports, more than 390 people have been killed and over 1700 have been wounded so far. Most of those killed are operatives belonging to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.

2. The rocket fire continued on the fourth day of the operation, and while slightly fewer rockets were fired than on the previous day, they targeted Israeli cities within the range of 40 km from the Gaza Strip. One of the rockets (122-mm Grad) hit a kindergarten (which was empty at the time) in Beersheba, making it the first time that city suffered a rocket hit. Rockets also landed in the cities of Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Rahat, Ashkelon, Sderot, and in the dining hall of Kibbutz Miflasim.

3. Four days into the operation, initiatives to end it started to appear. According to the Al-Hayat newspaper, the Egyptians presented the Turks with a work paper pertaining to a ceasefire and a possible lull in the fighting. According to Israeli media, the Israeli cabinet was supposed to discuss an initiative for a 48-hour “humanitarian truce”. However, since the attacks continued and increased in range, and given Hamas’s belligerent responses on the media, it appears that Operation Cast Lead is still far from over. 1

Attacks on terrorist targets on December 30


4. On December 30, the IDF (the Air Force and the Navy) attacked over 50 additional targets in the Gaza Strip. According to the IDF Spokesman’s announcement, the targets included: ready to launch Grad launchers, weapons manufacturing sites, Hamas outposts, launchers, launch squads, armed operatives, and launch areas. Also attacked were administration facilities and Hamas’s symbols of power. The significant number of secondary explosions in most of the attacks is testimony to the large quantities of weapons stored in the attacked sites. In total, since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead the Air Force carried out about 470 sorties, attacking about 450 targets of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.

Attacks on military and security infrastructure and administration facilities of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations

5. Following is a summary of the attacks’ results, based on announcements made by the IDF Spokesman and on information from the Palestinian media:

a. Ismail Haniyah’s office in the Hamas administration compound in Gaza City: on the night of December 30-31, the Air Force attacked the office of the Hamas administration chief Ismail Haniyah. It was an administration target which was used for planning, supporting, and funding terrorist activities against Israel. Also attacked were the Hamas administration offices found in the same area (IDF Spokesman, December 31). Over the past several days, the IDF attacked several buildings in the Hamas administration compound in the Gaza City neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa, which served as the Hamas administration’s treasury, foreign affairs, and labor and housing ministries, rendering them completely inoperable (IDF Spokesman, December 31).

IDF Spokesman, December 30
Attacked buildings in the Hamas administration compound in Gaza City
(IDF Spokesman, December 30)

b. Tunnels: on December 30, the Air Force attacked dozens more tunnels along the Philadelphi Road in the southern Gaza Strip. The tunnels were used, among other things, for smuggling arms and ammunition and transferring terrorists to and from the Gaza Strip.

c. Launch squads: shortly after the launch of the Grad rocket at Beersheba, in the evening of December 30, Air Force planes detected the launch squad and the fixed launchers from which the rockets were launched in the northern Gaza Strip. The squad was attacked, with the Air Force pilots reporting a direct hit.

d. Motor boats of the Hamas naval force.

e. Rocket and mortar launch sites: on December 29, the IDF fired warning shots at open territory in the northern Gaza Strip to prevent the arrival of launch squads to those areas.

6. According to Palestinian media, the houses of many senior operatives of the military-terrorist wings of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations were attacked:

a. The house of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades senior operative Muhammad Ouda in the northern Gaza Strip.

b. The house of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades senior operative Abd al-Karim al-Sha’er in Rafah.

c. The house of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades senior operative Adnan Riyah in Rafah.

d. The house of senior Hamas operative Ahmed Daloul in Gaza City, near the Islamic Center.

e. The house of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades senior operative Youssef al-Najma in Gaza City.

f. The house of the police chief in the Al-Shati refugee camp, Alaa Alyan, near the house of the Hamas administration chief Ismail Haniyah.

g. A police station and building belonging to the Al-Salah charitable society on the ruins of the former Israeli town of Morag.

h. Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades outposts in Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun.

Palestinian casualties

7. According to Palestinian reports, more than 390 Palestinians were killed and over 1700 were injured so far. Most of those killed were Hamas operatives and operatives from other terrorist organizations (see Appendix for details). According to ynet (December 31), the head of Israel Security Agency Yuval Diskin said during a security cabinet meeting that some Hamas operatives were hiding in hospitals and walking around in doctors’ and nurses’ uniform. He added that dozens of mosques turned into command and control posts based on the assumption that Israel would not attack those places.

