Operation Cast Lead Update No. 9

Issued on: 07/01/2009 Type: Article

IDF soldiers resting on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip  

A pause in the fighting for a "humanitarian corridor.”

IDF soldiers resting on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip (Photograph by Yossi Aloni, printed courtesy of NRG, January 7, 2009).


A pause in the fighting for a "humanitarian corridor.” A Palestinian carrying a sack of flour from an UNRWA warehouse (Muhammad Salem for Reuters, January 7, 2009).

IDF activities in the past 24 hours

Ground activity

 On January 6 the ground operation in the Gaza Strip continued for the third day with increased friction between the IDF and terrorist operatives. Hamas still avoids extensive direct confrontation with the IDF, employing tactics such as dispatching suicide bombers, firing mortar shells, using snipers and detonating IEDs (IDF Spokesman, January 7, 2009).

 Operatives belonging to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations gather in populated centers to draw the IDF forces into the heart of densely built-up areas and to wage the main battle from there. A prominent incident was the unintentional killing of about 40 civilians in an UNRWA school in Jabaliya, when mortar shells were fired at IDF forces from nearby (See Appendix I ).

 The main events of the past 24 hours were the following:

 An IDF soldier was killed in an encounter with a terrorist squad : During a joint infantry and combat engineering corps search operation in northern Gaza City terrorists opened fire, killing Staff Sergeant Alexander Mashavisky, a combat engineering fighter, 21, from Beersheba. Four soldiers were slightly wounded. The force returned fire, killing the terrorists.

Staff Sergeant Alexander Mashavisky
Staff Sergeant Alexander Mashavisky (IDF Spokesman)

 A suicide bomber was killed : A paratrooper force operating in the northern Gaza Strip shot at an advancing suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt. The IDF fire detonated the belt, causing an explosion which slightly injured one soldier. Using male and female suicide bombers to attack Israeli soldiers is part of Hamas's battle tactics.

 Tunnels for abducting soldiers were exposed : A paratrooper force prevented an attempt to abduct soldiers in the Atatra area of the northern Gaza Strip. The force identified a trap disguised as a mannequin.

 Weapons were exposed : The IDF forces uncovered many weapons stores in the northern Gaza Strip, including rockets ready for firing and wreath arrangements of IEDs ready for use, which were detonated by explosives experts.

Air Force activities

 The Israeli Air Force continued attacking targets in the Gaza Strip. Among those attacked during the past 24 hours were eight tunnels used to smuggle weapons, more than ten concentrations of armed terrorists, about 16 locations for manufacturing and storing weapons and five rocket launching areas. Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead the IDF has attacked about 1,300 targets in the Gaza Strip in about 1,500 airplane and combat helicopter sorties.

IDF casualties in the ground operation

 During the past 24 hours one IDF soldier was killed and four were slightly wounded in a ground operation in the northern Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the ground action six Israeli officers and soldiers have been killed and dozens wounded, some of them seriously. Hamas continues to boast of actions it never carried out and to lie about the number of IDF soldiers killed. 1

Palestinian casualties in the ground operations

 Since the beginning of the ground operations, according to primary assessments of IDF commanders in the field, the IDF has killed more than 170 terrorist operatives. More than 135 suspected terrorists have been detained and taken for interrogation (IDF Spokesman, January 7). In addition, scores of civilians have been killed in densely populated residential areas from which Hamas and the other terrorist organizations attack the IDF.

Rare Picture of Terrorist Operative Killed by the IDF

Rare Picture of Terrorist Operative Killed by the IDF

A rare picture of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades terrorist operative Muhammad Ibrahim Abu Shaar, killed on January 6. Left: Abu Shaar wearing the uniform of the Palestinian police. Right: Abu Shaar’s body with a headband inscribed "al-Qassam Brigades.” According to the Hamas forum, he was an operative in its artillery unit (Hamas’s PALDF Forum, January 6, 2009). In recent days Hamas has avoided reporting the deaths of its operatives and has even instructed that they be buried without a funeral.

Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire into Israeli Territory

 Extensive daily rocket and mortar shell fire into Israel remains constant. During the past 24 hours 22 rockets landed in Israel , five of them 122mm Grad rockets. Six mortar shells landed as well. Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, 372 rocket and 135 mortar shells have hit Israeli territory. Mortar shells were also fired at the IDF forces operating in the Gaza Strip.

