The Jewish Virtual Library
War of Independence
On May 31, 1948, the Israel Defense Forces officially began operations as Israel’s sole, unified military organization charged with protecting the territory and citizens of the two-week-old state. The birth of the IDF came at a time when the entire country was at war for its very survival. Drawing its forces and weapons from the various Jewish paramilitary organizations active at the time, the IDF began as a hastily cobbled together, understaffed, underarmed, and ill-equipped army. By the end of the War of Independence in 1949, the IDF had defeated five invading Arab armies to become the decisive, powerful, spirited fighting force that it is known as today.
The fight for independence
The Jewish community’s primary defense force – the Haganah – became a full-scale defense force following the 1936-1939 Arab revolt and, by 1941, consisted of three main units: the Field Corps (the main ground force), Guard Corps (the force responsible for protecting Jewish villages from Arab attacks), and the Palmach. The Palmach was the elite fighting force of the Haganah, combining military training, agricultural work, and Zionist education. Its members eventually came to form the backbone of the IDF’s combat forces.
Haganah fighters, 1947
As the Jewish and Arab communities under the British Mandate continued to clash, the Haganah, Etzel and Lehi (other, smaller underground Jewish fighting forces) helped fight for Israel’s independence leading up to the British withdrawal on May 13, 1948. Following many months of bitter fighting between the Jewish defense forces and hostile armed Arab groups, David Ben-Gurion declared the State of Israel’s independence. One of his first orders as Prime Minister was the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces and the dissolution and disarmament of all other paramilitary groups (namely the Haganah, Etzel, and Lehi). Very quickly, the people of Israel and its defenders learned to adjust to a more structured and disciplined fighting force. Thus, on May 31st, 1948, the IDF was born.
Triumph is the only option
On May 15, 1948, the day after Ben-Gurion declared independence, tens of thousands of troops from Israel’s hostile neighbours, alongside volunteers from as far as Sudan, Pakistan and Yemen, invaded the newborn state, bent on its destruction. Though the veterans of the various Jewish defense organizations had gained valuable experience fighting local Arab militants in the lead up to the declaration of independence, they remained under-equipped, under-trained and under-funded. However, when faced with invasion, it was clear to every Jewish soldier and civilian alike that victory in the war meant survival, and defeat meant total destruction. Triumph was the only option.
Soldiers from all of the previous paramilitary groups, fighting under one banner – that of the newly founded Israel Defense Forces – were deployed to the various fronts to protect the new borders and repel the invading Arab armies. While Jewish soldiers struggled side by side on the battlefield, others, government officials and eager contributors, fought their own struggle across the seas in an effort to arm the IDF with weapons that could match those of the Arab armies.
A real breakthrough came with the arrival of the first delivery of Spitfire and Messerschmitt fighter planes from Czechoslovakia. These planes became the backbone of the Israel Air Force – what started, as the air wing of the Haganah, as a cobbled together collection of appropriated civilian aircraft. A mere 65 years later, following a remarkable record of operational successes, the Israel Air Force has earned international acclaim as one of the world’s mightiest air forces.
A truly decisive force
By July 1949, the IDF had beaten back every invading Arab army and armistice agreements were signed between Israel and its major opponents – effectively ending the fighting and securing the existence of the State of Israel. However, the sweetness of victory was embittered by the heavy casualties suffered. By the end of the war, Israel had lost some four thousand of its fighters and more than two thousand civilians – a staggering total that amounted to more than ten percent of the young country’s population at the start of the war. The bittersweet memory of miraculous triumph and irreplaceable loss is immortalized every year during Israel’s consecutive national memorial and independence days.
Suez-Sinai War (The Sinai Campaign)
After the 1948 War of Independence, during which the Arab nations surrounding Israel attacked the new state in an effort to prevent its establishment, Israel concentrated on building up its society from within its government, military and civilian infrastructure.
But these efforts were diverted by countless terrorist incursions, namely “fadayun” infiltrating the Israeli-Egyptian border. Israel was forced to adopt measures to halt these attacks. In addition, Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian president, nationalized the Suez Canal (which had previously been administered by Britain and France) and closed its waters to Israeli shipping. This effectively cut off Israel’s ability to trade with much of the world.
In a sweeping operation of 100 hours, the IDF took control of the entire Sinai peninsula, under the skilled command of Lt. Gen. Moshe Dayan.
Born in 1915 in Degania, Israel’s first kibbutz, Moshe Dayan fought as a teenager in the battle for Israel’s independence. After excelling in his military career, he was appointed the IDF’s fourth Chief of General Staff in 1953 and went on to serve as Israel’s Minister of Defense.
The IDF’s successful paratroop landing into the eastern approaches of the Mitla Pass near the Suez Canal (the first paratroop landing in Israel’s military history) launched the Sinai Campaign at 17:00 on the 29th of October, 1956. Once on the ground, IDF forces advanced through southern and central axes into the Sinai peninsula.
The next day, October 30th, an IDF reserve brigade, equipped with requisitioned civilian buses, negotiated the difficult desert track through the Peninsula and captured Sharm el-Sheikh at the southernmost tip of the Sinai peninsula. Britain and France then joined the IDF’s war efforts on November 1st, launching a devastating strike on the Egyptian Air Force, which until that point had been engaged in battle with the Israeli Air Force, leaving it virtually incapacitated.
On November 2, a battalion of the Nachal Brigade achieved the second significant victory of the war by parachuting into El-Tor under the command of Mordechai Gur (later to become the IDF’s tenth Chief of Staff). The battalion was met on the ground by the Paratrooper’s 890th Battalion. This landing marked the completion of Israel’s control over the Sinai Peninsula, though the territory conquered during the Campaign was promptly transferred to Egyptian hands.
Though Israel lost 171 soldiers in battle, the Sinai Campaign is considered an impressive military success, having achieved its initial goal of halting the terror attacks emanating from Israel’s shared border with Egypt. After the success of the Sinai Campaign, Lt. Gen. Moshe Dayan continued to contribute to the state of Israel and played a key role in four wars, as well as helping to negotiate Israel’s historic peace treaty with Egypt.
Six Day War
June 5, 1967: The IDF responds to the aggression of Israel’s enemies by launching a preemptive strike, initiating one of history’s shortest, most decisive wars.
In June 1967, the Israeli government ordered the Israel Air Force to carry out a surprise strike against Egypt’s airfields, effectively crippling the Egyptian Air Force and making history. Six days later, the IDF had won comprehensive land and air victories against the Syrian, Egyptian and Jordanian militaries. In the process, Israel tripled in size and earned its reputation as a regional power, prepared and capable of defending itself against seemingly overwhelming existential threats.
Israel’s Arab neighbours remained hostile to the young state after begrudgingly accepting armistice agreements with it following the 1948 War of Independence. That war secured the existence of an independent Jewish state – a reality that the surrounding countries could not abide. Two decades of protracted tensions and occasional outbreaks of violence culminated in the weeks leading up to the war.
On May 19, Egypt expelled the UN Emergency Force from the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip and began massing troops and heavy weapons on the borders with Israel. They then shut the Straits of Tiran – a vital international shipping channel – to all Israel vessels, isolating the port of Eilat.
Over the following two weeks, Syria, Jordan and Iraq responded to Egypt’s call by mobilizing their militaries and moving troops towards Israel. The IDF called up its reserves to prepare for the second major threat to Israel’s survival in two decades.
One of history’s most decisive victories
On the morning of June 5, the Israel Air Force sent a wave of low-flying Israeli jets to destroy the Egyptian Air Force and airfields, initiating a pre-emptive strike in order to prevent the alliance of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq from carrying out a potentially devastating attack on Israel. The IAF’s opening strike was a dramatic success, paralyzing the air force that had posed the greatest military threat to Israel. A similar strike was initiated against Syria later in the day, destroying two thirds of that country’s air force in one comprehensive offensive.
Jordanian forces began shelling the Jerusalem area, and hostilities were opened along Israel’s borders with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Israeli troops engaged the Egyptians in the Sinai and in the Gaza Strip, advancing quickly despite being outnumbered and outgunned. In two days the IDF had secured the entire Sinai Peninsua.
On June 7, IDF paratroopers captured the Old City of Jerusalem from the Jordanian forces stationed there, reuniting the capital of Israel and taking control of the areas that had previously been under Jordanian control, from where enemy snipers had sporadically terrorized the city’s Israeli residents.
On June 9, IDF armored and infantry forces assailed the heavily fortified Syrian-held Golan Heights. The strategic terrain had been routinely used by Syria as a base of operations to shoot at northern Israel and sponsor Palestinian terrorism. The IDF quickly captured the mountainous territory, providing Israel with a significant strategic advantage.
The IDF’s superior training, organization and tactics, as well as the complete aerial dominance achieved on the first day of the war, led to quick comprehensive victories on each of the three major fronts of the war and secured Israel’s position as a force to be reckoned with.
Newfound strategic depth
Over the course of the Six-Day War, Israel gained control of both the historic heartland of the Jewish people and the sites that had been used by hostile forces to launch military campaigns and terror attacks against the State of Israel and its population. The territory that Israel gained during the Six-Day War has given it significant strategic depth and improved its defensive capabilities.
Although Israel’s initial efforts at conciliation were rebuffed by its neighbors, it later gave up parts of the land gained in June 1967 in pursuit of peace. Israel pulled out of the Sinai Peninsula following the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1979. In 2005, IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians withdrew from the Gaza Strip.