Hamas’s response: intensive rocket fire on Israel

8. The fourth day of the operation saw the continuation of the rocket fire and mortar shelling on Israel, also marking the first time that a rocket landed in Beersheba. Rockets were also fired on Ashdod, Ashkelon, Netivot, Sderot, and other towns near the Gaza Strip. The main events were the following:

a. Beersheba: at about 21:00, a rocket landed in a kindergarten in a neighborhood in the city of Beersheba, damaging the kindergarten. Because it was late, no children were present. One passer-by was lightly injured and several other civilians suffered shock.

b. Kiryat Malachi: a rocket landed near the city, causing no casualties or damage.

c. Rahat: a rocket landed near the town, causing no casualties or damage.

d. Ashkelon : two rockets landed in the center of the city. As a result, 2 people were lightly injured and about 10 suffered shock.

e. Ashdod: at around 18:00, a rocket landed in a parking lot of a factory in the city.

f. Sderot: at around 11:30, several rockets landed in the city of Sderot. Two of them directly hit two houses in the city. Two civilians were lightly injured and several others suffered shock.

g. Village of Mefalsim: a rocket landed in the dining room of the village.

intensive rocket fire on Israel
Left: a direct hit at a house in Sderot on December 30 ( Sderot Media Center, December 30, photo by Hamutal Ben Shitrit); right: rocket launched from a populated area (Al-Jazeera, December 30)

9. Hamas claimed responsibility for most of the firing incidents, including a rocket which landed in a kindergarten in Beersheba. Other organizations also claimed responsibility, including the PIJ, the Popular Resistance Committees, the Democratic Front, and Fatah’s military wing.

10. Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, a total of 147 rockets landed in Israeli territory and 70 mortar shells were fired on Israel. As a result, 4 civilians were killed and over 40 were wounded. 2Also, the attacks caused many dozens of stress-related traumas.

Rocket and mortar shell landings during Operation Cast Lead

Rocket and mortar shell landings during Operation Cast Lead

Humanitarian assistance from Israel

11. On December 30, Israel allowed more than 90 trucks to pass through the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

Transporting Arab assistance and injured people through the Rafah Crossing

12. In the past day, humanitarian aid from Arab countries continued to come into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing:

a. Libya : 7 trucks of medical supplies and 7 power generators entered the Gaza Strip (Wafa Agency, December 30).

b. Saudi Arabia : Saudi aid flown in on planes is scheduled to arrive in the Gaza Strip during December 31 (Middle East News Agency, December 30).

c. Algeria : 61 tons of food and medical supplies were brought by planes, some of which landed in Al-Arish, Sinai. Some of them are scheduled to land in the coming days. The aid is scheduled to arrive in the Gaza Strip in the coming days (Wafa Agency, December 30).

d. Jordan decided to send humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip on a daily basis, including food, medical supplies, and blood rations (Jordanian News Agency, December 30).

13. On December 30, the US donated 85 million dollars to UNRWA, 25 million of which are meant for the emergency needs of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, and the rest to the organization’s main treasury.

14. During December 30, some 50 injured people were transported from the Gaza Strip to hospitals in Egypt, through the Rafah Crossing. Al-Jazeera TV reported (December 30) that the transportation was stopped in the afternoon due to concerns over Israeli attacks along the border with Egypt (referring to the attacks on the tunnels carried out in the afternoon along the Philadelphi Road ). In the evening, after the IDF finished attacking the tunnels on the Philadelphi Road, the Rafah Crossing was reopened (AFP, December 30).

Protests and violations of public order in Judea and Samaria

15. Public order violations by Palestinians protesting the operation in the Gaza Strip continued in Judea and Samaria. In the Qalandia refugee camp, south of Ramallah, confrontations occurred between Palestinians and IDF forces. During the confrontations, the rioters threw Molotov cocktails at the security forces. Two Palestinians were injured. Other clashes took place south of Hebron. During rallies held in Jerusalem’s Old City, the demonstrators clashed with the security forces. Rallies were also held in Jenin, Tulkarm, Ramallah, and Jericho.

