conflict in Gaza

Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza Strip 2006
(25th June 2006 - )

Gaza conflict 2006Gaza conflict 2006

The 2006 Israel-Gaza conflict

The conflict began on June 24, 2006, when in light of ongoing Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli cities, Israeli operatives seized suspected Hamas members Osama and Mustafa Muamar in the Gaza Strip. On June 25, a Hamas attack in Israeli checkpoint resulted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit. In turn, Israel launched Operation Summer Rains on June 28.

Israel maintains that it mobilized thousands of troops in order to suppress Qassam rocket fire against its civilian population and to secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. It is estimated that between 7,000 and 9,000 heavy Israeli artillery shells have been fired into Gaza since September 2005, killing 80 Palestinians in 6 months. On the Palestinian side, approximately 1,000 Qassam missiles are believed to have been fired into Israel.

Israel has stated that it will withdraw from Gaza and end the operation as soon as Shalit is released. The Palestinians say the assault is aimed at toppling the democratically elected Hamas-led government and at destabilizing the Palestinian National Authority, citing the targeting of civilian infrastructure such as a power station and the captures of government and parliament members

Exchange of fire

After Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, pulling 9 thousand settlers from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, tensions had remained high in Gaza due to the continued shelling of areas in Israel with Qassam rocket attacks launched by Palestinians from Gaza into areas such as the Israeli city of Sderot, reported to have exceeded 800 rockets in the past seven months. Between the end of March and the end of May 2006, Israel fired at least 5,100 artillery shells into the Gaza Strip Qassam launching areas in an attempt to stop them from firing.

On June 9, during or shortly after an Israeli operation, an explosion occurred on a busy Gaza beach, killing eight Palestinian civilians.Other Israeli missile attacks included one on the Gaza highway on June 13 that killed 11 Palestinians and injured 30, and on June 20 that killed 3 Palestinians and wounded 15.

Hamas formally withdrew from its 16-month ceasefire on June 10, and began openly taking responsibility for the ongoing Qassam rocket attacks

Raids and captures

On June 24, 2006, Israeli commandos entered the Gaza Strip in the first capture raid into the Strip since Israel pulled out of Gaza in September 2005. In the raid they captured two Palestinians, identified by neighbors as brothers Osama Muamar, 31, and Mustafa, 20, who Israel claims are Hamas militants. Noam Chomsky has claimed in a recent interview that these two Palestinians were civilians, a doctor and his brother. Chomsky claims not to know the fate the kidnapped men.

On June 25, 2006, armed Palestinians crossed the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel via a makeshift tunnel and attacked an Israel Defense Forces post. During the morning attack, two Palestinian militants and two Israel Defense Force soldiers were killed and four others wounded, in addition to Corporal Gilad Shalit, who suffered a broken left hand and a light shoulder wound. Hamas claimed that the attack was carried out in response to the death of the Ralia family on north Gaza beach a few weeks before.

Shalit's captors issued a series of statements demanding the release of all female Palestinian prisoners and all Palestinian prisoners under the age of 18. The statements came from Ezz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing Hamas), the Popular Resistance Committees (which includes members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas), and the Army of Islam. More than 8,000 Palestinians are held as prisoners by the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Prisons Service. Approximately two thirds of these prisoners were convicted in court, while around ten percent are held without charge

Operation Summer Rains

Israeli forces entered Khan Yunis on June 28, 2006 to search for Shalit. In preparation for the Israeli operation, the government of Egypt announced it deployed 2,500 policemen to the border of Egypt and the Gaza Strip in order to prevent the possible transfer of Shalit into Egypt, as well as to prevent an influx of refugees out of the Palestinian territory.

In the early hours of the operation, several Palestinian civilian locations were targeted. Bridges were destroyed to effectively cut the Gaza Strip in half. Power was also cut to 65% of the Gaza Strip after Israeli planes fired at least nine missiles at Gaza's only power station. Israeli forces also occupied the Gaza International Airport. Airstrikes were carried out on Hamas training and munitions camps, though no casualties were reported.

In apparent response to this, the Popular Resistance Committees announced they had abducted an 18-year-old man from the West Bank settlement of Itamar, Eliyahu Asheri, and would kill him if the invasion continued. On 29 June, IDF combat engineers and Shabak agents, acting on intelligence, found Asheri's body in an abandoned car in an open field outside of Ramallah. The youth appeared to have been shot to death, and findings indicated that he may have been killed as early as Sunday, casting doubt on the PRC's earlier claims that he was alive and kept in captivity.