War of Attrition
As early as July 1, 1967, Egypt began shelling Israeli positions near the Suez Canal. On October 21, 1967, Egypt sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat, killing 47. Less than a year later, Egyptian artillery began to shell Israeli positions along the Suez Canal.
Nasser believed that because most of Israel’s army consisted of reserves, it could not withstand a lengthy war of attrition. He believed Israel would be unable to endure the economic burden, and the constant casualties would undermine Israeli morale.
The bloody War of Attrition lasted roughly three years. Israel lost 15 combat aircraft, most shot down by antiaircraft guns and missiles. The Israeli death toll between June 15, 1967, and August 8, 1970, was 1,424 soldiers and more than 100 civilians. Another 2,000 soldiers and 700 civilians were wounded.
The War of Attrition:
Egyptian Strategy in the War of Attrition
by Muhammad Hassanain Haykal
Haykal was a confidant of Anwar Sadat and the editor of the semi-official Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.
..To my mind there is one chief method which cannot be ignored or avoided in tipping the balance of fear and assurance in the Arab-Israeli conflict in favour of the Arabs. This course, which meets all the requirements and necessities and is in harmony with logic and nature this main course to tip the balance in our favour, or merely precisely to adjust it, is: to inflict a clear defeat on the Israeli Army in battle, in one military battle
I should like to be more specific because there is no room under present conditions for irresponsible talk. I would make the following points: (1) I am not speaking about the enemy’s defeat in the war, but his defeat in a battle. There is still a long way to go before the enemy can he defeated in the war. The possibilities for this are still not within sight. But the enemy’s defeat in one battle presupposes capabilities which could be available at an early stage in the long period before the end of the war. (2) I am not speaking of a battle on the scale of that of 5th June 1967-a 5th June in reverse, with the Arabs taking the initiative and Israel taken by surprise. Most likely 5th June will not he repeated either in form or in effect. In the coming battle neither we nor the enemy will be taken by surprise … I am speaking about a limited battle which would result in a clear victory for the Arabs and a clear defeat for Israel naturally within the limits of that battle. (3) The requirements and necessities I am speaking about, and which will impose the military battle, do not include any marked consideration for the so-called revenge for injured Arab dignity….
To these three reservations regarding the battle, which I consider necessary and vital, I should like to add more, in the hope that they swill give a clearer picture of what I am saying ( I ) The current artillery exchanges along the Egyptian front arc not the battle I am thinking of—the battle that I feel the requirements and necessities arc imposing. What I am envisaging is far greater and broader. The artillery exchanges are important. indeed very important, but they are not the battle which can achieve the aim of inflicting a clear defeat on the Israeli Army. (2) Neither are the activities of the resistance organisations at their present level the battle I am thinking of or the battle imposed by the requirements and possibilities…. (3) In simple and general terms the battle I am speaking about … is one in which the Arab forces might, for example, destroy two or three Israeli Army divisions, annihilate between 10,000 and 20,000 Israeli soldiers, and force the Israeli Army to retreat from the positions it occupies to other positions, even if only a few kilometres back.
I am speaking, then. about a battle and not the war: about a battle that is limited as battles naturally are; about a real battle. however. resulting in a clear defeat for the Israeli Army. Such a limited battle would have unlimited effects on the war….
l. It would destroy a myth which Israel is trying to implant in the minds-the myth that the Israeli Army is invincible. Myths have great psychological effect….
2. The Israeli Army is the backbone of Israeli society. We can say that the greatest achievement placed on record by the Arab resistance against Zionism-an achievement resulting from the simple act of refusal-has been to dispel the Zionist dreams. Because of the Arab refusal. Israel has become a military stronghold and Israeli society has become the society of a besieged stronghold-a military garrison society….
3. Such a battle would reveal to the Israeli citizens a truth which would destroy the effects of the battles of June 1967. In the aftermath of these battles, Israeli society began to believe in the Israeli Army’s ability to protect it. Once this belief is destroyed or shaken, once Israeli society begins to doubt its Army’s ability to protect it, a series of reactions may set in with unpredictable consequences.
4. Furthermore, such a battle would shake the influence of the ruling military establishment. The establishment has the whip hand in direciting and implementing Israeli policy on the excuse of acting as Israel’s sole protector and guardian of Zionist plans.
5. Such a battle would destroy the philosophy of Israeli strategy, which affirms the possibility of “imposing peace” on the Arabs. Imposing peace is in fact, a false expression which actually means “waging war.”
6. Such a battle and its consequences would cause the U.S.A. to change its policy towards the Middle East crisis in particular, and towards the Middle East after the crisis in general. There arc two clear features of U-S. policy. One which concerns the Middle East crisis, is that the U.S.A. is not in a hung to help in finding a solution to the crisis. No matter how serious or complicated the situation may become. the U.S.A. will continue to move slowly as long as Israel is militarily in a stronger position. This situation would surely change once the Israel position of strength was shaken.
The other phenomenon concerns the Middle East after its present crisis. It is that the U.S.A. sees in Israel an instrument for attaining its aims in the area. No matter how far the Arabs go in their revolt against the U.S. influence and how much they defy this influence, the U.S. aims are guaranteed as long as Israel remains capable of intimidating the Arabs. If Israel’s ability to intimidate becomes doubtful, U.S. policy will have to seek another course. Israel has proved to the U.S.A. that for the time being it is more useful to it than the Arabs. Although all the U.S. interests in the Middle East lie with the Arabs, the U.S.A. continues to support Israel. The strange contradiction in the Middle East at present is that the U.S.A. is protecting its interests in the Arab world by supporting Israel. Israel is thus the gun pointed at the Arabs, the gun which the U.S.A. is brandishing to attain its aims and protect its interests….
After all this, the question remains: is such a battle possible?
The answer is: I do not claim military experience, yet I say that there is no doubt or suspicion as to the possibilities of such a battle which could inflict defeat on the Israeli Army. My belief is based on the following considerations:
1. The only myths in the Israeli system are those fabricated by bold and daring propaganda or by great imagination. Israeli society is not a straw as some believe, nor a rock as others imagine…. Israeli society cannot live independently. It is a society which cannot produce any genuine economic or political force. What matters most is the intrinsic force and not the apparent force, which is deceptive in most cases. Myths that are based on apparent force are bound to be dispelled by experience, especially if met by a capable force.
2. Israel has lost its once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After 5th June 1967 its myth acquired all the elements it needed. Yet Israel could not attain its goal of turning the end of the battle into the end of the war. Arab steadfastness proved that the battle has ended but the war will continue. Thus Israel has lost its opportunity.
3. In any future battle, the Israeli Army would fight under conditions different from those in all previous battles. The Israeli Army would not he able to advance easily from its present positions along the Jordan river, the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights without finding itself passing through densely populated Arab areas. with the danger that these would absorb all its striking forces, exhaust it and make it easy to pounce on the Israeli Army’s scattered remains one by one. With the exception of the Air Force effort, the Isriaeli Army would have to fight a sustained battle or a defensive battle, whereas it is accustomed to fighting offensive battles with its characteristic tactics of indirect approach and fast oulflanking, movements. The Israeli lines of communication between the bases and the fronts have become long and arduous, especially in times of operations. As a result of the long lines of communication it would he impossible for the Israeli Army to nurse quickly on the Arab fronts as it did in the past when it was able to strike on one front and then switch its forces by its short lines of communication to strike at another Arab front… .
4. In any future battle the Israeli Army would face Arab armies with different standards of fire power and its use, different command structures benefiting from past experience, and a higher morale, as the Arab forces would be aware of fighting for the heart of their homeland and not only for its borders.
At the beginning of my article I said that a battle ending in a clear defeat for the Israeli Army should he the chief method of tipping the balance of fear and assurance…. I did not say it is the only method because there are other secondary methods…. I will give the following examples in this respect:
1. Our acceptance of the Security Council resolution on the Middle East-the resolution which international society has endorsed-is a valuable step, particularly since Israel has rejected the resolution and thereby defied the whole of international society. Despite Israel’s daily proclaimed disrespect for the international organisation, the question is not so simple. I mean that the Israeli citizens’ awareness of being at odds with the entire world will undoubtedly influence their mood, and so affect the balance of fear and assurance in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
2. The Soviet Union’s support for the Arabs and its continued help to them in rebuilding their military forces after the tragedy of June 1967 will undoubtedly affect the feelings of the Israeli people in the balance of fear and assurance.
3. France’s stand cannot fail to affect the balance of fear and assurance for the Israeli inhabitants who realise that the greater part of their military power in 1967 came from France and that-from 1954 to 1964 at least France was an ally of Israel joined by special ties.
4. The current four-power talks in New York arouse Israel’s suspicions, to say the least, because they indicate clearly that the Middle East crisis cannot for long remain confined to the Middle East and that it might lead to a nuclear confrontation between the great Powers. The talks may produce a solution to the problem which-to put it at its lowest-will fail to give Israel everything it feels to be within its reach. Irrespective of their results and what the Arabs think of these results, the talks will play their part in affecting the balance of fear and assurance in the Israeli people’s feelings.
Yom Kippur War
October 6, 1973 – 40 years ago, Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated surprise attack against Israel, starting the Yom Kippur War. Israel faced arguably the biggest challenge of its history. On the sixth of October, hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands of tanks and fighter jets attacked simultaneously, surprising Israel at its northern and southern fronts. Syria and Egypt were determined to get back what they had lost during the Six Day War.
That day, the holiest and most solemn of the Jewish calendar, the IDF Spokesperson announced that at approximately 2:00 p.m., “Egyptian and Syrian forces began an attack in both Sinai and the Golan Heights. Our forces are operating against the attackers.”
