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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Operation Pillar of Defense: Ceasefire and Consequences



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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 21, 2012


As you probably know, a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups began today 9pm Israel time/2pm Eastern time. Officials hope the agreement will bring an end to fighting that began with Hamas's mortar and rocket escalation against Israeli civilians in October and extended into Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense. Israel enters the ceasefire having had substantial success in its military operations and having showcased the success of its Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. Hamas has seen its weapons stocks, command and control, and their leadership severely degraded and gained nothing.


These events also underscore the need to ensure that Hamas and other Gaza based terror groups are unable to smuggle weapons into Gaza. By playing an active role in helping achieve this ceasefire, Egypt and the US will clearly have to play a role in ensuring that happens. Israel's Prime Minister praised the United States for ourstrong support of Israel's right to self-defense making clear that they want a lasting truce, not conflict, but cautions that a wider military operation 'may yet be required' should attacks on Israeli civilians from Gaza resume.

Below is some background on the origin and results of Operation Pillar of Defense. At the bottom are more in-depth backgrounders on each of the points.
  • HAMAS ESCALATION BEFORE OPERATION PILLAR OF DEFENSE: The Operation began after Hamas escalated the AMOUNT and TYPE of weapons it deployed against Israeli soldiers and civilians throughout October, including the use of anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missiles. Israeli officials urged deescalation and emphasized that continued rocket fire would risk Israel renewing targeted assassinations of Hamas military leaders.
  • OPERATION PILLAR OF DEFENSE: On Nov 14 the Israeli Air Force resumed targeted assassinations and killed Hamas's "Chief of Staff" Ahmed Jabari. Over the next hour the IAFeliminated huge parts of Hamas's carefully-built stockpile of advanced Iran-provided Fajr 5 missiles. The immediate successes forced Hamas to scramble to rebuild its shattered morale, which the group the group attempted to do by blanketing Israeli population centers with rockets and mortars.
  • DAMAGE TO HAMAS C&C AND CONSEQUENCES: The IAF engaged in over 1,400 strikes against pre-identified and other targets. The figure is an order of magnitude higher than the 150 targets struck by the IAF during all of Israel's 2008 Operation Cast Lead. The IAF conducted pin-point strikes against both prominent Hamas officials (including Jabari, southern region Hamas commander Muhammad Shamlakh, Hamas's air defense unit senior figure Mohammad Kaleb, several top PIJ operatives, etc - see backgrounder below for full details). Hamas now bears the dual burden of rebuilding its leadership structure and its weapons arsenal, even as Israel has indicated a willingness to target the highest leadership of Hamas's military echelon. The Hamas military leadership yesterday was making threatsfrom underground, and it is liked that Jabari's replacements will not feel sufficiently confident to move openly in the Gaza Strip.
  • "UNPRECEDENTED" IRON DOME SUCCESS: Iron Dome intercepted 80% to 90% of the missiles against which it was deployed, with Iron Dome's sophisticated mapping technology letting pass hundreds of other missiles which it calculated would land in open areas. The system the system "managed to make Tel Aviv and other cities nearly impregnable" to missile fire, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak described its success as "unprecedented". Israel's regional adversaries, first and foremost Iran and its proxies, have long sought to establish a balance of terror via demonstrated ability to target Israeli civilians in Israel and abroad. The assumptions upon which that balance of terror was built will have to be rethought in the aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defense.
Operation Pillar of Defense Background and Origins

In the weeks before Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, the Palestinian group Hamas escalated both the AMOUNT and the TYPES of weapons that the Iranian-backed terror group used against Israeli civilians and soldiers. The escalation drew condemnation from the U.N. Secretary General (http://is.gd/mvwTOr) and warnings from Israel to the effect that continued rocket and mortar fire would force an Israeli response up to and including the targeting of Hamas’s command and control infrastructure and operatives (http://is.gd/if5Z4s).