Although the Popular Resistance Committees said it was behind the attack, it became known that the kidnapping was planned and carried out by Fatah militants. Four suspects were captured by IDF forces for kidnapping and killing Asheri.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades later announced that they had captured a third Israeli, Noach Moskovich from the central Israeli city of Rishon LeZion. However Moskovich was eventually discovered dead, apparently of natural causes, near the spot where he had last been seen

Gaza conflict 2006

Incursion into Northern Gaza

Israeli Merkava tanks on the north Gaza borderAs night approached 28 June, IDF troops and tanks massed on the Northern border of Gaza Strip, and prepared to take strategic positions in the second phase of the operation, which Israel claims targeted the Qassam rocket sites. Qassam rockets were continually fired into Israel, and during the early hours of 29 June, several Israeli naval vessels shelled Qassam locations.Thousands of leaflets advising civilians to leave their homes were dropped on inhabited areas in the northern Gaza Strip towns of Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun which Israel had identified as frequent launch sites for Qassam rockets.

An explosion was reported in Gaza City, and eyewitnesses reported it was at the Islamic University. Witnesses reported Israeli tanks, soldiers, and bulldozers entering Northern Gaza. Following a plea from Egypt for more time for negotiations however, the IDF later announced it would put a hold on the second phase to give the militants a final chance to turn over Shalit

Arrest of Hamas government members

Arrest of Hamas government members

On 29 June, Israel arrested 64 Hamas officials. Amongst them were Palestinian Authority cabinet ministers and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Eight Hamas government members (five of whom in Ramallah) and up to twenty Legislative Council representatives were detained in the operation.

Among those arrested are the Finance Minister Abed Razek; Labour Minister Mohammad Barghouti; Religious Affairs Minister Nayef Rajoub; East Jerusalem legislative council member and number two on Hamas list, Muhammad Abu Tir; as well as heads of regional councils, and the mayor of Qalqilyah and his deputy. At least a third of the Hamas cabinet have been detained and held by Israel. As a result, Hamas officials have gone into hiding.

August 6, Israeli forces detained the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Aziz Dweik, at his home in the West Bank. Dweik, who is regarded as a key member of Hamas, was apprehended after Israeli military-vehicles surrounded his home in Ramallah.

Bombardment phase
Beginning on 30 June, the IDF began to hit the Gaza Strip with a variety of targeted bombardments. Israeli warplanes struck more than a dozen times in Gaza in the hours after midnight, hitting a Fatah office and a Hamas facility in Gaza City as well as roads and open fields. Israeli Air Force aircraft struck the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza City. The Israel Defense Forces confirmed its planes hit the office of Interior Minister Said Siyam. In a separate Israeli airstrike, three missiles hit the office of Khaled Abu Ilal, a Interior Ministry official, who also heads a pro-Hamas militia.

After Israeli warnings that the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya could be targeted for assassination if Corporal Shalit was not freed, Israeli aircraft hit the Prime Minister's office with two missiles in the early hours of 2 July.

On July 12, the IDF droped a 550lb bomb on a building in Gaza City, killing a family of nine. A spokesman for the Israeli army said they were trying to kill a group of Hamas militants led by Mohammed Deif, and did not know that a family was living inside the house when they bombed it

Ground Operation in Northern Gaza Strip

On July 6, 2006, the IDF's Golani Brigade under the command of Colonel Tamir Yadai, backed by IAF jets and artillery fire, reoccupied the site of three former Israeli settlements of Dugit, Nisanit and Elei Sinai in the northern Gaza Strip. Additional forces entered the nearby Palestinian town of Beit Lahiya

Impact on Gaza Strip residents

Palestinian officials say that it could take six months and some $15 million to repair the damage done to the destroyed power plant. According to the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network, "The public health and safety and environmental hazards stemming from the damage caused to infrastructure as a result of this military operation include water shortages, contaminated remaining drinking water, uncontrolled discharge and untreated sewage flowing in the streets resulting in groundwater pollution, pollution of agricultural land which Gazans will now be unable to cultivate to harvest crops, negatively impacting their earning."

Early on, all border crossings in and out of Gaza were shut. Gas stations predicted petrol supplies would run out.

On Sunday July 2, Israel reopened Gaza's main cargo crossing — the Karni crossing, allowing 50 trucks with food, medical supplies and fuel, to travel from Israel to Gaza. Other trucks carrying fuel entered northeastern Gaza through the Nahal Oz border crossing. The next day, however, Israel once again closed the Karni crossing.

On July 14, 2006, Hundreds crossed the Gaza-Egypt border, into the Gaza strip from Egypt, after Palestineans blew a hole in the wall separating Gaza and Egypt.

On July 24, Israel partially re-opened the Karni corssing. Over month later, on August 25, for the first time in the two months since the conflict began, Israel opened the Rafah crossing for twenty four hours, with 2,500 people entering Gaza and 1,500 exiting

Gilad Shalit

Gilad Shalit

(Born 28 August 1986) is a corporal in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He comes from Mitzpe Hila in the Western Galilee, and holds dual Israeli and French citizenship. Gilad is the first Israeli soldier captured by Palestinians since Nachson Wachsman in 1994.

As of 6 September 2006, Egypt was reported to be negotiating with Hamas on behalf of Israel for Shalit's release. A week later, Egyptian mediators received a letter written by Gilad himself in which he stated he was alive and well. The handwriting was confirmed to be that of Cpl. Shalit

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