Egyptian troops and armor crossed the Suez Canal in the south of Israel, and Syrian forces entered the Golan Heights in Israel’s north. After three weeks of heavy fighting, the IDF overcame initial Egyptian and Syrian gains and advanced to the western side of the Suez Canal and to the vicinity of the Syrian capital of Damascus.
The war lasted until October 24th, 1973, when a ceasefire was declared.
Despite Israel’s military supremacy, the war took a great toll on all participating countries. During those three weeks of war, 2,691 IDF soldiers lost their lives defending the country.
Negotiations in the following years led to disengagement agreements under the terms of which Israel withdrew from parts of the territories captured by the IDF during the Yom Kippur War.
The Yom Kippur War was the third time in less than three decades since its establishment that Israel was forced to fight a war for its very existence. Once again, Israel’s soldiers proved with their courage, training and tenacity that nothing would stop them from protecting their homeland.
First Lebanon War
Israel has long sought a peaceful northern border. But Lebanon’s position as a haven for terrorist groups has made this impossible. In March 1978, PLO terrorists infiltrated Israel. After murdering an American tourist walking near an Israeli beach, they hijacked a civilian bus. The terrorists shot through the windows as the bus traveled down the highway. When Israeli troops intercepted the bus, the terrorists opened fire. A total of 34 hostages died in the attack. In response, Israeli forces crossed into Lebanon and overran terrorist bases in the southern part of that country, pushing the terrorists away from the border. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) withdrew after two months, allowing United Nations forces to enter. But UN troops were unable to prevent terrorists from reinfiltrating the region and introducing new, more dangerous arms.
Violence escalated with a series of PLO attacks and Israeli reprisals. Finally, the United States helped broker a ceasefire agreement in July 1981. The PLO repeatedly violated the cease-fire over the ensuing 11 months. Israel charged that the PLO staged 270 terrorist actions in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and along the Lebanese and Jordanian borders. Twentynine Israelis died and more than 300 were injured in the attacks.
Meanwhile, a force of some 15-18,000 PLO members was encamped in scores of locations in Lebanon. About 5,000-6,000 were foreign mercenaries, coming from such countries as Libya, Iraq, India, Sri Lanka, Chad and Mozambique. Israel later discovered enough light arms and other weapons in Lebanon to equip five brigades. The PLO arsenal included mortars, Katyusha rockets and an extensive antiaircraft network. The PLO also brought hundreds of T34 tanks into the area. Syria, which permitted Lebanon to become a haven for the PLO and other terrorist groups, brought surface-to-air missiles into that country, creating yet another danger for Israel.
Israeli strikes and commando raids were unable to stem the growth of this PLO army. The situation in the Galilee became intolerable as the frequency of attacks forced thousands of residents to flee their homes or to spend large amounts of time in bomb shelters. Israel was not prepared to wait for more deadly attacks to be launched against its civilian population before acting against the terrorists.
The Last Straw
The final provocation occurred in June 1982 when a Palestinian terrorist group led by Abu Nidal attempted to assassinate Israel’s Ambassador to Great Britain, Shlomo Argov. The IDF subsequently attacked Lebanon again on June 4-5, 1982. The PLO responded with a massive artillery and mortar attack on the Israeli population of the Galilee. On June 6, the IDF moved into Lebanon to drive out the terrorists in “Operation Peace for Galilee.”
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger defended the Israeli operation: “No sovereign state can tolerate indefinitely the buildup along its borders of a military force dedicated to its destruction and implementing its objectives by periodic shellings and raids” (Washington Post, June 16, 1982).
“On Lebanon, it is clear that we and Israel both seek an end to the violence there, and a sovereign, independent Lebanon,” President Reagan said June 21, 1982. “We agree that Israel must not be subjected to violence from the north.”
The initial success of the Israeli operation led officials to broaden the objective to expel the PLO from Lebanon and induce the country’s leaders to sign a peace treaty. In 1983, Lebanon’s President, Amin Gemayel, signed a peace treaty with Israel. A year later, Syria forced Gemayel to renege on the agreement. The war then became drawn out as the IDF captured Beirut and surrounded Yasser Arafat and his guerrillas.
PLO Tyranny in Lebanon
For Arab residents of south Lebanon, PLO rule was a nightmare. After the PLO was expelled from Jordan by King Hussein in 1970, many of its cadres went to Lebanon. The PLO seized whole areas of the country, where it brutalized the population and usurped Lebanese government authority.
On October 14, 1976, Lebanese Ambassador Edward Ghorra told the UN General Assembly the PLO was bringing ruin upon his country: “Palestinian elements belonging to various splinter organizations resorted to kidnaping Lebanese, and sometimes foreigners, holding them prisoners, questioning them, and even sometimes killing them.”
Columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, not known for being sympathetic toward Israel, declared after touring south Lebanon and Beirut that the facts “tend to support Israel’s claim that the PLO has become permeated by thugs and adventurers” (Washington Post, June 25, 1982). Countless Lebanese told harrowing tales of rape, mutilation and murders committed by PLO forces.
New York Times correspondent David Shipler visited Damour, a Christian village near Beirut, which had been occupied by the PLO since 1976, when Palestinians and Lebanese leftists sacked the city and massacred hundreds of its inhabitants. The PLO, Shipler wrote, had turned the town into a military base, “using its churches as strongholds and armories” (New York Times, June 21, 1982).
When the IDF drove the PLO out of Damour in June 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin announced that the town’s Christian residents could come home and rebuild. Returning villagers found their former homes littered with spray-painted Palestinian nationalist slogans, Fatah literature and posters of Yasir Arafat. They told Shipler how happy they were that Israel had liberated them.
The PLO’s Reluctant Retreat
When the IDF captured Beirut, the civilian population was forced to suffer because of the PLO’s refusal to surrender. By mid-June, Israeli troops had surrounded 6,000-9,000 terrorists who had taken up positions amid the civilian population of West Beirut. To prevent civilian casualties, Israel agreed to a cease-fire to enable an American diplomat, Ambassador Philip Habib, to mediate a peaceful PLO withdrawal from Lebanon. As a gesture of flexibility, Israel agreed to permit PLO forces to leave Beirut with their personal weapons. But the PLO continued to make new demands.
The PLO also adopted a strategy of controlled violations of the ceasefire, with the purpose of inflicting casualties on Israel and provoking Israeli retaliation sufficient to get the IDF blamed for disrupting the negotiations and harming civilians. For more than a month, the PLO tried to extract a political victory from its military defeat. Arafat declared his willingness “in principle” to leave Beirut, then refused to go to any other country. Arafat also tried to push the U.S. to recognize the PLO. Throughout the siege, the PLO hid behind innocent civilians, accurately calculating that if Israel were to attack, it would be internationally condemned.
“The Israelis bombed buildings, innocent looking on the outside, where their intelligence told them that PLO offices were hidden,” wrote Middle East analyst Joshua Muravchik (“Misreporting Lebanon,” Policy Review, Winter 1983). “Their intelligence also told them of the huge network of underground PLO storage facilities for arms and munitions that was later uncovered by the Lebanese Army. No doubt the Israelis dropped some bombs hoping to penetrate those facilities and detonate the dumps. The PLO had both artillery and antiaircraft [equipment] truck mounted. These would fire at the Israelis and then move.” The Israelis would fire back and sometimes miss, inadvertently hitting civilian targets.
In numerous instances, the media mistakenly reported that Israel was hitting civilian targets in areas where no military ones were nearby. On one night in July, Israeli shells hit seven embassies in Beirut. NBC aired a report that appeared to lend credence to PLO claims it had no military positions in the area. Israel, Muravchik noted, “soon released reconnaissance photos showing the embassy area honeycombed with tanks, mortars, heavy machine guns and antiaircraft positions.”
The Lebanon war provoked intense debate within Israel. For the first time in Israel’s history, a consensus for war did not exist (though it did at the outset). Prime Minister Menachem Begin resigned as demands for an end to the fighting grew louder. The national coalition government that took office in 1984 decided to withdraw from Lebanon, leaving behind a token force to help the South Lebanese Army (which Israel had long supported) patrol a security zone near Israel’s border.
Though the IDF succeeded in driving the PLO out of Lebanon, it did not end the terrorist threats from that country. The war was also costly, 1,216 soldiers died between June 5, 1982, and May 31, 1985.
Jerusalem repeatedly stressed that Israel did not covet a single inch of Lebanese territory. Israel’s 1985 withdrawal from Lebanon confirmed that. The small 1,000-man Israeli force, deployed in a strip of territory extending eight miles into south Lebanon, protects towns and villages in northern Israel from attack. Israel also repeatedly said it would completely withdraw from Lebanon in return for a stable security situation on its northern border.
Most of the terrorist groups that threaten Israel have not been disarmed. For example, several thousand terrorists currently in Lebanon are members of Hezbollah. The group receives financial support and arms from Iran, usually via Damascus. Hezbollah – which had initially confined itself to launching Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israel and ambushing Israeli troops in the security zone-has in recent years stepped up its atta cks on Israeli civilians.
In April 1996, the IDF mounted “Operation Grapes of Wrath” to halt Hezbollah’s bombardment of Israel’s northern frontier. During the operation, Israeli artillery mistakenly hit a UN base in Kafr Kana, killing nearly 100 civilians. Afterward, a Joint Monitoring Machinery, including American, French, Syrian and Lebanese representatives, was created to prohibit unprovoked attacks on civilian populations and the use of civilians as shields for terrorist activities.