Israel launched a wide-ranging campaign, code-named Operation Pillar of Defense, to degrade both Hamas’s military leadership and its advanced weapons stockpiles. The operation began with the targeting of Ahmed Jabari, variously described as Hamas’s “chief of staff,” its military chief in the Gaza Strip, or simply as “The General” (http://is.gd/aNXkau)
Hamas responded with short and long range rocket fire against Israeli civilians, and is declaring “open warfare” (http://is.gd/v8HlxS).
Who was Ahmed Jabari?
  • Was born in 1960, arrested in 1982, and spent 13 years in prison. He was imprisoned again by the Preventive Security Force of the Palestinian Authority in 1998 (http://is.gd/Hzy4B6)
  • After leaving prison rose quickly through Hamas’s ranks. He took control of the group’s military wing, al-Qassam Brigades, in 2002
  • ‘Professionalized’ Hamas’s warfare campaigns against Israel. Israeli officials linked him “over the past decade for all anti-Israel terror activity emanating from the [Gaza] Strip” (http://is.gd/qCVCd5) and Israeli military intelligence linked him to dozens of specific attacks (http://is.gd/Hzy4B6). Rocket attacks ordered by Jabari have been directly responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis (http://is.gd/I1tQ0E)
  • Organized and oversaw Hamas’s suicide bombing campaign against Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada in the early 2000’s
  • Organized and oversaw Hamas’s coup of the Gaza Strip in 2007, expelling Fatah and targeting civilian Fatah supporters in what human rights groups described as “war crimes” (http://is.gd/ZIZAo9)
  • Organized and oversaw kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (http://is.gd/I8MUkN). He personally delivered Shalit to the Egyptians when Shalit was traded for the release of Palestinian terrorists (http://is.gd/AXiv16). Upon Shalit release boasted to Arabic media that the Palestinians released as part of the deal were collectively responsible for the killing of 569 Israeli civilians (http://is.gd/yHCPum)
  • Was committed to further warfare against Israel. In October 2011 he committed to personally overseeing additional attacks and kidnappings against Israelis (http://is.gd/4SNq5V). In 2010 that “With the power of faith, weapons and missiles, tunnels and commandos we will achieve victory for Palestine and we'll end the occupation in Gaza too” (http://is.gd/GSmbi6). In 2006 he was filmed advocating jihad in order to “liberate… Jerusalem, and tomorrow the West Bank, and then Haifa, Jafffa, and Tel Aviv” (http://is.gd/s9t5CG
Hamas is behind the most recent escalation. The group hasn’t been bashful about being responsible for the recent escalation, celebrating it on Hamas media outlets. Hamas has been consistently “celebrating” warfare against Israel for at least a year.
  • Hamas has claimed responsibility for the rocket escalation through its own website (http://is.gd/fd188b) and according to Arabic media (http://is.gd/az95nR) and US media (http://is.gd/hHG1dH).
  • Hamas also claimed explicit responsibility for rocket attacks throughout October (http://is.gd/rxq1Wghttp://is.gd/8mcXyO & http://is.gd/Gf3rJp & http://is.gd/C7oVNy). The group has been claiming responsibility for resumed rocket attacks as far back as summer 2012 (http://is.gd/ILZvpO)
  • The Monday before the operation Hamas’s Arabic website issued a statement celebrating “the fall of several Grad rockets… causing panic and destruction of homes” and boasting that “residents of communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip in the occupied Negev spent the night in fear near protected areas” (http://is.gd/jpRFtN via Google Translate)
  • In October 2012 Hamas “began a week-long celebration to mark the anniversary” and vowed to capture more Israeli soldiers (http://is.gd/n537JV)  
  • In June 2012 Hamas “celebrated” the Muslim Brotherhood victory in Egypt by firing rockets and mortars at Gaza (http://is.gd/whtAG0)  
  • In March 2012 the group celebrated the 10th anniversary of a mass suicide bombing, with Hamas leaders celebrating the operation for “kill[ing] 36 Zionists and injur[ing] more than 150 Zionists” (http://is.gd/Cgm93m)  
  • A December 2011 celebration on Hamas’s anniversary saw the group “reassert[ing] vows never to recognize Israel or abandon violence” (http://is.gd/nzYo50 & video: http://is.gd/ztNP8m).
  • Hamas has militarized civilian installations in the Gaza Strip over the last few months, including mosques, in anticipation of a potential ground war (http://is.gd/Ope49S). During the previous war in the Gaza Strip the group militarized zoos, schools, and homes (http://is.gd/LqOF3z & http://is.gd/xR3e51http://is.gd/EYXYpo). Hamas also used Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as a military base (http://is.gd/cQ4gLp).

