December 27th: Three Years to Israel’s Offensive in Gaza

Today, December 27th 2011, marks three years to the beginning of Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, labeled Operation Cast Lead. You might have heard about it under some other one-sided inciting (and might add super-ignorant) name, but you’ve surely heard about it. It seems almost redundant to try and make a case for it now, three years later, but having its’ echoes still feed the de-legitimacy campaign against Israel, it seems more than necessary.

Let me make one thing clear right off the bat – the result is utterly horrifying. Death, so random and so cruel, and in such quantaties is never anyone’s desire, or anyone’s hope. At least not for the majority of the people on my side of the border, especially not the left-center government at the time that conducted it. Unfortunately, a large amount of people, Gazans, were turned unwillingly to vessels, human sheilds for fanatics, for the same people that’s been holding them hostage since the Summer of 2007 where a violent and bloody coup forced them to continue living in a constant state of war.

A little background is in order – 

In August of 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Removing almost 10,000 settlers, all settlements and all soldiers from the region, the strip was given to the Palestinians for full control. In the following year, 946 rockets were fired and landed in Israel from the evacuated strip. Adding 22 mortar shells, 2006 has seen almost 1,000 bombing attacks on Israeli civilian population.

The rocket count was getting worse by the month. In the first six months of 2008 alone, 1,075 rockets and 1,204 mortar shells were fired at Israel. In six months, 2,279 bombings.

Luckily, Israel’s southern areas are mostly filled with open spaces and agricultural territories, and the casualties were relatively low. That doesn’t go as far as saying there were no tragedies. One story, out of dozens and hundreds and many more, is of 8 years old Osher Twito whose house was hit by a Qassam rocket and his leg had to be amputated. 70 years old Shuli Katz was killed when a rocket hit his backyard on May 12th. And many more horrifying stories like this happened.

8 year old Osher Twito lost his leg when a rocket hit his home in Febraury 2008. Photographed By: Naor Rahav

8 year old Osher Twito lost his leg when a rocket hit his home in Febraury 2008. Photographed By: Naor Rahav

This is not a comic book or a Hollywood movie but a devastating reality – there are casulaties and tragedies on both sides. However, only one gets constantly criticized and delegitimized.

On December 19th, 2008, a six-months long Tahadia (Arabic word for “lull” or “momentary calm”) was coming to an end and a new “calm” could not be reached (Hamas demanded that Israel withheld from even taking protective actions, such as against militants about to launch a rocket or militants who were tunnling towards the border, in an attempt to capture another Israeli soldier, such as Gilad Shalit and made it impossible to reach a new Tahadia, while [as usual] blaming Israel for putting up “crazy demands”). On December 19th, the calmness (that has seen moments of uncalm) has dissolved.

On December 21st 2008, 50 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel. At night, a parking lot of a mall was hit. The playground of an elementary school and a youth center were hit as well.

On December 24th, 2008, over 60 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel. Among the direct hits were a factory (twice!), two playgrounds, and residental homes.

On December 25th, 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went on al-Arabiya satelite channel, and implored that people of Gaza to put pressure on their leaders, on the various terror groups in the strip, mainly the de-facto ruler Hamas, to stop firing these rockets. “I am telling them now, it may be the last minute, I’m telling them to stop it. We are stronger.”

On December 26th, 2008, Israel reopened five crossings to Gaza and allowed much humanatarian supplies to be entered into the Strip – fuel for the main power plant, 100 trucks of grain and other humanatarian goods. At the same day, 12 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel.

On December 27th, Israel opened a military campign in an attempt to deter terrorists, destory their terror infrastructures, and end the years-long barrage of rockets upon its’ citizens.

The result, as I’ve stated, was devastating. Some were because of mistakes, the kind that every military in every war and in the history of warefare have made . The majority were simply because of cruely by fanatics who raked a cynical fortune from the deaths of its’ own people – Terrorists used civlians for their own need – hiding rockets and launching them from populated areas. Walking in civilian clothing among civilian population. Using, in the most obscene way possible, the people they claim to protect. The people they force to be their body guards, in yet another useless hate-fuled war.

Fathi Hammad, Hamas official, has said this repgunant and chilling message:

For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel …. The elderly excel … and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: “We desire death like you desire life.”

Make no mistakes – I doubt any of those elders, women and children he was referring to, ever chose what Hammad boasts about.