The Syrian-backed Lebanese Army has yet to take action against Hezbollah, or other terrorist organizations, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) or Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which have bases in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. Syria, in fact, declared its unqualified support for stepped-up violence in the area. Consequently, attacks against Israeli troops in the Security Zone and civilians in northern Israel continued.
Israel pulled all its troops out of southern Lebanon on May 24, 2000, ending a 22-year military presence there. All Israel Defense Force and South Lebanon Army outposts were evacuated. The Israeli withdrawal was conducted in coordination with the UN, and constituted an Israeli fulfillment of its obligations under Security Council Resolution 425 (1978).
Popular Resistance Committee: Iran’s “Terror Sub-Contractor” in the Gaza Strip
While the State of Israel is mourning the murders of eight of its citizens, including that of 22-year-old Staff Sergeant Moshe Naftali, this Thursday it is an appropriate moment to note the perpetrators of this multi-pronged attack the Popular Resistance Committees, or PRC.
The PRC was founded in September 2000, the same month in which a brutal terror war (sometimes known as the “Second Intifada”) was launched that claimed more than a thousand Israeli lives. Categorically refusing any form of reconciliation with Israel, the PRC acts as a sub-contractor for Iranian elements in Lebanon and within the Hezbollah, carrying out terror attacks against Israelis in return for funds.
The PRC is also funded and supported directly by Hamas. By allowing the PRC to operate as an ostensibly independent proxy, Hamas is able to carry out terror attacks against Israelis while maintaining an official stance of “restraint”. In addition to monthly funding, Hamas also provides the PRC with weapons and battle training.
Below are some of the terror attacks against Israelis committed by the PRC:
June 21, 2009: An IDF force on routine patrol identified four IEDs placed along the border fence near Kissufim (central Gaza Strip). As the IEDs were being disarmed operatives fired two mortar shells and small arms at the force.
July 5, 2009: Three mortar shells were fired at an IDF patrol near the Sufa crossing in the southern Gaza Strip.
July 23, 2009: A group of Israelis working near the Sufa crossing came under fire. After the incident, fire was opened at an IDF force that was patrolling the area.
January 1, 2010: Four mortar shells were fired at the village of Kerem Shalom and a rocket was fired at Kissufim.
March 1, 2010: An anti-tank rocket was fired at an IDF force conducting a sweep near the security fence in the Beit Lahiya region (northern Gaza Strip).
May 21, 2010: During a routine IDF patrol near the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip, an IDF tracker was shot and seriously wounded by sniper fire.
July 30, 2010: A 122-mm Grad rocket landed in the city of Ashkelon. A local civilian was treated for shock. It was the first standard rocket fired in over a year and a half.
August 18, 2011, alone:
Egged Bus #392, en route to the popular resort destination of Eilat, was ambushed by PRC terrorists, who opened fire on the bus’s passengers, injuring fourteen.
Almost simultaneously, a bomb tore through another civilian bus, killing the driver.
Sisters Flora Gaz and Shula Karlinsky and their husbands were on their way home from Eilat when they were murdered by PRC terrorists who ambushed them and fired an anti-tank missile at their car.
PRC terrorists then shot and killed Staff Sergeant Moshe Naftali and Chief Warrant Officer Paskal Abrahami.
Incident Sparks Violence
On September 28, 2000, Likud leader Ariel Sharon went to visit the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest place, which Muslims have renamed Haram al-Sharif and regard as Islam’s third holiest place. Since that time, Palestinians have engaged in a violent insurrection that has been dubbed the “al-Aksa intifada.”
Palestinian spokesmen maintained the violence was caused by the desecration of a Muslim holy place – Haram al-Sharif – by Sharon and the “thousands of Israeli soldiers” who accompanied him. The violence, they said, was carried out through unprovoked attacks by Israeli forces, which invaded Palestinian-controlled territories and “massacred” defenseless Palestinian civilians, who merely threw stones in self-defense.
In fact, Israel’s Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami permitted Sharon to visit the Temple Mount only after calling Palestinian security chief Jabril Rajoub and receiving his assurance that if Sharon did not enter the mosques, no problems would arise. The need to protect Sharon arose when Rajoub later said that the Palestinian police would do nothing to prevent violence during the visit.
Sharon did not attempt to enter any mosques and his 34 minute visit was conducted during normal hours when the area is open to tourists. Palestinian youths — eventually numbering around 1,500 — shouted slogans in an attempt to inflame the situation. Some 1,500 Israeli police were present at the scene to forestall violence.
There were limited disturbances during Sharon’s visit, mostly involving stone throwing. During the remainder of the day, outbreaks of stone throwing continued on the Temple Mount and in the vicinity, leaving 28 Israeli policemen injured, three of whom were hospitalized. There are no accounts of Palestinian injuries on that day. Significant and orchestrated violence was initiated by Palestinians the following day following Friday prayers.
As violence escalated over the following days and weeks, the Palestinians and the media blamed Sharon for the violence. The truth was that the violence started before September 28. The day before, for example, an Israeli soldier was killed at the Netzarim Junction. The soldier was killed after the explosion of a roadside bomb. The next day in the West Bank city of Kalkilya, a Palestinian police officer working with Israeli police on a joint patrol opened fire and killed his Israeli counterpart.
In addition, official Palestinian Authority media exhorted the Palestinians to violence. On September 29, the Voice of Palestine, the PA’s official radio station sent out calls “to all Palestinians to come and defend the al-Aksa mosque.” The PA closed its schools and bused Palestinian students to the Temple Mount to participate in the organized riots.
Just prior to Rosh Hashanah (September 30), the Jewish New Year, when hundreds of Israelis were worshipping at the Western Wall, thousands of Arabs began throwing bricks and rocks at Israeli police and Jewish worshippers. Rioting then spread to towns and villages throughout Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
While the Palestinians accused Israel of desecrating their holy places, it was the Palestinian rioters who were actually attacking shrines. In October 2000, Palestinian mobs destroyed Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, tearing up and burning Jewish prayer books. They stoned worshipers at the Western Wall and attacked Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem with firebombs and automatic weapons.
None of the violent attacks were initiated by Israeli security forces, which, in all cases, responded to Palestinian violence that went well beyond stone throwing. It included massive attacks with automatic weapons and the lynching of Israeli soldiers. Most armed attackers were members of the Tanzim – Arafat’s own militia.
Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority Communications Minister, admitted months after Sharon’s visit that the violence had been planned in July, far in advance of Sharon’s “provocation.” “It [the uprising] had been planned since Chairman Arafat’s return from Camp David, when he turned the tables on the former U.S. president and rejected the American conditions.”1
On November 7, 2000, an investigatory committee led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell was established to determine the causes of the violence and to make recommendations for calming the situation. The Mitchell Report issued in April 30, 2001, concluded “the Sharon visit did not cuase the “Al-Aksa intifada.”
Palestinians, young and old, attack Israeli civilians and soldiers with a variety of weapons. When they throw stones, they are not pebbles, but large rocks that can and do cause serious injuries. Imagine yourself being hit in the head with a rock.
Typically, Israeli troops under attack have numbered fewer than 20, while their assailants, armed with Molotov cocktails, pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, hand grenades and explosives, have numbered in the hundreds. Moreover, mixed among rock throwers have been Palestinians, often policemen, armed with guns. Faced with an angry, violent mob, Israeli police and soldiers often have no choice but to defend themselves by firing rubber bullets and, in life-threatening situations, live ammunition.
The use of live-fire by the Palestinians has effectively meant that Israeli forces have had to remain at some distance from those initiating the violence. In addition, the threat of force against Israelis has been a threat of lethal force. Both factors have inhibited the use of traditional methods of riot control.
According to the rules of engagement for Israeli troops in the territories, the use of weapons is authorized solely in life-threatening situations or, subject to significant limitations, in the exercise of the arrest of an individual suspected of having committed a grave security offense. In all cases, IDF activities have been governed by an overriding policy of restraint, the requirement of proportionality and the necessity to take all possible measures to prevent harm to innocent civilians.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians escalated their violent attacks against Israelis by using mortars and anti-tank missiles illegally smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have fired mortar shells into Jewish communities in Gaza and Israel proper and IDF reports indicate that anti-tank missiles have been fired at Israeli forces in Gaza.
IDF Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz told visiting American Jewish leaders on Feb. 28, 2001, that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been stockpiling weapons smuggled into Gaza by sea and underground tunnels linked to Egypt. The possession and use of these weapons and other arms by the Palestinians violates commitments they made in various agreements with Israel. Under the Oslo accords, the only weapons allowed in the Palestinian-controlled areas are handguns, rifles and machine guns, and these are to be held only by PA security officers. The recent violence makes clear that in addition to the police, Palestinian civilians and members of militias, such as the Tanzim, also are in possession of such weapons.2
The PA has failed to take adequate measures to prevent attacks against Israelis. While many terrorists have been apprehended, they are usually released shortly afterward and, at least some of them have subsequently been involved in assaults against Jews. In May 2001, for example, Arafat freed more than a dozen Islamic radicals who had been in jail since a wave of suicide bombings that killed 60 Israelis in eight bloody days in 1996.3
Over the course of the uprising, more than 100 Israelis have been murdered in suicide bombings, sniper attacks, ambushes and other attacks. Press reports, nevertheless, usually focus on the far higher number of Palestinian deaths (more than 500), especially children. The disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties is the inevitable result, however, of an irregular, ill-trained militia attacking a well-trained regular army, and the Tanzim’s frequent use of Palestinian civilians as shields for its attacks. Furthermore, if children were in school or at home with their families, rather than throwing rocks in the streets, they would be in no danger.