16. In addition, there were several attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks, such as throwing explosive charges and Molotov cocktails, stabbing attempts, and throwing rocks. The main events follow:

a. Throwing an explosive charge: a pipe charge was thrown during the night on an Israeli vehicle near Adora, southwest of Hebron. There were no casualties, but the vehicle was damaged.

b. Throwing stones: an Israeli baby was slightly injured when the car his family was driving in was hit by stones south of Hebron. A border police patrol which identified the stone throwers fired rubber bullets on their lower body and reported that one of them was hit.

c. Stabbing attempt: a Palestinian arrived at the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus and attempted to stab a soldier. He was detained by the soldiers and handed over to the security forces.

17. Senior Palestinian Authority figures told an Al-Hayat reporter that the Palestinian security services had been instructed to “prevent the public appearance of gunmen and prevent demonstrators in the cities from coming to the Israeli military roadblocks, fearing that the security anarchy would resume”. The decision also included a ban on incitement against the Palestinian Authority (Al-Hayat, December 30).

The political and propaganda sphere

Preliminary mediation attempts

Egyptian-Turkish mediation attempt?

18. According to the Al-Hayat newspaper (December 30), the Egyptian Foreign Minister presented the Turks with a “work paper” containing four paragraphs on the cessation of Israel ‘s operations in Gaza. The work paper includes a ceasefire, resumption of the lull in the fighting, opening the crossings, and providing regional and international guarantees that the crossings remain open and the agreement is implemented. A senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official said that Turkey was in general agreement with the Egyptian proposal. That senior official also added that Turkey intended to hold talks with Hamas and Syria about the Egyptian work paper.

French initiative for a “humanitarian truce”

19. The Israeli national security cabinet convened Wednesday morning to discuss the developments in Operation Cast Lead. The cabinet is also supposed to discuss a French initiative for a 48-hour “humanitarian truce”, which is a cause for controversy among Israel ‘s political and defense leadership (Ynet, Haaretz, December 31). According to another report, the conclusion at the end of the meeting was that the IDF would continue the military operation (Ynet, December 31).

Reactions to Operation Cast Lead


Hamas’s propaganda and its key messages

20. Following the initial shock, Hamas’s media and its public relations division started going back to normal, with the external leadership in Damascus filling the void left by the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, which avoids public appearances for fear of being attacked. The Al-Aqsa TV station, which was attacked by the IDF, continues broadcasting, although there has been a decrease in the number of its news editions and live broadcasts. It has been replaced by the Al-Quds satellite channel, which spearheads the Hamas public relations campaign on the international scene. The Hamas publications Felesteen and Al-Risala have not been published in the last few days.

21. Following are the main public relations messages heard from Hamas spokesmen over the course of the last few days, addressed both to the Palestinians and to the international audience (including the Israeli public opinion):

a. Hamas has regained its senses and taken back the initiative after the initial blow that it took: the military, security, and administrative situation in the Gaza Strip is under the control of Ismail Haniyah’s administration, and Israel was unable to change the “equation” in the Gaza Strip. Hamas forces and the other terrorist organizations (the “resistance”) have managed to contain the initial blow and they are now aiming their rockets at Israeli population centers ( Mushir al-Masri, Palestine-info, December 29). Ismail Haniyah’s administration continues to provide services to Gaza Strip residents despite the Israeli attacks (Palestine-info, December 30).

b. Emphasis on the claim that Israel targets civilian institutions, playing down the damage caused to military infrastructure: Israel has hit universities, mosques, charitable societies, and civilians’ houses ( Ismail Radwan, Palestine-info, December 30). A similar message was also relayed to the Israeli public opinion ( Mushir al-Masri in an interview to Israeli daily Haaretz, December 30). In that interview, Mushir al-Masri noted that the Israeli claims that the Hamas military force took a severe blow were not true, and that Hamas’s military abilities were not damaged (ibid).

c. Threats to step up the fire on Israeli residents and to launch suicide bombings: the residents of Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Yavne, and more distant areas will have no safety until the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip get safety and stability. “Jihad will have the upper hand” ( Mushir al-Masri, Sawt al-Aqsa Radio, December 30). The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades managed to hit Ashdod, Ofakim, Kiryat Gat, and Yavne. “We forced the Zionists into their bomb shelters, where they’re hiding in holes…” The rocket attacks will reach farther places and additional cities ( Abu Obeida, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades spokesman, Sawt al-Aqsa Radio, December 30). Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called upon the various organizations to carry out suicide operations and “move the campaign deep into Israel ‘s home front” (Palestine-info, December 30).