And here’s another horrifying piece of information – those who incite against Israel, those who dare call this war a massacare as if the terrorists of Gaza were angelic in nature, as if dozens of rockets were not fired upon 1.5 million citizens, as if schools and preschools were not hit by the rockets in Israel as well, usually bring up one point they think is the coup de grace of their one-sided arguments – yes, children died in this conflict. Horribly enough, not a small amount. I can talk about the children who were hurt on the Israeli side, but it always seems like the fact that Israel didn’t sacrafice it’s people for worldwide images and didn’t use them as sheilds, and went as far as protecting its’ citizens, isn’t enough. So let me point this up –

Map of bombared areas in Israel during Operation Cast Lead (Map From Google Maps).

Map of bombared areas in Israel during Operation Cast Lead (Map From Google Maps).

Not all rockets fired at Israel, land in Israel. The above only counts those who made it past the border. But a few landed inside the strip. More than a few.

On Febraury 28th, 2008, a rocket launched at Israel fell inside the Gaza Strip and killed a 13 months old baby girl.

On December 26th, 2008, a rocket launched at Israel fell inside the Gaza Strip and killed two sisters, aged 5 and 13. A third sister was injured.

And this is only two out of a handful – where is the anger there? Where is the delegitimacy campaign there? Where is the passion and fury in the terrorists’ words and eyes when this happens? Where is their acknoweldgement of mistakes? Israeli soldiers who made mistakes in judgements were (and some are still) investigated and put to trials for misconduct. And yet criticism (true, not the fake kind some people put up to try and look objective) is only heard about one side of this conflict, of this war? Why?

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6 Responses to “December 27th: Three Years to Israel’s Offensive in Gaza”

  1. ordergood Says:

    I believe in 2008 Israel and Hammas agreed to a cease fire. When president Jimmy Carter visited Gaza he stated “Palestinian leaders from Gaza were noncommittal on all issues, these leaders claimed that rockets were the only way to respond to their imprisonment and to dramatize their humanitarian plight. The top Hamas leaders in Damascus, however, agreed to consider a cease-fire in Gaza only, provided Israel would not attack Gaza and would permit normal humanitarian supplies to be delivered to Palestinian citizens.”

    And so Israel agreed to these terms but according to sources the blockade of Gaza was loosened but not completely opened.

    Jimmy Carter was quoted as saying about the agreement after it failed the following:

    “It did lead to a significant reduction in the number of rockets fired at Israel until November, but the truce had less impact on the goods going in…” meaning Israel didn’t hold its end of the deal so the rockets continued.

    with all that being said, why is Hammas truly firing rockets into Israel. As you probably know the rocket attacks existed before the Israeli blockade on Gaza and before the the removal of the settlements in Gaza. I think it all goes back to Hammas’s maverick attitude as liberators. To me there is no doubt that the Palestinians have seen injustice committed against them (based on personal experience) and groups like Hammas may have taken advantage of the Palestinian plight to run its own interests. In the process they made things worse and more Palestinians have been killed than liberated. Today Hammas remains strong despite all that’s been done to stop them and that’s because,as usual, the people take the hit. As for these people standing up against these groups that’s never going to happened for obvious reasons. Israel will always be advertised as the number one and only enemy which leaves groups like Hammas and Fatah free to roam with little to no consequences. unless…uprising???

    that’s my opinion on this issue…….

    • Ori Lentzitzky Says:

      I never claimed the blockade was lifted or loosened, ordergood. I did point to the fact that a few days before the offensive, Israel made an effort to stop these rockets by delivering supplies and humanatarian aid, and was still bombarded. If I remember correctly, Israel implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy during the Tahadia (Hamas was very adamant about not calling this a cease-fire, seeing as that would imply there’s a legitimate entity to have a ceasefire with) and though the amounts of good entering Gaza increased relatively to the time shortly after the coup, rockets (even single rockets) were answered with a moratorium on easing the blockade. Overall, during the six months ceasefire, about 280 rockets and mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip. Seeing as most were in the last two months of the ceasefire, it can certainly be said that there was an reduction in number. However, some of these attacks were trageted towards the soldiers in the crossings. Non-rockets attacks were attempted as well. This made it much more difficult to open crossings (I brought a story last August of a Palestinian family returning from medical care in an Israeli hospital and were caught in a mortar shell barrage on the crossing). Moreover, during the ceasefire, Hamas continued to implement its’ own blockade on the Gaza people – Israel never withheld medications, yet Hamas kept the health care system on the verge of collapsing, only to blame Israel for it. Hamas had organized frequent “labor union strikes” at the power plants, blaming Israel for the shortage of power. And also, there’s a large amount of corruption amoung Hamas officials. Even today, when the blockade is more a theory than a reality, Hamas continues to cynically use Gaza’s population. An ABC newsreporter that went into the strip a few months ago was trying to report on the Gaza’s surfing club when police showed up to extract everyone out of the water, in order to not display Gaza as anything but a dark sad place where people sit hungry on the floor all day. In fact, today you have more than just clothes and humanatarian aid coming into the strip – you have Plasma TV, surfing boards and much more. In fact, While Israel offers today Hamas about 30 trucks a day to its’ choosing, on average it requires only 24. Whether or not it means it only needs 24 or chooses only 24 trucks to continue portraying Israel as the villian, I can’t say.