Impact of the Violence
Palestinian violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has taken the lives of numerous civilians and soldiers. In addition, terrorists acting in the name of the uprising have carried out heinous attacks inside Israel. The violence also has collateral impact on the Israeli psyche, military and economy.
Israelis must now be careful traveling through many parts of Israel and the territories that should be safe. Palestinians have also sniped at Jews in cities such as Gilo that are outside the territories. The violence has severely undermined the faith Israelis had that if they made territorial concessions, peace with the Palestinians was possible.
The uprising also affects military readiness because troops must be diverted from training and preparing against threats from hostile nations and instead must focus on quelling riots and fighting terrorism.
The violence has also caused a sharp reduction in tourism and damaged related industries. And it is not only the Israelis who suffer. The loss of tourism also hurts Palestinians. The number of visitors, for example, who normally visit Bethlehem for Christmas was significantly lower in 2000. The same is true in other pilgrimage sites in the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian shopkeepers in places like the Old City are also affected by the drop in tourism. Terrorist attacks also force Israel to periodically prohibit Palestinian workers from entering Israel, hurting individuals trying to make a living and provide for their families.
On May 22, 2001, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared a unilateral cease-fire in an effort to calm the situation, and in the hope the Palestinians would reciprocate by ending their violent attacks against Israelis. Instead the Palestinians intensified the level of violence directed particularly at Israeli civilians. Yasser Arafat did nothing to stop or discourage the attacks. More than 70 attacks were recorded in the next 10 days, during which Israel held its fire and eschewed any retaliation. The campaign of Palestinian terror during the Israeli cease-fire culminated with the suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco June 1 that killed 20 people and injured more than 90, mostly teenagers. In the face of overwhelming international pressure generated by the horrific attack, and the fear of an Israeli counterattack, Arafat finally declared a cease-fire.
The violence continued, however, and CIA Director George Tenet traveled to the Middle East in June in an effort to solidify a cease-fire and lay the groundwork for a resumption of peace talks. The Tenet Plan called for an end to all violent activities. In the six weeks following Tenet’s visit, however, Palestinians carried out 850 terrorist attacks resulting in 94 Israeli casualties, 17 of them fatalities.4
Throughout the remainder of the summer, U.S.-led efforts were made to end the violence without success. It was not until after the September 11, 2001, bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington that Arafat began to take serious measures to stop the violence by arresting terrorists and using his police force to prevent attacks. Though his actions were largely seen as an attempt to curry favor with the Bush Administration in its war against terror, and not repeat the mistake he made of supporting Iraq in the Gulf War, the effect in the short-run at least has been to reduce the level of violence against Israelis. It remains to be seen if this will now mark the end of the “al-Aksa intifada.”
Second Lebanon War
The Second Lebanon War was a month-long conflict between Israeli and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon during the summer of 2006.
Instigated when Hezbollah guerrillas conducted a perfidious cross-border raid in which they killed eight Israel Defense Forces soldiers and abducted two others, the war led to heavy losses on both sides of the conflict and an ultimately inconclusive result. The fighting ended on August 14 with the signing of a United Nations-brokered ceasefire and the war was officially ended when Israel lifted it naval blockade of Lebanon on September 8, 2006. In total, Israel lost 121 soldiers, including the two kidnapped soldiers, with more than 600 injured, and had 44 civilians killed with nearly 1,500 injured. Though estimates vary, Israel claims to have killed more than 600 Hezbollah fighters.
Though this particular conflict officially began on July 12, 2006, the context of the war was set by disputes stemming from the preceding twenty-four years dating back to the start of the First War in Lebanon. Following the IDF invasion of Lebanon in 1982, during which they sought to destroy the base of operations for the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Iran sent fighters to assist in the creation of a revolutionary Islamic movement in Lebanon, soon called Hezbollah, or “Party of God.” As the Israeli presence in Lebanon lingered, Hezbollah drew manpower support from those in the southern part of the country who wanted Israel to withdraw and its organizational and military infrastructure developed through the help of Iranian and Syrian donations.
Hezbollah attacks against the IDF eventually forced Israel to evacuate its personnel from the buffer zone it had created in southern Lebanon, and on May 24, 2000, Israel ended its 18 year military presence there. Israel did not have territorial aspirations in Lebanon and its withdrawal was done in cooperation with the United Nations and in compliance with the obligations set down by Security Council Resolution 425. Nevertheless, Hezbollah used Israel’s withdrawal as a sign of victory and subsequently took over southern Lebanon, creating a veritable “state within a state” while amassing thousands of tons of weaponry and entrenching themselves with a network of bunkers and fortified bases.
Following Israel’s withdrawal, Hezbollah used the buffer zone to plan and launch attacks against Israel and it initiated numerous cross-border raids to both kill and abduct Israeli soldiers. In October 2000, mere months after Israel’s evacuation of Lebanon, Hezbollah guerrillas kidnapped three Israeli soldiers – Benny Avraham, Omar Sawad and Adi Avitan – and held them as hostages for nearly four years before returning their bodies to Israel in a prisoner exchange deal. From 2000 to 2006, Hezbollah carried out numerous attacks against northern Israel that killed both civilians and military personnel and by the summer of 2006 Hezbollah’s positions in Lebanon were fortified, their weapons stockpiles were ballooning and their strength stood at around a formidable 15,000 armed men.
Operation “Cast Lead”
Israel’s Operation Cast Lead comes after three years of suffering thousands of daily Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel’s southern cities.
Since the start of the operation, Hamas has increased their number of attacks and has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel. Hamas is firing an average of 80 rockets into Israel each day. Rockets were fired into Ashdod and Ashkelon and, for the first time, Grad rockets have been hitting Beersheba. It is clear that Hamas widened their rocket range in response to the incursion in Gaza.
Due to Hamas’s endless and widespread barrage of rockets on Israeli towns, the IDF Home Front Command has expanded their security precautions to all towns within a 19- mile radius of Gaza.
Schools in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheba and other southern cities are closed as Hamas continues purposely firing rockets into civilian centers including multiple kindergartens in all major cities. Since the Israeli airstrike began, four Israelis have been killed and over 176 were wounded while hundreds are being treated for shock. Israel’s southern citizens have been forced to move into bomb shelters as their community’s schools, buildings and roads are destroyed in front of their eyes.
In two weeks, Hamas has fired 500 rockets into Israel’s southern cities. Many of these have been the more deadly Grad katyusha rockets. On January 6 a three-month old girl was wounded from a Grad rocket that was fired into Gedara. On January 8 four people were wounded as a mortar shells were fired at the Eshkol region.
Early Thursday morning, January 8, Palestinian terrorists fired multiple rockets into Nahariya, an Israeli city on the border of Lebanon. One of the rockets hit a retirement home and two were wounded. Three rockets were fired again from Lebanon on January 14 into Kiryat Shmona. Israel is holding the Lebanese government responsible as it is Lebanon’s job to prevent all attempted rocket attacks on Israel.
Syria is also involving itself in the conflict: On Sunday, January 11, Syrian citizens fired shots at IDF troops and civilian workers who were repairing a fence along the border. Israel has filed a complaint with UNIFL and is still investigating the incident.
On January 11-12, the volume of Hamas rockets decreased but their firing range has widened. On January 12, 30 rockets were fired into the South as opposed to the usual average of 80 rockets per day. For the first time, a Hamas-fired Kassam rocket was able to reach the Kiryat Gat area.
For images of the rocket attacks please see Hamas Rocket Attacks on Israel
The Operation: Stage I
Since Saturday, December 27, Operation Cast Lead has successfully destroyed hundreds of terrorist enclaves, rocket launching pads and Hamas operative headquarters in Gaza.
Israeli Air and Naval Forces have struck Hamas terrorist cell headquarters throughout the Gaza Strip including a Hamas training base and outposts as well as Hamas government complexes. They also attacked rocket launchers and Grad missile stockpiles. Houses of senior Hamas and Jihad terrorists were targeted along with dozens of tunnels that have been used to pass weaponry into Gaza.
Each time an airstrike was planned, the Israeli government warned the Gazans so as to give civilians enough time to take cover. The IDF has made it clear that their main targets are the terrorist cells, Hamas operatives and Qassam rocket launching pads in the Gaza Strip. Unlike Hamas’s indiscriminate firing on Israeli civilians in the Negev, Israel does not wish to hurt innocent Palestinians.
The IAF has taken extreme measures to avoid civilian casualties and have gone so far as to call apartment complexes that are known to house Hamas forces and warn the civilian residents of coming airstrikes. 90,000 Palestinian homes in Gaza received phonecalls in warning of an airstrike. After receiving phonecalls, resident dissidents often climb to the roof in an effort to dissuade the IAF from firing. The IAF then fires a very small, harmless rocket to just graze the apartment building so as to scare the civilian dissident away. Only then, when it is believed that the complex is empty of civilians, does the Air Force strike the building.
No other army in the world has ever gone to these measures so as to save innocent lives.
Meanwhile, despite the frantic pleas of the Palestinians, Egypt refuses to fully open its border with Gaza. Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak, has rejected demands from the Arab world that he open the border and assist Hamas in their struggle. Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, maintains that the Arab terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah want only to create unrest and do harm in the world. He states that he will not allow Egypt’s “honorable forces” to take part in the group’s actions.
The Operation: Stage II
On Saturday, January 3, one week after the start of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF moved into Gaza in a ground operation. By Tuesday, January 6, IDF units in Gaza had killed or captured dozens of Hamas armed operatives. In addition, over 40 weapon smuggling tunnels had been destroyed. Ammunition warehouses and weapon production factories have been damaged as well.