d. Refusal to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority and continuing besmirching it: Abu Mazen’s call for a dialogue with Hamas came too late, Fatah and Abu Mazen’s aides are collecting intelligence information on Hamas bases and operatives and are transferring it to the “Zionist enemy”, Salam Fayad, “the illegitimate Prime Minister” in Ramallah, avoids releasing the “jihad warriors” held in Palestinian Authority prisons due to the Americans’ refusal (Fawzi Barhoum, Al-Aqsa TV, December 30).

e. Hamas’s position regarding a renewed lull in the fighting: there can be no discussion on a lull in the fighting until Israel stops its attacks in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank and opens all the crossings (Moussa Abu Marzouq, Al-Alam, December 30). That was one of the few references made by Hamas spokesmen to the renewal of the lull in the fighting and the cessation of hostilities.

Other reactions


President Mubarak’s speech

22. The following are some of the topics brought up in President Mubarak’s speech (Egyptian satellite TV, December 30):

a. Call to Israel to immediately and unconditionally cease its attacks in the Gaza Strip, whatever reasons it may have for continuing them.

b. Call for unity among the Palestinians, mentioning that Egypt warned (implying Hamas) that a refusal to the lull in the fighting would “prompt Israel to aggression against Gaza ”.

c. Condemnation of those who “trade Palestinian blood” (hinting at Iran and Syria ), and a pledge that Egypt would not allow them to make political achievements at the expense of the Palestinian people.

d. Mention of the efforts put in by Egypt to stabilize the lull in the fighting and provide humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip (food, medicaments, electricity).

e. Egypt supports the resumption of the lull in the fighting after Israeli attacks cease, while reopening the crossings.

23. President Mubarak extensively addressed the issue of the Rafah crossing, making it clear that Egypt would not give in to the pressure exerted by Hamas. He noted that Egypt rejected Israel ‘s “scheme” to separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, evade its responsibility towards the Gaza Strip, and lay it on Egypt. He said that Egypt would not help deepen the internal Palestinian division by opening the Rafah Crossing without the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority and EU observers, in such a way that would contradict the agreement achieved in 2005. He added that Egypt would continue to allow the opening of the Rafah Crossing to transport humanitarian aid.

Mass demonstrations in Egypt

24. In December 28, mass demonstrations were held in various sites throughout Egypt, protesting the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip. The demonstrations continued on December 29 and 30, even though on a much lesser scale. The demonstrations were led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and were conducted in a relatively peaceful manner, without any severe clashes with the Egyptian security forces.

25. The demonstrators expressed their support of Gaza Strip residents, condemned Israel ‘s “massacres”, and condemned the government’s stance on the happenings in the Gaza Strip. In some cases, the demonstrators demanded to expel the Israeli ambassador to Egypt, to close down the Israeli embassy, and to stop the export of gas to Israel. After the first day of the demonstrations, there started to appear some criticism against the attacks on Egypt, the damage to its reputation and to its status (as happened during a demonstration held in the University of Cairo, for example). At the same time, the Egyptian Foreign Minister and the Egyptian media (December 30, 31) strongly condemned the speech given by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in which he incited the Egyptian people to rise up against the government.


26. Demonstrations against the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip continued in the cities of Syria ( Aleppo, Homs ). The demonstrators condemned the silence of the Arab countries and the international community, burned the Israeli flag, and called upon Arab countries to sever their ties with Israel.

27. The anti-Israeli media campaign was also accompanied by anti-Semitic statements, which is often the case with Syrian propaganda. Of particular note was Muhammad Habash, a Syrian Parliament member, who justified the Holocaust of the Jewish people in an interview to the Iranian TV channel Al-Alam (December 30). In the interview, he noted that he had read a very important document saying that Hitler wrote in his personal diary that he could have killed all Jews, but that he chose to let some of them live so that the whole world know why he perpetrated a holocaust against them (Al-Alam TV, an Iranian Arabic-language television channel, December 29).

Inter-Arab: the incitement campaign of Al-Jazeera TV service of Hamas’s propaganda

28. Qatar ‘s popular Al-Jazeera TV channel is fully recruited to Hamas’s propaganda campaign, as is the channel’s custom (and just like they put themselves at the service of Hezbollah in the second Lebanon war). That channel is received by the Palestinians, by Israeli Arabs, and by the entire Arab-Muslim world.

