This is not what self-defence looks like

By now, the facts are pretty obvious and well documented. Anyone who doesn’t know them has simply chosen not to bother finding out.

So, what was the leadup to Israel’s attack on Gaza? There are three basic chronologies, one at New Left Project, one at Jadaliyya, and one at Electronic Intifada. They all document their claims carefully, and are consistent with each other.

New Left Project:

12 Nov: Palestinian militant groups announce that they’ve agreed to adhere to a truce, should Israel halt its operations. Islamic Jihad: ‘The ball is in Israel’s court’. There was ‘no immediate response‘ from Israel, although Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak struck a belligerent tone with reporters, declaring: “The matter has definitely not ended“. While Hamas took part in some of the missile launches at the weekend, by Monday it had stopped, ‘suggesting it was looking to step back from the brink‘. But already, Netanyahu had convened foreign ambassadors to prepare the diplomatic ground for an escalation.

12 Nov: According to the Israeli military, 12 rockets were fired on Nov 12; however Israel apparently later revised this number down to 6 rockets. This was clearly a ‘significant drop‘ from the previous days: given that Al Jazeera reports that 115 rockets had been fired since Nov 10 (The Israeli military’s estimate was 119, though this may have been before they revised down the 12 Nov figure). The rockets on 12 Nov were claimed not by Hamas but by smaller groups.

13 Nov: By 8am GMT, only 1 rocket had reportedly struck Israel. Israel, however, struck 3 targets in Gaza in the early hours of Tuesday (no casualties). [Al Jazeera] Two more rockets were fired into Israel in the afternoon. I couldn’t find reference to any others. Israel and Hamas reportedly agreed a tacit truce, mediated by Egypt. Likud MK Benny Begin: “This round of firing appears to have ended“.

14 Nov: Four rocket strikes reported.

14 Nov: Israel launches major attack, assassinating Jabari and striking over 20 locations across Gaza. The attack is still continuing.



Following a two-week lull in violence, Israeli soldiers invade Gaza. In the resulting exchange of gunfire with Palestinian fighters, a twelve year-old boy is killed by an Israeli bullet while he plays soccer.

Shortly afterwards, Palestinian fighters blow up a tunnel along the Gaza-Israel frontier, injuring one Israeli soldier.

An anti-tank missile fired by Palestinian fighters wounds four Israeli soldiers driving in a jeep along the Israel-Gaza boundary.

An Israeli artillery shell lands in a soccer field in Gaza killing two children, aged sixteen and seventeen. Later, an Israeli tank fires a shell at a tent where mourners are gathered for a funeral, killing two more civilians and wounding more than two dozen others.

One Palestinian civilian is killed and dozens more are wounded in Israeli attacks. Four Israeli civilians are also injured as a result of projectiles launched from Gaza, according to the Israeli government.

During an Israeli government cabinet meeting, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz urges the government to “cut off the head of the snake… take out the leadership of Hamas in Gaza.” He also calls for a cutting off of water, food, electricity, and fuel shipments to Gaza’s 1.7 million people.

Palestinian militant factions agree to a truce if Israel ends its attacks.

Israel breaks two days of calm by assassinating Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing. According to reports, at least eight other Palestinians are killed in Israeli attacks, including at least two children. Palestinian militant groups vow to respond.

Electronic Intifada (apologies that images don’t paste, but its just to make the point by posting as is)

  • On 29 October the BBC reportedthat “Militants in Gaza have fired 26 rockets into Israel, officials say, amid a flare-up in fighting which shattered a brief ceasefire between the two sides. No injuries were reported from the barrage, in the south of the country.” The BBC said that, “It came hours after Israeli aircraft hit targets in Gaza, after militants fired rockets following the killing by Israel of a Gazan who Israel said fired mortars at its troops.”

    A rocket fired from hit southern – overall 26 rockets today.

BBC reporter Jon Donnison said, “It is often difficult to pinpoint when a specific escalation in violence started – both sides will always remember what they see as a previous act of aggression by the other which enables them to justify their attacks as retaliation.” But we can do better than that.

  • On 4 November, Israeli forces shot dead “an unarmed, mentally unfit man” walking near an Israeli-imposed “buffer” area inside the occupied Gaza Strip.
  • Yet, after the 28-29 October “flare-up” reported by the BBC, the Israel-based Twitter account @qassamcount, which catalogues projectiles fired from Gaza toward Israel recorded almost no rocket fire. Qassam Count tweeted at 23:56 UTC on 5 Novemberabout just one rocket.

    A rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel

The killing of Ahmad Abu Daqqa

  • On 8 November, Israeli occupation forces made an incursion into the Gaza Strip near al-Qarara villlage northeast of Khan Yunis fatally injuring a child. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR):

They leveled areas of Palestinian land amidst indiscriminate shooting. A few hours later, they moved southwards to ‘Abassan village. They opened fire indiscriminately and leveled areas of Palestinian land. An Israeli helicopter gunship also opened fire at the area. At approximately 16:30, as a result of the indiscriminate shooting by IOF [Israeli occupation forces] military vehicles, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was seriously wounded by a bullet to the abdomen. At the time he was shot, Ahmed had been playing football with his friends in front of his family’s house, located nearly 1,500 meters away from the area where the IOF were present.

Ahmad Abu Daqqa, profiled by The Electronic Intifada’s Rami Almeghari, died of his injuries.

Palestinians attack Israeli army, Israeli army kills civilians

Following this, Israel attacked civilian neighborhoods in Gaza. In the ensuing 72 hour period, Israeli forced killed 7 Palestinians. According to PCHR, five of the dead were civilians, including 3 children. Fifty-two others, including 6 women and 12 children were wounded.