Israeli forces continue to weaken Hamas’s infrastructure. Their main targets are weapon caches, weapons smuggling tunnels and rocket launching pads. The killing of Hamas gunmen is not a feasible goal as many more Palestinians are anxious to volunteer for this terrorist organization.
The IDF ground forces are not fighting alone. The Israeli Navy and Air Forces continue to supply force and intelligence. From January 5-6, the IAF struck 50 targets in Gaza.
Combat units have been sent in to retrieve Hamas militants and have been struck by a barrage of grenades and mortar shells. On January 5 the IDF began operating in the densely populated urban centers of Gaza as they attempt to weaken Hamas’s infrastructure at its core. Hamas continues to blast Israeli soldiers with rockets and anti-tank missiles as the units move about through northern Gaza.
On January 5 an IDF unit in northern Gaza stopped a suicide bomber who had been planning to detonate himself and kill the entire unit. On January 8, Israeli security forces were able to stop a Palestinian terrorist trying to blow up a gas station near Jerusalem. On Saturday, January 10, a Hamas-sponsored suicide bomber was shot just before he detonated his bomb in the midst of an IDF unit. Israeli security forces are concerned that Hamas-sponsored terrorists and suicide bombers can easily enter Israel through tunnels dug along the border with Egypt.
Dozens of IDF soldiers have been wounded in the ground fighting with Hamas. Operation Cast Lead’s first casualty, Dvir Emanuelof, 22, died of his wounds after his Golani unit was attacked by mortar shells in Gaza.
Four more soldiers were killed on Monday night. Three soldiers were killed and 24 wounded after an errant IDF tank shell hit the house in which they were taking cover in Gaza City. Another paratrooper was killed on Tuesday morning. The soldiers were St.-Sgt. Nitai Stern, 21, from Jerusalem; Yousef Moadi, 19, from Haifa; Capt. Yehonatan Netanel, 27, from Kedumim and Maj. Dagan Wartman, 32, from Ma’aleh Michmash.
A sixth soldier, Alexander Mashevizky, 21, was killed Tuesday, January 6 in nothern Gaza after his IDF unit was ambushed. On January 8, Maj. Roee Rosner was killed after his unit was hit with anti-tank missile by Hamas gunmen. In a separate sniper attack on January 8, Sgt. Amit Robinson was killed in northern Gaza. Late Thursday, January 8, Captain Omer Rabinovitch, 23, was killed when his Golani unit exchanged fire with Hamas gunmen.
Israel’s goals in its ground offensive include overtaking rocket launching pads and stopping terrorist forces in Gaza. Israel simply wants security for its country and has no intention or desire to take the Gaza Strip back again. On the contrary, Israel wishes to live side by side with a legitimate and peaceable Palestinian government in Gaza.
Since the start of stage two of Operation Cast Lead, tens of thousands of army reservists have been called up for training. Many reservists who have not been called have volunteered themselves. On Sunday, January 11, Operation 2.5 went into effect with reserve forces entering Gaza for the first time since the start of the conflict.
The “Humanitarian Corridor”
Israel maintains that it has allowed more than enough supplies to enter the Gaza Strip since the start of Operation Cast Lead. The United Nations, however, claims that the Gazans are without necessary medical and food supplies.
On Wednesday, January 7, Israel called a temporary humanitarian truce and paused their operation in the Gaza Strip to allow truckloads of supplies to enter the area. During the three-hour “humanitarian corridor” Israel hoped that Gaza’s civilians would be able to go into the streets in order to collect necessary goods. The corridor was also meant to allow Gazans to repair damaged infrastructure. An Israeli-led three-hour lull is expected to occur daily from 1:00pm until 4:00pm.
On Monday, January 12, Hamas again disturbed the three-hour humanitarian recess, bombarding Israel’s cities with Kassam and Grad katyusha rockets precisely during the lull. Despite Hamas’s lack of cooperation, Israel has continued to allow this daily recess in its own operation.
Hamas operatives ended the temporary ceasefire first when they fired multiple Grad rockets into downtown Beersheba at 4:00pm on January 7. The IAF had no choice but to retaliate.
On January 15, Israel lengthened its daily humanitarian recess to four hours instead of three in order to allow more Gazans to get the supplies that they need. The decision to increase the time span of the pause came from Israel Joint Humanitarian Coordination Center (JHCC)
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that trucks carrying humanitarian aid supplies will reach their intended delivery points. Hamas operatives often steal food and medical supplies from civilians and have hijacked entire aid trucks to use for their own gunmen.
For more on Hamas’s abuse of its citizens, please see Hamas’s Human Shields.
Israel’s Humanitarian Aid in Gaza
Since the operation began on December 27, over 8,000 tons of humanitarian aid supplies have been allowed into Gaza through the blockade. In addition, dozens of wounded and sick Gazans have been transported into Israel throught the Erez Crossing already.
Meanwhile, Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency ambulatory service, has been put on high alert and is operating 600 ambulances in Gaza to help the wounded in the area.
Foreign nationals and those Gazans with dual citizenship have been allowed to leave.
See Israel’s Humanitarian Aid in Gaza for more information.
While left-wing media is quick to call Israel a “Nazi regime”, any claims of a Palestinian “massacre”come from a clear misunderstanding of the situation: Israel’s military is seeking to weaken Hamas – a self-proclaimed terrorist organization – in this operation. Hamas seeks to destroy Israel and all of the Jews who live there. This is why Hamas fires rockets into kindergartens and community buildings, hoping to kill as many men, women and children as possible. The Israeli Air Force, on the other hand, has gone to extreme lengths to avoid civilian casualties.
The Israeli Embassy came out with a statement on December 31 saying: “The IDF will continue its mission, attack the infrastructure and buildings that Hamas is using and will operate against terrorist organizations and anyone who provides support to terrorism.”
Palestinian terrorists are infamous for using women and children as shields. For years Israel has lost many of its own soldiers because the military could not bring itself to kill civilians in order to get to these terrorists. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has finally stated that, those civilians choosing to hide and shield terrorists are themselves to be considered terrorists. In response, Israel has rained down pamphlets and have made appearances on Palestinian television, pleading to the Gazans not to act as human shields for Hamas operatives.
Instead of facing IDF troops, Hamas prefers to hide itself among the civilian population. Hamas gunmen shoot into alleyways from windows of residential buildings and then have the audacity to cry “massacre” as they leave their civilians to endure retaliatory shots from the IDF. Any civilian blood in this operation is truly on the collective hands of Hamas leadership.
Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are blaming Hamas for the operation in Gaza. Fatah officials consider Hamas members to be murderers and criminals wishing to undermine the work of moderate Arab nations.
While three years of Hamas’s rocket attacks on the Negev have been largely ignored or, even worse, forgiven by international opinion, the world continues to hold Israel to an impossible standard. Israel has always been expected to show restraint toward all Palestinian terrorist attacks. Israel showed restraint during the First and Second Intifadas when hundreds of Israelis died at the hands of Palestinian murderers.
Israel is not using disproportionate force in Gaza. The world, for some reason, is simply quick to excuse the actions of terrorists and to use Israel as a scapegoat.
Outraged Arabs around the world called on Israel to end its operation in Gaza. Hundreds of pro-Hamas protests have ocurred throughout the world in which Israeli and American flags were burned.
The United Nations Security Council unveiled a new resolution on Friday, January 9, calling for an immediate ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Hamas continued immediately to fire rockets into southern Israel. The IDF has continued its operation in Gaza.
On January 7, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak delivered a ceasefire agreement proposal to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Since then, the United States has become a supporter of an Egyptian-brokered peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.
On Monday, January 12, President Bush stated in his final press conference that any sustainable ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas must include an end to Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli towns. He continued to say that Israel has an absolute right to defend itself from these attacks.
On Wednesday, January 14, Hamas representatives in Cairo stated that they would consider accepting the Egyptian peace proposal. No statement was made about Hamas’s willingness to end its rocket fire attacks on Israel.
On January 15, Israel gave indication that it would soon accept Egypt’s peace proposal. The proposal would call for a 10-day truce during which Israeli troops would remain in Gaza and the heads of government would be involved in permanent peace talks. Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, returned from Cairo to brief the cabinet on Egypt’s proposal.
On January 16, the United States and Israel signed a “Memorandum of Understanding”. By this agreement the U.S. pledges to help Israel through resources and technology to inhibit Hamas’s smuggling of weapons into Gaza by way of Egypt. The countries agree that any ceasefire agreement made must, within it, prevent Hamas from rearming in Gaza.
According to both Iranian and Egyptian officials, Iran is strongly discouraging Hamas from signing a ceasefire agreement with Israel. Egyptian officials state that Iran has threatened to cut off Hamas’s supply of weaponry and funds if they enter into any kind of peace agreement.
Hamas officials originally expressed that the organization is not interested in a ceasefire agreement with Israel. Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau stated that Hamas will continue its resistance until Israel ends its “occupation”. He continued to say that Hamas is unwilling to stop its rocket attacks and is demanding a one-sided truce in which Israel must halt its operation, open all borders and withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Of course, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and has not been “occupying” the territory for three years.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni released a statement on January 4 saying: “Israel is conducting a campaign against terror which strikes at its citizens. Other states in the world do likewise, and sometimes also enjoy the direct support of other states. Israel is not asking any other country to fight in its stead – this is our responsibility towards our citizens – but I expect the support and understanding of the international community for the actions that Israel must take. Hamas is a threat not only to Israel, it is a threat to the region. The action that Israel is today taking against Hamas represents the struggle of the international community against the extremist forces. This is how it should be perceived. Israel must do what it must do, and will not be a state that it attacked without response.”