29. The channel broadcasts live from the Gaza Strip, showing, for example, long close-up shots of bodies and body parts, as well as children ostensibly killed by Israel (supporting Hamas’s propaganda campaign which brings up the false claim that most of the fatalities are civilians, playing down the significant number of killed terrorist operatives). The channel often uses such terms as “the Gaza holocaust” ( mahraqat ghaza ) and “massacre” when referring to the IDF attacks.

30. The channel frequently interviews such terrorist leaders as Khaled Mash’al (Hamas), Ramadan Shalah (PIJ), and Hassan Nasrallah (Hezbollah), giving them plenty of screen time (while pragmatic Arab leaders and Hamas’s opponents are hardly heard from). Also, the channel puts on the air members of radical Islamic movements from across the globe and frequently broadcasts interviews with clerics who preach violence and hatred against Israel and the Jews. 3 While the channel does air brief interviews with Israeli speakers, it does so disproportionately compared to other speakers.


Terrorist organizations’ casualties in Operation Cast Lead

1. The Palestinian media report that over 390 people were killed and over 1,700 were wounded (as at the morning of December 31). Most of the casualties are terrorist operatives belonging to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations, which is reflected in the list of fatalities on Hamas’s website.

2. Following are some examples of terrorist operatives killed in the attacks, taken from Palestinian websites:

a. In the poster which appears on the front page of the present Information Bulletin, there are photographs of 17 Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives killed in the attacks.

b. On December 27, the Popular Resistance Committees announced that ten operatives were killed, including Muhammad al-Adgham, the organization’s artillery officer (PRC website, December 27, 2008).

c. Photographs of terrorist operatives which appear on the PALDF forum on the Hamas website.

Examples of photographs of terrorist operatives killed in the IDF attacks

Abu Khaled al-Zahra
Abu Khaled al-Zahra, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operative (PALDF, December 31, 2008)
Abu al-Salem Abu Abda
Abu al-Salem Abu Abda, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades Operative, killed on December 27 (PALDF, December 31, 2008)
Muhammad Talal al-Sabil
Muhammad Talal al-Sabil, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operative killed in the attacks (PALDF, December 31)
Alaa Ibrahim al-Qatrawi
Alaa Ibrahim al-Qatrawi, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operative, standing near an Al-Batar anti-tank launcher (PALDF, December 30, 2008)
Amin al-Zurbatli
Amin al-Zurbatli, Izz al-Din al-Qassam (PALDF, December 29, 2008)
Muhammad al-Tabasha
Muhammad al-Tabasha, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operative (PALDF, December 31, 2008)
Tamer Asafa
Tamer Asafa, operative commander, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (PALDF, December 28) 2008)
Abd al-Karim Wahaba
Abd al-Karim Wahaba, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operative (PALDF, December 31, 2008)
Alaa Ibrahim al-Qatrawi
Alaa Ibrahim al-Qatrawi, Izz al-Din al-Qassam operative, standing near Qassam rocket launchers (PALDF, December 30, 2008)
Wisam Ayyash
Wisam Ayyash, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operative, the son of Ismail Haniyah’s sister (PALDF, December 28, 2008)
Sahib Muhammad Asafa
Sahib Muhammad Asafa, special unit operative, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the brother of Tamer Asafa) (PALDF, December 28, 2008)


Hamas terrorist operative who served in the Palestinian police
killed in the IDF attacks

The Palestinian police in Gaza is a manpower resource pool for military operatives of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Killed in the Israeli Air Force attacks were Hamas police officers and members of the interior security who serve in its military infrastructure. One example follows:

Muhammad Yahya Muhanna in a Hamas police officer’s uniform
Muhammad Yahya Muhanna in a Hamas police officer’s uniform (PALDF, December 30, 2008)
Muhammad Yahya Muhanna, a commander in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades
Muhammad Yahya Muhanna, a commander in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (PALDF, December 30, 2008)


1 According to a report in ynet (December 31), Prime Minister Olmert said after a security cabinet meeting that Israel “did not get into the operation only to end it when it is still under attack, as was the case before it started”.

2 As at the morning of December 31. Dozens more rockets were fired during December 31 (as at the afternoon).

3 For example, on the night of December 30 the channel broadcasted live from a support rally with the Gaza Strip held by the Salafi movement of Kuwait (a radical Islamic movement which seeks a return to the early days of Islam). The broadcast featured speakers who encouraged terrorism and violence against Israel. Calls against the Jews were heard at the rally, using early Islamic terminology. One of the speakers repeated: “Kill them [the Israelis and the Jews] wherever they are”.



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