“Four of these deaths and 38 of the injuries resulted from an Israeli attack on a football playground in al-Shoja’iya neighborhood east of Gaza City,” PCHR reported.

Not surprisingly, Palestinians fired rockets into Israel, as recorded by “Qassam Count”:

5 more rockets fired from Gaza explode in Israel. 25 rockets today.

Update: 3 more rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel.

Truce talks

Qassam Count records no rockets on 11 November. This can perhaps be explained by the fact that Palestinian factions were in talks over a truce and were keen to see calm restored.

Israel’s Ynet reported on 11 November:

Egyptian Intelligence officials have successfully brokered an end to the current round of escalation in the south, Ynet learned Sunday. No Israeli source has corroborated the report.

The Ynet reported added:

According to senior Egyptian sources, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have agreed to hold their fire if Israel suspends its airstrike on Gaza. > Cairo-based sources said that Israel reportedly agreed not to retaliate over sporadic rocket fire from Gaza, as long as it was sans casualties

Truce takes hold

Reuters reported on 13 November:

After five days of mounting violence, Israel and the Palestinians stepped back from the brink of a new war in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, sending signals to each other via Egypt that they would hold their fire unless attacked.

The report added:

Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Gaza’s Hamas government, praised the main armed factions in the enclave for agreeing on Monday night to a truce. “They showed a high sense of responsibility by saying they would respect calm should the Israeli occupation also abide by it,” he said.

Israel destroys the truce

Yet Israel was not interested in calm.

  • On 14 November Israel carried out the extrajudicial killing of Hamas military chief Ahmad al-Jabari.

Reuters noted that the Israeli attack “appeared to end a 24-hour lull in cross-border violence that surged this week.”

There are some op eds which discuss the facts leading up to the attack. See Phyllis Bennis, the linguists letter, and Yousef Munayyer. 

It’s also worth noting – for two of the attacks leading up to Israel’s attack on Gaza, Amnesty says Israel launched “indiscriminate” attacks on Gaza. On November 8 and 10.

Amnesty International has gathered evidence that suggests at least two of these attacks, on 8 and 10 November, were indiscriminate and, therefore, in violation of international humanitarian law.

The peace loving language ofIsrael

Shimon Peres on November 13:

If you want a normal life for the people of Gaza – Stop firing!”

This is a threat to the people of Gaza. Not militants or terrorists, but to the population of Gaza. This threat, and the force that followed, is terrorism.


Minister Yisrael Katz said Sunday, speaking in the weekly Cabinet meeting. “Israel must act according to a very clear policy in Gaza. To cut off the head of the snake… We must take out the leadership of Hamas in Gaza,” he said.

He also called to “disengage from Gaza in a civilian sense, including all factors: electricity, water, food and fuel… move to a policy of deterrence like in southern Lebanon.”

And this at YNet

Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter commented on the escalation in the south, saying that “We have no other choice; Israel must perform a reformatting of Gaza, and rearrange it, as we did in Judea and Samaria during Operation Defensive Shield.”

According to Dichter, that is the only way to reestablish military deterrence in Gaza.

To my mind, these are all threats to the civilian population of Gaza.

There are other issues to discuss, such as the Hamas member Israel murdered, the ceasefire he was negotiating, and longer term issues. But it should be plain. This is not about defending Israel, and Israel’s actions have plainly made its citizens less safe.

Update 2:

7:55 P.M. Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Israel’s operation in Gaza: “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.”


The UN’s OCHA provides weekly reports monitoring human rights violations in the occupied territories. It is a great source for objective information about what happened in the leadup to the attack, and will be a great source as the attack unfolds.

The weekly report from 24-30 October.

The weekly report from 31 October-6 November

The weekly report from 7 November-13 November

The report from 14-16 November

And a report on the blockade (some facts provided below)

􀀕 The intensified blockade on the Gaza Strip imposed on June 2007 is beginning its sixth year.
􀀕 Gaza is one of the most densely populated regions in the world (over 4,500 people per sq. km).
􀀕 34% of Gaza’s workforce, including over half its youth, is unemployed.
􀀕 44% of Gazans are food insecure and about 80% are aid recipients.
􀀕 In 2011, the GDP per capita was almost 17% below the equivalent figure in 2005, before the last Palestinian
􀀕 In 2011 less than one truckload of goods per day exited Gaza, less than 3% the average amount of exports
during the first half of 2007.
􀀕 35% of Gaza’s farmland and 85% of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to Israeli imposed
􀀕 Since June 2010, 73% of UN reconstruction projects submitted to the Israeli authorities have been approved;
dozens of other projects have been pending approval for an average of 18 months.
􀀕 A severe fuel and electricity shortage results in outages of up to 12 hours a day.
􀀕 Some 90 million litres of untreated and partially treated sewage are dumped in the sea each day.
􀀕 Over 90% of the water from the Gaza aquifer is unsafe for human consumption without treatment.
􀀕 85% of schools in Gaza run on double shifts.
􀀕 Some 71,000 new housing units are required to cover current housing needs.
􀀕 Since the intensification of the blockade in 2007, at least 172 Palestinian civilians have been killed and 318 injured
while working in tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
􀀕 During this period, nearly 2,300 Palestinians have been killed and 7,700 injured by Israeli forces, about two thirds
of them during the “Cast Lead” offensive. Over a quarter (27%) of all Palestinian fatalities were women and
􀀕 Since June 2007, 37 Israelis have been killed and 380 injured in attacks launched from Gaza, 40% of whom were

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