After sustaining three years of rocket bombardment against its civilian population, Israel’s leaders have finally decided that a military response is necessary to defend its people. The United Nations and the rest of the international community were silent while thousands of rockets rained down on Israelis for years and now, when their interest is piqued, they have no moral authority to judge Israel’s necessary actions. The world’s disinterest in the lives of Jews reminded Israelis once again that they can only rely on themselves for their survival. The Gaza operation will continue until Israel can ensure the safety of its citizens – just as any nation in the world under constant attack would be expected to do.
A Unilateral Ceasefire
On January 18, 2009, Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire and halted its operation in Gaza. The ceasefire agreement was initiated by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Israeli Cabinet approved the initiative with the knowledge that it was signing a one-sided agreement. Hamas did not, nor was the terrorist group asked to, approve Egyptian-led agreement.
While Israel agreed to stop its operation in Gaza, Prime Minister Olmert clearly stated that any future attack on Israel would be met with force.
To read Ehud Olmert’s statement please see: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Declares Unilateral Ceasefire
Immediately following the signaled start of the ceasefire – 2:00 am on January 18 – Hamas rockets were fired into Israel. At least 15 rockets were fired on Sunday, January 18.
As of January 19, Hamas pledged a week-long ceasefire, giving Israel that deadline to withdraw its troops from Gaza.
Hamas and Iran have publicly announced a victory for the terrorist group, claiming that Israeli forces did not weaken their military strength. Israeli military, of course, has stated that IDF forces significantly hindered Hamas operatives, killing at least 500 gunmen and destroying hundreds of weapons smuggling tunnels and warehouses. Despite the ceasefire, Iran has pledged to continue to smuggle weapons into Gaza.
On Sunday, January 18, Prime Minister Olmert met with a European Union envoy consisting of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. All of the representatives pledged to help Israel prevent the rearming of Hamas in Gaza, agreeing that daily rocket fire on Israel is unacceptable.
Violence Continues After the “Ceasefire”
On Tuesday, January 20, Hamas operatives fired mortar shells and gunshots at IDF troops in two separate attacks. This marked the first violation of the unilateral ceasefire agreement. In response, Israel destroyed a Kassam rocket launcher in the area. No casualties were reported.
One week later, on Tuesday January 27, One IDF soldier was killed and three were wounded when their army vehicle drove over a roadside bomb on the border with Gaza.
Israel immediately retaliated. The IAF hit and wounded one Hamas gunman. IDF forces also fired into the area and entered Gaza to look for the terrorists responsible for the bomb.
Meanwhile, Hamas officials met with Egyptian leaders in Cairo after the ceasefire was declared, rejecting Israel’s 18-month offer of a peace treaty. Hamas offered a one-year temporary truce instead.
Ironically, an Iranian ship allegedly carrying weaponry and missiles to be smuggled to Hamas was intercepted by Egypt and was being held at the Suez Canal. The United States Navy boarded the boat to search its contents. Israeli officials believe that Iran is attempting to supply Hamas with longer-range missiles and the U.S. Navy confirmed that there were indeed weapons on the ship.
January 28 and 29, Palestinian militants in Gaza undermined the fragile ceasefire and fired Kassam rockets into Israel. No casualties were reported. In response, the IAF hit a weapons factory in Gaza on January 28.
The start of February brought an even more serious breach in the ceasefire agreement. On January 31, one grad rocket was fired into Ashkelon. On February 1 a barrage of mortar shells flew into the Eshkol region. At least 15 rockets and shells struck the Negev on February 1.
A gunmen resposible for the attack on Eshkol was targeted and killed by IAF forces on February 2. Immediately following, a rocket was launched into a civilian area in Sha’ar haNegev kibbutz.
Defense Minisiter Ehud Barak maintained that these attacks were the petering out of Hamas’s stockpile of rockets which, thanks to Israeli forces, had been significantly diminished. Barak also admitted that Israel would strike Hamas again if the need arose.
Pillar of Defense
On November 14, in response to incessant rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, the IDF launched a widespread campaign against terror targets in Gaza. The operation, called Pillar of Defense, had two main goals: cripple terror organizations in the Gaza Strip and defend Israelis living under fire. Here’s a summary of the events which took place during the operation.
The operation opened when the IDF surgically targeted Ahmed Jabari, head of Hamas’ military wing in the Gaza Strip. Jabari was directly responsible for executing terror attacks against Israel in the past.
During the next eight days, the IDF targeted more than 1,500 terror sites across the Gaza Strip. The sites that were targeted were positively identified by precise intelligence over the course of several months, including:
Ahmed Jabari, head of Hamas’ military wing – targeted on Nov. 14
Hab’s Hassan Us Msamch, senior operative in Hamas’ police – targeted on Nov. 15
Ahmed Abu Jalal, Commander of the military wing in Al-Muazi – targeted on Nov. 16
Khaled Shaer, senior operative in the anti-tank operations – targeted on Nov. 16
Osama Kadi, senior operative in the smuggling operations in the southern Gaza Strip – targeted on Nov. 7
Muhammad Kalb, senior operative in the aerial defense operations – targated on Nov. 17
Ramz Harb, Islamic Jihad senior operative in propaganda in Gaza city – targeted on Nov. 19
For the first time ever — Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups fired long-range rockets, such as the Fajr-5, toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Though the IDF severely damaged the terrorist organizations’ long-range rocket arsenal, more than 3.5 million Israelis are still under the threat of Hamas’ rocket fire.
Despite the IDF’s warnings, Hamas urged Palestinian civilians in Gaza to ignore the IDF warnings.
During the eight days of the operation — and in the weeks leading up to it — life was unbearable for more than 3.5 million Israelis. From November 14 to November 21, Palestinian terrorist groups fired more than 1,506 rockets at Israel.
Of those 1,506 rockets fired from Gaza, more than 800 rockets struck Israel, damaging homes, schools and other civilian areas. Some of rockets reached the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas.
421 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome, which saved countless Israeli lives. 152 rockets fired from Gaza crashed back into Gaza.
Despite the IDF’s best efforts to protect everyone in Israel, five Israeli civilians were killed due to rocket fire, while an additional 240 Israeli civilians were injured. In addition, Cpl. Yosef Fartuk, 18, from Emmanuel, was killed on November 20 by a rocket fired from Gaza into Israel.
Since Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in 2007, the terrorist group has turned the coastal area into a forward base for Iran. The IDF is determined to continue targeting sites that are used to carry out terror attacks against Israel and its citizens.
Operation Protective Edge
Since Israel evacuated every settler and soldier from the Gaza Strip seven year ago in hopes of stimulating the peace process, it has been attacked by terrorists. Thousands of deadly rockets and mortars were fired into southern Israel, causing deaths, injuries, and creating a constant state of fear and anxiety among nearly one million Israelis within rocket range.
This barrage finally created such a threat to the security of Israeli citizens that Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in 2008 to degrade Hamas’ ability to engage in terror. For five years, terrorist attacks continued sporadically before increasing dramatically in 2012. More than 1,300 rockets were fired into Israel, provoking the killing of Hamas Military Commander Ahmad Jabari on November 14 and eventually Operation “Pillar of Defense”. In the summer of 2014 violence between Israelis and Palestinians escalated with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli and one Palestinian teenagers. Hamas greatly increased rocket fire, including a reported 131 launches between July 7th and 8th. Even on July 7th Israel was seeking a ceasefire and deescalation, as confirmed by Arabic daily Al-Hayat. This led to the third Gaza operation in five years, titled “Operation Protective Edge.”
What are Israel’s Objectives for Operation Protective Edge?
Like other nations, Israel maintains its right to self-defense against threats to its civilian population. According to IDF Spokesperson Lt. Col.Peter Lerner,the IDF ‘s goal is to stop the terror Israel’s citizens face on a daily basis. Israel also seeks to prevent tunnels from being built into Israel and hinder Hamas’ ability to make violence against Israel’s civilian population. Thousands of reserve troops have been mobilized, but Israelis do not want to initiate a ground operation in Gaza, and have done everything possible to avoid one. The magnitude of the danger to millions of Israelis, however, may leave Israel with no other choice. Israel has said that the operation will end when Hamas stops its rocket fire.
In order to restore quiet to the region and stop Hamas terrorism, the IDF has commenced Operation Protective Edge. The operation has one goal: to stop Hamas’ incessant rocket attacks against Israel’s civilians.
Protective Edge in 5 Minutes: Thoughts from Col. Richard Kemp
July 20, 2014
Mowing the Grass in Gaza
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies
Prof. Efraim Inbar and Dr. Eitan Shamir
The Israeli military offensive in Gaza reflects the assumption that Israel is in a protracted intractable conflict. It is unlikely that Israel can purge Hamas from Palestinian society, nor is a political solution likely to be achieved. Instead, Israel is acting in accordance with a “mowing the grass” strategy. After a period of military restraint, Israel is acting to severely punish Hamas for its aggressive behavior, and degrading its military capabilities – aiming at achieving a period of quiet.
Hamas left Israel’s government no choice but to order the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to start a land incursion. Hamas refused to accept Israel’s government offer of “calm for calm,” rejected the Egyptian cease fire proposal and violated the humanitarian cease fire initiated by the UN. It continuously fired over 10 days more than 1,500 missiles towards towns and cities of Israel, hoping to kill as many civilians as possible. Moreover, it uses tunnels in the attempt to kill Israeli civilians and/or kidnap them.