 On January 6 a 122mm Grad rocket fell in the city of Gadera , 40 kilometers (almost 25 miles ) from the Gaza Strip, exploding close to a residential dwelling. A three-month old baby girl was slightly wounded, and several people went into shock. Rockets also fell in open areas around the cities of Beersheba , Sderot and several towns and villages in the Negev , sending a number of people into shock.

Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired at Israel during Operation Cast Lead 

Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired at Israel during Operation Cast Lead

Humanitarian Aid Delivered into the Gaza Strip


Humanitarian corridor opened

 On January 7 Israel instituted a three-hour lull in the fighting to operate a humanitarian corridor for deliveries to the Gaza Strip. Between 1300 and 1600 hours IDF forces engaged in defensive actions only , and air and naval strikes were suspended. The lull made it possible to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip (an almost daily occurrence since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead) and to enable civilians to stock up on food and other basic necessities.

 Seventy-eight trucks carrying humanitarian aid passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing and 400,000 liters (almost 106,000 gallons ) of fuel were delivered through the Nahal Oz crossing. The lull was coordinated with the relief agencies operating in the Gaza Strip and commercial elements in the Strip were notified. Civilians could be seen leaving their houses to stock up. The opening of the humanitarian corridor may be repeated, depending on security assessments and the situation on the ground.

Hamas Attempts to Disrupt the Humanitarian Corridor

 Hamas, which wants to market Gaza 's humanitarian problems to the world, tried to disrupt the temporary lull. Its operatives told the Gazans that it was an Israeli "plot” and warned them not to go outside because Israelis would shoot and kill them. When they did leave their houses to stock up on necessities, Hamas spread false reports of Israeli gunfire and Palestinian casualties. At the same time, Hamas did not respect the ceasefire and continued attacking IDF forces throughout the lull. In one instance, during the hiatus, a rocket was even fired at Ashqelon .

 The Hamas media completely ignored the lull. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that it was an Israeli attempt to whitewash its crime against the Gazans and to improve its image (Al-Jazeera TV, January 7).

Total of supplies delivered to the Gaza Strip

 Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, 586 trucks carrying humanitarian aid have entered the Gaza Strip. On January 6, 57 trucks passed through the Kerem Shalom and Nahal Oz crossings. On January 7, 78 trucks passed through. On January 6 diesel fuel was delivered for the Gaza City power station.

Humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip
Humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip,
January 6 (IDF Spokesman, January 6, 2009).

Humanitarian aid delivered through the Rafah crossing

 On January 6 the Rafah crossing remained open for the passage of wounded Palestinians into Egypt and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Ten tons of medicine and medical equipment from Turkey , the Red Crescent and an Egypt NGO were delivered. Other humanitarian aid included:

•  Iraq : The Iraqi government sent two planes of medical equipment and drugs via Jordan .

•  Jordan : Jordan continued its daily convoy of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

•  Saudi Arabia : Saudi Arabia received a third group of wounded Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. In addition, the directorate of the Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds funds of the Islamic Development Bank announced they were launching an emergency program of $25 million in support of the residents of the Gaza Strip.

 Concurrently, Egyptian security operations continue along the Egyptian-Gazan border. On January 6 NBC reported that American Engineer Corps officers were aiding the Egyptian security forces to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels.

The humanitarian difficulties in the Gaza Strip worsen

 In the past few days the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has worsened as a result of the fighting waged by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in densely-populated areas and of the dysfunction of the Hamas administration , which has gone underground and proved itself incapable of providing solutions for the difficulties facing the Gazans. However, the worsening situation serves Hamas's propaganda machine, which holds the civilians captive and regards their suffering as a means of exerting pressure on Israel .

 Some of the problems the Gazans have to cope with are the following:

•  Health : Medicines and medical supplies enter the Gaza Strip on a regular basis, but there is a shortage of sophisticated equipment, such as the type necessary for operating rooms and advanced procedures. The health system is overburdened by the many wounded, and the medical teams face mobility problems. The UN coordinator for humanitarian issues in the Gaza Strip reported that ambulances and doctors find it difficult to reach the wounded. He added that UNRWA and Israel were cooperating closely, saying they needed "a humanitarian breathing space” (UN website, January 6, 2009).

•  Electricity : Interruptions have been experienced in sending electricity from Israel to the Gaza Strip. The power plant in Gaza has been inactive since December 30, 2008. There is also a shortage of diesel fuel for civilian generators, although it has been delivered to the relief agencies.

•  Water : The lack of electricity disrupts the water supply and the operation of the sewage system. IDF attacks have damaged pipelines, and UNRWA reported that about 60,000 Gazans do not have access to clean water.