Part of the escalation has seen Hamas and Hamas-led groups firing MORE weapons at Israeli civilians. Stopping the rocket fire is the critical goal of the Israeli operation
  • Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched a massive terror attack against Israel over the weekend of Nov 10-12 2012, shelling Israeli towns with over 87 rockets and mortars in 24 hours. These attacks – the largest barrage from Gaza since the end of June 2012, when more than 80 rockets were fired over four days – struck communities in the south of Israel, including a children's petting zoo.
  • At the start of 2012, more than one million Israelis live within range of rocket and mortar attacks. As of November 2012, the number of rockets and mortars fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza for 2012 stood at more than 900, compared to a total of 653 for the whole of 2011, and 238 for all of 2010. On October 23-24 2012, at least 82 rockets, including direct hits to homes, were fired from Gaza into southern Israel.
The other aspect of the escalation is that Hamas has begun using MORE ADVANCED weapons and has stockpiled ones that are even more advanced. Degrading these more advanced weapons is a critical goal of the Israeli operation
  • Palestinians used an advanced anti-tank missile against an Israeli jeep, wounding four including two critically (http://is.gd/QUaHOn)
  • In October Palestinians fired an anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli helicopter (http://is.gd/VNRRdp & video: http://is.gd/17pnpO)
  • The IDF specifically targeted advanced Fajr 5 missiles that had been smuggled from Iran, have a range of 75 km, and can attack targets beyond Tel Aviv. Hamas had stockpiled them. The IDF released via new media channels a video showing Hamas operatives unloading Fajr 5’s (http://is.gd/5HcQ6d)

What is Hamas?
  • Iran-backed terror organization (State Dept: http://is.gd/Up40bE) that seized control of the Gaza Strip in a bloody 2007 coup (http://is.gd/hOKdMj). It dissolved government institutions looking to the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah and systematically eradicated institutions and often individuals supporting its rival Fatah in the Gaza Strip.
  • The group’s hardline ethos advocates fighting Jews in order to create an Islamic Palestinian state in place of what is currently Israel. The Hamas charter states: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them” (http://is.gd/eYObQ7) and the group – including Jabari – regularly resorts to genocidal anti-Semitic rhetoric.
  • Since Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007, they have turned the area into a launching pad from which it fires rockets, missiles and, mortars. At the start of 2012, more than 950,000 Israelis live within range of rocket and mortar attacks, and are continuously forced to seek shelter from the attacks from Gaza. As of November 13, before the launch of Operation Pillar of Defense, 858 rockets and mortars had hit Israel in 2012 (http://is.gd/17lvI9)
  • Amnesty International has called on Hamas to “publicly renounce its policy of unlawful attacks against civilian population centers in Israel” (http://is.gd/lpMWdo). The UN has declared that Hamas’ explicit intention of targeting Israeli civilians is a violation of international law (http://is.gd/bOA3HA)

Israel Enters Ceasefire after Substantially Degrading Hamas Command & Control Infrastructure
In the course of a week, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) accumulated significant gains against terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

Israel will several measures of success including: the elimination of senior terrorist commanders and operatives; the severe blow dealt to the terrorists' long-range rocket arsenal and other aspects of their military-terrorist infrastructure; Israeli public opinion, which overwhelmingly supports the IDF’s actions; and the support and understanding Israel is receiving from the international community.

Some 85 percent of Israelis polled believe launching Operation Pillar of Defense was the correct decision, and more than two-thirds prefer that it continue, either with airstrikes and/or a ground campaign.(http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=292597)

High-Value Targets Eliminated

During Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF has targeted and killed senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commanders and operatives throughout Gaza.

