Thursday 18 August
The triple attack in southern Israel, which caused the death of 14 people, is answered with bombs by the Israeli authorities.
Results of an Israeli Air Force attack on Gaza City
From the afternoon, Israel’s Air Force is targeting the North and the South of the Gaza Strip. The provisional death toll is seven victims, including a child.
Israel’s reaction against the Palestinian population of Gaza, considered by Israel’s Minister of Defense Ehud Barak as responsible for the attack, is announced only a few hours after the assault, which was conducted by a group of gunmen with guns, rifles and Kalashnikovs, around 20 kilometers from Eilat, a tourist city on the Red Sea. 14 people were killed, included seven civilians, and at least 26 were injured.
The commando targeted a bus, a military jeep and two private cars. Around midday, the armed group opened fire against Egged bus 392, which was travelling from Be’er Sheva to Eilat. The bus, hit by a volley of bullets, was carrying civilians and Israeli soldiers, who just left military bases for the weekend.
A military patrol immediately arrived and was targeted by an explosive device beside the bus. Israeli soldiers stopped the vehicle in which members of the commando were escaping, and a firefight commenced between soldiers and gunmen. Seven members of the group were killed.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak attributed responsibility for the attack to the Gaza resistance committees: “The source of these terror acts is in Gaza and we will act against them with full force”. In the afternoon the Israeli Air Force began attacking the northern Gaza Strip, in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, and in the South, in Khan Younis and Rafah, where six Palestinians were killed: a child, four members of Popular Resistance Committees and Abu Sabri Enner, leader of Salah Eddin Brigades, the military wing of a Salafi Islamic group.
At least ten missiles also targeted Ashkelon, Kiryrat Gat and Be’er Sheva. Hamas immediately denied its involvement in the attack, but considered the assault a logical reaction to the Israeli raids that daily hit the Palestinian population in Gaza.
Friday 19 August
Bombs illuminate the sky in Gaza: 15 dead, including three children, aged 13, 5 and 2, and at least 40 injured. The hospitals were full. For the second day, Apache and F-16 helicopters flew over and bombed the entire Gaza Strip.
Israel’s air force attacked homes, buildings, squares, streets and cars. Today, among the targets of the Israeli army, were the An-Nuseirat refugee camp, in the centre of Gaza, and a training field for the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Israeli raids destroyed homes and factories in Gaza City, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya in the North and Khan Younis in the South. In the afternoon a factory in East Gaza City was destroyed, and nine Palestinians were injured.
The Popular Resistance Committees, which yesterday lost four members to the Israeli bombs, reacted. While Hamas was announcing the end of the cease-fire (a spokesman of the Al-Qassam Brigades said: “There can be no truce with the Israeli occupation while it commits massacres against the Palestinian people without justification. We call on all factions to respond to the Israeli occupation’s crimes”), the PRC claimed responsibility for the launch of some 20 Qassam rockets against the Israeli cities of Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat.
The West Bank also paid the price of Israeli revenge. On this, the third Friday of Ramadan, the Muslim residents of the West Bank were not allowed to enter Jerusalem to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In the past weeks, men over 50 years old and women over 45 were allowed to cross the Separation Wall, but today the army stopped all Palestinians who tried to cross the checkpoints along the border.
Israeli police have armored the city, surrounding East Jerusalem and closing Damascus Gate, the main entrance of the Old City. Clashes broke out between policemen and worshippers who tried to cross the barriers: The Israeli police dispersed the crowd, throwing sound bombs and employing water cannons. Two Palestinians were arrested.
Saturday 20 August
Third day of bombing: the Palestinian death toll is 15 with at least 47 injured. Hamas decided to react and announced yesterday an end to the cease-fire with Israel, in force for two years.
Fatah also reacted. President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has requested an emergency session of the UN Security Council to stop “a dangerous escalation against the Gaza Strip and the killing of civilians there”. The PA asked a meeting also of the Arab League.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force has bombed several targets throughout the Gaza Strip. It has destroyed two tunnels used by Palestinians and a weapons storage facility, while Qassam rockets of the PRC targeted Be’er Sheva and Ashdod, causing the wounding of three Palestinian workers and eight Israelis. The situation in the hospitals in Gaza is serious: among the injured, there are eleven children and ten women. Medical sources spoke about unusual lacerations on the bodies of the injured people: Bombs that cause burns and ripped skin. This clue is reminiscent of the injuries of the victims of Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 attack of the Gaza Strip (Operation Cast Lead).
Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian democratic activist and 2010 candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, defines this escalation of violence as the perfect solution to the internal problems of the Israeli government: Israel “planned for the attack on the Gaza Strip to escape a social crisis, which it is currently going through, and from a political crisis with the United States”.
To the internal problems of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu must be added the imminent official request by the PA of the UN General Assembly for recognition of the State of Palestine. Israel can’t accept any risk. Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, has accused the Palestinian Authority of sponsoring and glorifying terror acts in southern Israel: “The events of recent days prove that the Palestinian rhetoric professing they have abandoned terror in favor of diplomacy is as removed from reality as Ramallah is from the UN building in New York”, Lieberman stated.
Sunday 21 August
The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is shaky. Despite the agreement between the Israeli army and the militant groups in Gaza, Israeli bombs are still raining on the Gaza Strip and rockets on southern Israel.
Since 9pm on Sunday, no faction has claimed responsibility for the launch of missiles. A leader of the Islamic Jihad said to AFP that Egyptian officials would have contacted by phone the military factions in Gaza in order to guarantee the cease-fire. But Abu Mujahed, spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees, a group born during the Second Intifada and mainly formed by Fatah dissidents, said that his group wouldn’t have accepted the truce.
In Gaza hospitals the stock of medicines expired and the Ministry of Health has asked the PA to transfer blood from the West Bank, while Gaza residents were donating blood in order to provide for the crowded hospitals.
The West Bank is also living through a siege. The Israeli army is deployed throughout the entire West Bank. In Hebron, Israeli soldiers invaded the city, apparently in order to detain Hamas members. After the arrest of 120 militants, taken to secret places, clashes broke out between soldiers and residents. While flying checkpoint were established in West Bank (in Ramallah, in the East of Bethlehem, in East Jerusalem), the Israeli army has also invaded the Deheishe refugee camp in Bethlehem.
Jerusalem too is under control. The Israeli police received information about a possible attack against the city: Authorities have intensified the controls on Palestinian residents, organized raids and arrested people in in East Jerusalem’s Ras Al-Amud neighborhood, and closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque to the prayer of Muslims worshippers.
Monday 23 August
The Israeli Ministerial Cabinet voted against conducting a large scale military operation against the Gaza Strip. Since midday of yesterday, the cease-fire is respected: the Israeli air force is not targeting the Palestinian population, even if this morning it dropped a bomb on a desert area close to a gas station in Gaza City, in the Daraj district. The vote of the cabinet is to avoid an escalation of violence. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak pushed for a reduction of the military involvement.
The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported the reasons that convinced the government to stop the operation. First of all, Israel fears an international condemnation. Secondly, it fears further deterioration in diplomatic relations with Egypt. Lastly, Israel assesses that it does not possess the international legitimacy necessary to go on with a large scale offensive against Gaza.