Israel’s goal continues to be the establishment of a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety without constant indiscriminate terror, while striking a significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure. The Israeli government wisely has defined limited political and military goals for this offensive, in accordance with what we call a “mowing the grass” strategy.
Israel’s strategy in the twenty-first century against hostile non-state groups, such as Hamas, reflects the assumption that Israel finds itself in a protracted intractable conflict. The use of force in such a conflict is not intended to attain impossible political goals, but rather is a long-term strategy of attrition designed primarily to debilitate the enemy capabilities. Only after showing much restraint in its military responses, does Israel act forcefully to destroy the capabilities of its foes as much as possible, hoping that occasional large-scale operations also have a temporary deterrent effect in order to create periods of quiet along Israel’s borders.
As the ground phase of “Operation Protective Edge” progresses, Israel must be realistic about what can be achieved. Destroying the terror tunnels along the fence around Gaza is an attainable military goal. In the process terrorists can be killed and a part of the terrorist infrastructure demolished. The Israeli ground advance might create unrest within the Hamas organization, causing some of its military leadership to move around and make mistakes that could result in better intelligence and opportunities for targeted killings from the air.
An expansion of the ground operation might exact an even higher price from Hamas. Continuous shelling of Israel by Hamas may inevitably lead to Israel’s conquest of all of Gaza. Yet, the strategic calculus should always focus on cost-effectiveness.
Despite the calls from the political Right in Israel, the demise of Hamas rule in Gaza is not an attainable military objective. Hamas is well-rooted in Palestinian society, particularly in Gaza. A recent Pew poll shows 35 percent of the Palestinians view Hamas in a favorable way, and in Gaza the level of support is always higher. Eradicating Hamas and the subsequent political engineering of Palestinian society is not something outsiders can do. Even if Hamas rule can be terminated, the alternatives are Israeli rule, the rule of more radical groups, or chaos. None are good options.
Similarly, calls from the Israeli Left for reaching a “political solution” are totally unrealistic. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Salafist groups see Israel as a theological aberration, and despite reluctant acceptance of temporary cease fires, reject any diplomatic course of action intended to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fanatic commitment of these militias to a radical ideology and to a long-term strategy of violent resistance (Muqawama), turn the situation into an intractable conflict.
As the rounds of violence with Hamas continue, the frustration with lack of clear military decision or with the absence of a peaceful resolution is understandable. Nevertheless, employing military force is useful in such limited small wars with no clear decision. Hamas needs to be punished for its aggressive behavior and reminded of the cost it must pay for continuing the violence against Israel. A period of calm can be achieved by destroying capabilities that are hard and expensive to rebuild. Buying time is a legitimate goal. Additionally in the current strategic situation Hamas is isolated, making the rebuilding of its military assets a longer process.
Moreover, other actors in this Middle East neighborhood are watching, and they also need a clear reminder that aggression against Israel is costly. Inaction would be perceived as weakness, harming deterrence and inviting aggression. Israel’s greatest achievement in this conflict so far was its missile defense system, which allows the home front to maintain a great deal of normalcy. Israel has also signaled determination, by its readiness for ground operations, despite the potential casualties.
Those who forlornly ask “when is this going to end?” and use the cliché “cycle of violence,” have psychological difficulties digesting the facts that there is no solution in sight and that the violent struggle against Hamas is not going to end any time soon (not as long as the enemy’s basic ideological motivations remain intact). But still, important periods of quiet are attainable by military action, and this is what explains Israel’s current offensive.
The Israeli approach described here is substantively different from current Western strategic thinking on dealing with non-state military challenges. Western thinking is solution-oriented. This explains part of the lack of understanding for what Israel is doing.
Against an implacable, well-entrenched, non-state enemy like the Hamas, Israel simply needs to “mow the grass” once in a while in order to degrade enemy capabilities. A war of attrition against Hamas is probably Israel’s fate for the long term. Keeping the enemy off balance and reducing its capabilities requires Israeli military readiness and a willingness to use force intermittingly, while maintaining a healthy and resilient Israeli home front despite the protracted conflict.
Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, and the Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum. Eitan Shamir is a research associate at the BESA Center, and a lecturer in political studies at Bar-Ilan University.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family
July 16, 2014
Arab World Holds Hamas Responsible in Latest Conflict
In an unprecedented development, Hamas is being held responsible for its provocations, and Islamists’ calls to action are being ignored.
The Clarion Project
As Hamas continues putting Israeli and Palestinian lives in jeopardy by rejecting a ceasefire and firing rockets, the Islamist terrorist group must be disappointed at the Muslim world’s reaction. Hamas did not get the usual reflexive support and fiery backlash against Israel. In fact, it appears that the terrorist group’s largest support is coming from protests in Europe.
The latest round of fighting is remarkable in what did not happen. There weren’t automatic mass demonstrations against Israel and the West. No major riots or countless photographs of Israeli and American flags on fire across the region. No violence against diplomatic facilities. Even though Fatah fired missiles, there was no large-scale uprising in the West Bank.
The Islamists were unable to whip up the masses with the ease of flicking a light switch. Instead, flickers of the truth are penetrating minds saturated with anti-Western propaganda.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas even publicly criticized Hamas on Palestinian television, accusing the group of provoking “unnecessary deaths” and “trading in Palestinian blood” by firing rockets at Israel. Hamas responded by accusing him of “aiding the enemy” and acting like a “criminal.”
The Palestinian Authority’s representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council even acknowledged that Hamas is committing war crimes by targeting civilians and contrasted that with how Israel is following international law by warning residents before strikes so as to minimize civilian casualties.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a non-profit organization based in Gaza City, is no friend to Israel by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, even this group reported on how Israel is giving civilians in targeted structures time to flee by giving them advance notice through warning shots and even calling their phones.
Hamas is being held responsible for its provocations and Islamists’ calls to action are being ignored (at least for now). This is a huge development.
The change is most apparent in Egypt, now led by President El-Sisi, who is stridently anti-Hamas.
El-Sisi has done the bare minimum required of an Arab leader to protest Israel’s actions. His government’s light condemnation told Israel to “contain the situation by ceasing all military operations, showing maximum self-restraint.” There was no stoking of the anti-Western flames or defense of Hamas.
El-Sisi did not bash Israel even on the anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, an inherently anti-Israel event. By contrast, Egyptian television hosts are raging against Hamas, with one emphasizing that you can support the Palestinian cause without supporting Hamas.
The assistant-editor of Egypt’s largest newspaper, Al-Ahram, thanked the Israeli Prime Minister on Twitter for his “good deeds” and said, “May our Lord make lots of people like you to eliminate Hamas—the Muslim Brotherhood’s source for corruption, betrayal and treason.”
Another Egyptian journalist, Hayah al-Dardiri, railed against Hamas, saying, “The Egyptian people want their armed forces to hit the nests of terror in the Gaza Strip and destroy Hamas through harsh military actions.”
Skeptics will question the genuineness of these comments and argue that they are reflective of an editorial line set by El-Sisi’s government. That misses the point.
The point is that the dialogue has changed in a much more positive direction. The Islamists are no longer automatically supported. This critical examination of the Islamists’ narratives can start cleansing the toxic environment that perpetually fuels the conflict.
Poll numbers show an opening for a vital contrasting of views to take place.
Although 60% of Palestinians oppose permanent recognition of Israel’s right to exist and want their leaders to pursue its elimination, that number is relatively low when you consider the propaganda the Palestinians have been inundated with. Forty percent is enough for a real debate to occur.
While 60% of Palestinians will only accept Israel’s destruction, the same exact percentage of Israelis say they would support a peace agreement creating a Palestinian state. Only 32% oppose of Israelis would not.
Fortunately, polls show that Hamas is on a downward track. Hamas originally won the Palestinian elections of 2006 with 44%. The terrorist group’s popularity among Palestinians heightened to 62% in 2007.
Now, the latest Pew poll shows that only 35% of Palestinians have a favorable view of Hamas. About 63% of those in Gaza and 47% of those in the West Bank have an unfavorable view. That means that the political position of Hamas has done a 180 degree turn.
The survey also found that 65% of Palestinians worry about Islamic extremism, consisting of 79% of those in the Gaza Strip and 57% of the West Bank. Notice the correlation between this statistic and unfavorable attitudes towards Hamas. This indicates that opposition to Hamas is driven by the group’s ideological extremism and not governmental issues like economic policy.
Unfortunately, while a majority of Palestinians now reject Hamas, a majority still supports one of Hamas’s main terrorist tactics: Suicide bombing of civilian targets. About 46% of Palestinians say that suicide bombing civilians is always or sometimes justified. Another 13% said it is rarely justified.
Approximately 32% of Palestinians say that suicide bombings of civilians is never justifiable, consisting of 21% of those in Gaza and 38% of those in the West Bank. This is a sizeable minority, especially when you consider the level of indoctrination that has taken place.
Pew observes that Hamas’s support is falling day by day outside the Palestinian territories.
About 80% of Turks; 65% of Lebanese Sunnis; 61% of Jordanians and Egyptians and 42% of Tunisians have unfavorable opinions of Hamas. Its unfavorable ratings have risen 12% in Tunisia, 9% in Turkey and 8% in Egypt over the past year.
It’s hard to feel optimistic when you read stories of Israeli children running to bomb shelters and Palestinian civilian casualties. But if you look closely, there are trends that portend a better future.
See a journalist in Lebanon explain why the Arab world is not running to support Hamas in the current conflict.
The Arab Leaders Pray That Israel Will Get Rid of the Palestinians Once and for All
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