  2. BeliefInJustice Says:

    Agree that the offensive was necessary and that it accomplished a lot. The only thing I don’t understand is the name. To paraphrase a famous Saturday Night Live episode, who were the PR wizards that came up with that one?

  3. Raaj Says:

    Hi Ori, it’s been sometime since I came to your blog. I really feel sad for Osher Twito. It’s a shame how terror hurts the innocent. But he seems to be a brave kid and I am sure that he will succeed in life. One thing that I had read about Israel is that your media and newspapers always look at the positive side of life and your headlines are mostly about growth and development rather than completely focusing only on the terror which you face each day. I think that just speaks volumes about the Jewish people and their inner strength and resolve to live even in the midst of constant trouble.

    Ori, do you think there can ever be calm and peace with Israel and the Hamas or is that never going to happen? And why can’t the Hamas stop the suffering of it’s own people by abandoning it’s double faced game tactics on its own people? What does it gain by continuing this endless violence?

    • Ori Lentzitzky Says:

      Hi, Raaj. Good to hear from you again. I think I have to first address the question with which you closed – What does North Korea gain from the suffering of its’ own people? What does any dictatorship gains? Power. Sometimes money. In terms of Gaza, Hamas has inflicted this ongoing (even though today its’ barely even effective) blockade on the Gaza population. Now it completely controls what comes in, and the levels of corruption allows them to live relatively good while using the blockade to enrage and incite against Israel.

      I have to be honest with you, I don’t know if I share your view that most media and headlines focus on the good in Israel – media is by nature driven by ratings and getting low or exploiting emotions for sales is universal. Also, Israel doesn’t suffer from terror daily. It’s mostly the south of Israel, and in times of no-escaltion-rounds, it’s just the communities within a few short miles of the Gaza Strip (biggest cities in the south are protected by the Iron Dome System, that has approximetly 90% success-rate, and shooting towards them might cause an escalation…). I think if it was towards more centeral cities, it would have made the headlines with grimmer titles more often (then again, Israel’s tolerance for this would not be so tolerable in that case). I’m trying to think of a parallel example (like if rockets were fired from the Mexican border to LA verses a small town near Tucson or something), but I find it hard that any other country would tolerate this for over a decade and not use all of its’ massive military force against these rockets.

      I can tell you that during this operating / offensive, I found myself proud of being an Israeli. When you see these people that are being bombed daily, that run for cover and are scared for their children’s lives, and yet you hear their support, their willing to take an escalation for the possiblity of deterrance, is amazing. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a region where most nations treasure death the way we treasure life.

      As far as Hamas is concerned… Honestly, I’m scared. I live a distance of maybe 30-minute drive from the West Bank (Israel is very narrow). As I’m writting this, Mahmoud Abbas is allowing Hamas to enter the PLO, and Hamas is trying to strengthen itself by joining forces (literally) with the Islamic Jihad movement (whose terrorists ealier today tried to attack soldier in a cross-border attack, were detected and killed and in response the organization fired a qassam rocket onto civilian population – no injures, thankfully). So it seems around May or June will be the time when Hamas tries to make his second coup and take full control of the West Bank and maybe fire rockets from there (though, then he’ll be doing so onto much more populated areas and would face harsher consequences… and all hell would truly break loose). Maybe i’m a pessimist, it might take more than a few months.

      I could maybe argue that it needs to go through the change that Fatah went – the death of its’ leader, the change of leadership and so on. But I don’t truly believe Fatah has abandoned the ways of terror. Not really. It seeks today to abandon peace talks taking place in Jordan, once again with a bag full of execuses. It operates in a vicious manner that can only be called “diplomatic terror”, like their move in the UN, or in UNESCO.

      I can’t answer most of your questions, I’m sorry. Some things are beyond my perception or abilities. To try and understand the motives of fanatics and extremists, of dictators, and of those who choose war and death above all else (as long as its’ not their own)… sorry, I just can’t seem to do that.

      • Raaj Says:

        Thanks for the response Ori. I can understand some of the ground reality now. I learnt some more about the Israeli viewpoint today. I can assure you that the United States is a strong ally and friend who will always back you in your just cause.

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