Posts Tagged ‘Gaza’

gaza 2009 – part 2

January 15, 2009

This latest Israeli operation has produced over 1000 dead Palestinians and 13 dead Israelis. I found some more data for a timeline of November to the launch of operation “Cast Lead”. They give the number of mortars and rockets fired into Israel during the two months before the Israeli attack.


Rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza strip into Israel

19 June: A six month ceasefire is agreed between Palestinians and Israelis. Broadly speaking Israeli expected that the Palestinians stop firing rockets from the Gaza strip; Palestinians expected the blockade of the stip to be lifted. The blockade followed the victory of Hamas in the elections that took place in 2006. Unfortunately Israel does not communicate directly with Hamas (as it is considered a terrorist organization) and Hamas does not communicate directly with Israel (as it is not considered a legitimate state), and for that reason the agreement was not set formally.

30 October: There is a rocket fired from Gaza into Israel, and an unknown group claims responsibility. In response Israel closes the crossing into Gaza and the strip becomes cut off.

4 November: Israeli troops invade Gaza to destroy some tunnel (within Gaza) that militants would extend and use in the future to kidnap Israeli soldiers. This essentially marks the end of the ceasefire. There are attacks by Israeli jets, and Hamas responds by a barrage of rockets. Incidentally, this is the election date in the US.

Eventually the blockade causes blackouts around the 10th of November. UN say that their food stocks are nearly out, and as the crossings are still closed they cannot bring fresh supplies to 750,000 Gazans.

On the 12th there are more border battles, as Hamas claim that Israeli forces cross the border. Israel responds by aircraft attacks, and by stopping all supplies into Gaza. By the 13th there is virtually no food aid, no fuel and no electricity. On the 14th Hamas illustrates that they can hit Ashkelon, a city that was thought to be beyond range (about 20km from the border).

In the next few days there are sporadic rockets and mortar attacks from Hamas, and aircraft attacks from Israel. Israeli tanks also enter Gaza briefly. Witnesses claim that the tanks were razing farmland, while Israeli called it a <<routine operation>> to uncover explosives. There are daily protests in Gaza against the continuing blockade and aid shortages. By the end of the month the situation worsens, as there is lack of clean water and medical supplies. The crossings open briefly on the 25th for thirty trucks to pass, and then close again.

On the 1st of December a ship with 3,000 tons of food, medicine and other aid is turned back. Banks in Gaza are out of money, and salaries of civil servants are not to be paid.

There is an Israeli air strike on the 2nd. IDF claim that the victims (two teenage brothers) fired mortars, but they turned out to be civilians. Hamas responds by firing rockets. By the 5th there is settler unrest as some are evicted. Palestinians are shot by settlers and protests follow.

224 Palestinian prisoners are released from Israeli prisons on the 15th, as a goodwill gesture. There is a total of about 8,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. On the 16th there are aircraft attacks, which Israel claimes were against a rocket-launching squad. An Islamic Jihad militant is also executed outside an internet cafe, and Islamic Jihad retaliate with rocket attacks.

In the next few days there is a number of Israeli air strikes and a barrage of rocket attacks. According to Hamas the six-month truce exprires on the 19th, but according to Israel there is no expiry date.

Of course there is no written agreement, as Israel does not negotiate with Hamas and vice versa, and this makes things murky. The Palestinians want to negotiate a new truce that will lift the blockade of Gaza, and for that reason the claim that they do not want to extend the ceasefire as it stands. In a statement posted on its Web site, Hamas said Israel had breached agreements by imposing a painful economic blockade on Gaza, staging military strikes into the densely populated coastal strip and continuing to hunt down Hamas operatives in the West Bank.

Israel want to maintain the status quo: they claim that there is no deadline, and that they will not attack Gaza if Hamas do not fire rockets. But this would leave the blockade in place.

From January to June, 338 Palestinians and 16 Israelis were killed in cross-border violence, including soldiers, according to AP figures. Since the ceasefire took effect, 21 Palestinians, most of them militants, were killed by Israeli fire. No Israelis were killed. Israel’s military says 1,786 rockets were fired in the first half of 2008, compared to around 199 in the second.

The first post-truce Israeli air stike takes place on the 20th, and there is a barrage of rockets on the 21st by Islamic Jihad. On the 23rd, the leader of Hamas says that the truce with Israel could be restored. Hamas hold their fire awaiting for Israel to ease the blockade. Initially Israel agreed to open crossings for limited cargo supplies on the 24th; unfortunately on the 23rd Israel killed three Palestinians that were allegedly planting explosives near the border, to which Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets and mortars. Essentially this marks the beginning of the Israeli attack, which was formally codenamed <<Operation Cast Lead>> on December 27.


gaza 2009

January 9, 2009

The current Israeli offensive took me by surprise. I am not an expert on Middle East politics, no more than the casual Newsnight viewer, and to me everything happened out of the blue.

Israeli and Palestinian casualties (monthly 2000-2008)

Israeli and Palestinian casualties (2000-2008)

Apparently Israel is getting pissed off with Hamas firing rockets over the wall and endagering Israelis. So I had a look around to see how Israeli casualties have increased in the past few months to warrant such a response. After a few Google searches I had compiled my data set which is given above. The bulk of the data come from B’Tselem, with the latest figures from AP.

Interesting isn’t it? Having seen no apparent trends, I decided to have a look at the timeline of the conflict.

The second “intifada” commenced in 2000, and by the end of February 2002 Ariel Sharon was the Israeli prime minister. This marks clearly the new round of violence and the peak of the death toll. Palestinians stepped up their suicide missions, while the West Bank was re-occupied.

During this year and the next, Arafat was repeatedly humiliated and under siege in his compound, with the militants retaliating against the Israeli invasions. Aparently with not much success, as the trend of Israeli deaths falls steadily, while the Palestinian casualties mount. The Road Map was published in April 2003, but this does not appear to have any impact.

In April 2004 Sharon announced the withdrawal of all settlers from the Gaza strip (and the troops that were posted with them). The Palestinian death toll drops dramatically, while Arafat dies later this year. The settlers’ pullout from Gaza is completed by the end of 2005, which coincides with a peak of Palestinian casualties.

Hamas wins the Palestinian elections in the begining of 2006, and Palestinian casualties spike until March when a cabinet is formed. After Hamas is established the death toll drops. At the same time Sharon falls ill and is replaced by Olmert.

The Israel-Hizbollah conflict in southern Lebanon takes place in mid-2006. After this point, and until the middle of the next year the Palestinian death toll spikes. Not unlike today, these operation by IDF were retaliations for increased rocket attacks from Palestinian millitants, presumably as a token of support to Hizbollah. Nevertheless, not unlike today, there is no evidence of increasing casualties on the Israeli side.

In June 2007 Hamas forces Fatah out of Gaza and establish themselves as the dominant force. After this point the Palestinian death toll decreases rapidly until today.

This casual look of the data together with the timeline indicates to me that Palestinians are better off with Hamas strongly in power. The only relatively quiet periods, if you are a Palestinian, were after Hamas took power in 2006 and after they kicked Fatah out of Gaza in 2007. In fact, the probability of geting killed by an Israeli appears to spike just before Hamas establish themselves; a conspiracy theorist could even claim that Israel seems to be pushing them into power…

In terms of the current crisis I cannot see any significant increase of Israeli casualties that would warrant such a retaliation. Am I missing something here? And how are Hamas doing these days by the way?