1.       On November 19, the IDF targeted a building housing offices of satellite TV channels affiliated with Hamas and PIJ killing Ramiz Harb, head of propaganda for PIJ; Baha Abu al-Ata, Commander, PIJ Gaza City Brigade; Tissir Mahmoud Mahmedd Jabari, senior PIJ operative; and Halil Batini, senior PIJ operative in charge of long-range rocket operations. (http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+and+Islamic+Fundamentalism-/Operation_Pillar_of_Defense_Nov_2012-IDF_updates.htm)
The IDF also targeted senior Hamas operative Muhammad Shamlakh, who commanded Hamas terrorist activity in the southern Gaza Strip. Shamlakh was driving in a car with “TV” marked on its hood. (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20428) This is not the first time Palestinian terrorists exploited media cover for their terror activity. In June 2007, a joint PIJ-Fatah squad used a jeep marked “TV” as camouflage for an attack on an IDF patrol along the Gaza-Israel border. During the December 2008-January 2009 Israel-Hamas conflict, terrorists launched rockets at Israel from underneath buildings in Gaza used by foreign press. (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/18335)

2.       On November 17, the IDF targeted and killed an unidentified senior Hamas member responsible for weapons smuggling and Mohammad Kaleb, a senior member of Hamas's air defense unit. (http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+and+Islamic+Fundamentalism-/Operation_Pillar_of_Defense_Nov_2012-IDF_updates.htm)

3.       On November 16, the IDF targeted and killed Muhammad Abu-Jalal, a senior Hamas commander, and Khaled Shah'yer, a senior Hamas operative involved in rocket-launching activity. (http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+and+Islamic+Fundamentalism-/Operation_Pillar_of_Defense_Nov_2012-IDF_updates.htm)

4.       On November 14, the IDF targeted and killed Ahmad Jabari, Leader of Izzadin al-Qassem Brigades, Hamas' military wing, and an unidentified assistant. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324735104578118783342993080.html)

5.       As of November 20, some 30 total Hamas and PIJ operatives had been killed in IDF attacks. (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20426


Damage to Terrorist Infrastructure

1.       As of November 20, the IDF had struck more than 1,350 terror sites throughout the Gaza Strip.

2.       IDF targets have included weapons-smuggling tunnels, underground rocket-launchers, active rocket-launching squads, weapons caches and other ammunition storage facilities, terrorist training bases, terrorists’ homes, and Hamas command and control infrastructure, including Hamas political headquarters, the Interior Ministry, and police facilities. (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20426;http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20427http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+and+Islamic+Fundamentalism-/Operation_Pillar_of_Defense_Nov_2012-IDF_updates.htm)

3.       Israel’s attacks have severely deteriorated Hamas's rocket-launch capability and disrupted Hamas operations and communications infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+and+Islamic+Fundamentalism-/Operation_Pillar_of_Defense_Nov_2012-IDF_updates.htm


Iron Dome Success May Reshape Region
In the course of a week, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has gained confidence in the unprecedented effectiveness of Iron Dome, the Israel-developed and U.S.-funded ground-based rocket-defense system. 

1.       As of November 20, over 1,000 rockets had been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, one-tenth of which landed in Gaza or the Mediterranean Sea. (http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/14/live-updates-idf-terror-targets-gaza)

2.       Approximately 350 rockets have been intercepted by Iron Dome. Israel does not attempt to intercept all rockets fired from Gaza but, rather, only those predicted to land in civilian-populated areas. . (http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/14/live-updates-idf-terror-targets-gaza)

3.       The PIJ claimed responsibility for a November 15 Fajr-5 rocket attack targeting Tel Aviv. Hamas claimed responsibility for two November 18 rocket attacks targeting Tel Aviv and a November 16 rocket fired at Jerusalem. (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20427)

4.       As of 1pm local time on November 19, a total of six long-range rockets have been fired at Tel Avivhttp://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20427.

5.       Other Palestinian terrorist organizations also have claimed credit for rocket attacks, including the PRC, DFLP, PFLP, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and global jihadist groups. (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20426http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20427)

The Israel Project  is a non-profit educational organization that provides factual information about Israel and the Middle East to the press, policy makers and the public.


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