•  Fuel : On January 6, 120 tons of cooking gas were delivered through the Nahal Oz terminal. However, bakeries (whose ovens use gas) are reportedly closing and civilians' personal canisters are reportedly empty.

•  Food supplies : Food supplies continue to enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings, but there are difficulties in bringing them to distribution points and delivering them to the Gazans. Reports continue that Hamas commandeers the humanitarian aid for its own purposes, even selling it.

Contacts to Stop the Fighting


 Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian general intelligence, and his aides held talks with the Hamas delegation to Cairo . The Egyptians updated the Palestinians on the results of their contacts with the international community and called on Hamas to be quick about agreeing to a ceasefire (Middle East News Agency, Palestinian News Network website, January 6, 2009).

 "A reliable Egyptian source” told an Al-Hayat correspondent that Omar Suleiman asked Hamas to lower its demands and not hold out for what it couldn't achieve "before it is too late.” The source added that Egypt had presented the Hamas delegation with demands for a ceasefire, an unconditional lull in the fighting and the establishment of a national unity government. He said that " Israel will never withdraw its forces unless there is a comprehensive agreement which will ensure its security and an end to the rocket fire.” He noted that Muhammad Nasr and Imad al-Alami, two members of the Hamas delegation, promised to transmit the Egyptian proposals to Hamas's political bureau in Damascus for review (Al-Hayat, January 7, 2009).

 Hamas spokesmen Musa Abu Marzuq and Muhammad Nasr (who had participated in the talks with Omar Suleiman) publicly stated Hamas's intransigent position : an immediate end to the IDF action in the Gaza Strip, the withdrawal of the Israeli forces and the full opening of the Gaza Strip crossings. They did not relate to the Israeli and international demands regarding the weapons smuggling and a mechanism for implementing the arrangement. At to the Rafah crossing, Muhammad Nasr said that Hamas opposed the 2005 crossings agreement demanded by Egypt because it gave Israel full sovereignty over the crossing. However, he said, deliberations concerning its operation would continue (Musa Abu Marzuq to BBC Arabic radio, telephone interview of Muhammad Nasr to the Algerian daily Al-Shuruq Al-Yawmi, January 6, 2009).

The Egyptian initiative to stop the fighting

 Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak held a joint press conference with French president Nicholas Sarkozy, at which he presented the Egyptian initiative to stop the fighting, based on the following points (Middle East News Agency, January 6, 2009):

•  Israel and the Palestinian organizations would agree to an immediate ceasefire for a limited length of time, which would enable a secure opening of the crossings for the delivery of aid to the Gazans. The temporary ceasefire would make it possible for Egypt to continue its efforts to reach an overall cease fire.

•  Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians to determine arrangements and guarantees which end the current escalation and ensure that it would not recur . The arrangements would make it possible to deal with the issues behind the escalation, such as securing the borders (i.e., the problem of weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip) and lifting the blockade .

•  Egypt was willing to participate in deliberations concerning the arrangements with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as with the European Union and the International Quartet.

 On January 7, the 12 th day of the war, the Israeli cabinet met for an update and to discuss Israel 's military and political alternatives (extending the ground operation or adopting initiatives for a political agreement). At the end of the meeting the prime minister's office stated that " Israel is working to improve the security reality in the south of the country . Israel thanks Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and French president Nicholas Sarkozy for their efforts to advance a solution for halting terrorist actions from Gaza and smuggling war material from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Israel views as positive the dialogue between Egyptian and Israeli officials in order to advance these issues” (The Israeli Foreign Ministry, announcement from the Prime Minister's Office, January 7, 2009).

International reactions to proposals for a ceasefire

 The following were the reactions from the international community:

•  Quartet envoy Tony Blair said an immediate ceasefire was necessary, and for that to happen, there had to be a fast, determined action to stop the smuggling of weapons and money to the Gaza Strip (Reuters, January 6, 2009).

•  On January 7, the French foreign minister spoke before the Security Council and called for an end to the rocket fire, an end to the Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, an immediate "humanitarian lull,” the opening of the crossings, and end to the weapons smuggling and the positioning of an international mechanism in the Gaza Strip. Claude Guéant, Elysée secretary general , when asked about a possible dialogue with Hamas, answered that "Hamas is currently on the list of terrorist organizations and the idea of holding direct talks with it is unimaginable” (Italian news agency AKI, January 6, 2009).

•  American State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Hamas was responsible for the escalation and therefore it would have to stop its rocket fire. A ceasefire, he said, would have to be stable and capable of being upheld, and would have to include an end to the fire, the opening of the crossings and dealing with the issue of the tunnels, through which Hamas smuggled weapons into the Gaza Strip (Reuters, The American State Department website, January 6, 2009).



 Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei condemned the events in the Gaza Strip and asked the Islamic Committee to form a united front against Israel . He said that Israel had to be punished for its actions in the Gaza Strip. He also criticized what he called "the double standard” of Bush and the European governments toward the residents of the Gaza Strip ( Iran 's Fars News Agency, January 6, 2009).


 Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah told Hamas to learn from Hezbollah's experience and not surrender to Israel . He said that only the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip had the right to determine what the ceasefire would entail (Al-Manar TV, January 6, 2009). He also warned Israel against "aggression” against Lebanon , and continued with vicious propaganda against Egypt (Al-Jazeera TV, January 7, 2009).

The global jihad

 In an audio message issued on the Internet, Ayman al-Zawahiri , Osama bin Laden's deputy, encouraged the Muslims in Gaza . He called the Egyptian president a "traitor” and called on the Muslims in Egypt to continue demonstrating to support their "brothers in Gaza .” He called on all Muslims around the world to wage a jihad and threatened to avenge the blood of every Palestinian killed (Al-Faluja forum, January 6, 2009).


 Syrian president Bashar Assad told a joint press conference held with French president Nicholas Sarkozy that Israel had carried out "extensive slaughter” in the Gaza Strip and that first of all Israel had to stop its actions and withdraw. He said that what was happening in the Gaza Strip was "a war crime,” adding that the Israelis had not learned the lessons of Lebanon and that the "resistance” [i.e., the terrorist organizations] could not be dismantled (Syrian News Agency, January 6, 2009).

Egypt : hate campaign against Israel and the Jewish people

 On January 6 anti-Israeli demonstrations and rallies were held throughout Egypt , organized by most of the movements and political parties and attended by thousands. The main protest rally was held in Alexandria with 25,000 participants.

 The Egyptian press, including the establishment papers, continue vicious attacks against Israel , using terms which include "holocaust,” "collective annihilation,” and "organized annihilation.” For the first time, on January 6 the establishment daily Al-Masai printed anti-Semitic articles. One of them claimed that the "organized annihilation” currently being carried out in the Gaza Strip was "an integral part of the Biblical plan which aspires to racial destruction which would enable only the Jewish race to remain on the land of Palestine .” Another article claimed that "Palestinian blood is the blood of non-Jews, and spilling it is permitted by Zionist belief.” At the same time, the media attack the "poisonous hate campaign” being waged against Egypt and harshly criticize Iran , Syria and Hassan Nasrallah, who "trades in the blood the fallen in Gaza .”


 King Abdallah of Jordan met with radical Islamist Yussuf al-Qardawi , chairman of the Internal Union for Muslim Scholars. After the meeting he expressed hope that within a few days the Arab countries would manage to put an end to the Israeli action (Al-Jazeera TV, January 6, 2009). The king noted that Jordan was investing all its efforts and resources to bring about an end to the IDF's action and to provide a solution to the humanitarian crisis of the Palestinian people (Jordanian News Agency, January 6, 2009).

The United States

 In the daily White House news briefing, a spokesman said that a ceasefire was necessary, but that nevertheless the United States was not interested in a return to the status quo ante where Hamas was capable of attacking Israel with rockets. She also vigorously objected to the claim that the Israeli reaction had been "disproportionate,” saying that the United States as well would not stand aside if missiles were being fired at it. She added that the United States was aware that Hamas had mixed in with and was operating from within the civilian population (White House website, January 6, 2009).

Appendix I

Hamas's Use of the Civilian Population as
Human Shields Causes Casualties


 The ground incursion of the IDF forces into the Gaza Strip clearly illustrated the extensive use Hamas makes of the civilian population as human shields as part of its defensive and offensive fighting strategy. 2 IDF forces operating in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian media have reported a number updated examples.

Mortar Shell Fire from near a UNRWA Caused the
Accidental Deaths of Dozens of Civilians

 Rocket and mortar shell fire from within densely built-up civilian areas is the usual operational pattern of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. Terrorist operatives situate themselves in close proximity to residential dwelling to camouflage their rocket squads and protect them from IDF preventive actions. The strategy is a war crime .

 On January 6, 40 civilian in a UNRWA school in Jabaliya were accidentally killed by IDF fire. A preliminary investigation of the IDF forces operating in the area showed that mortar shells were apparently fired at the soldiers from within the school building . The IDF responded with mortar shell fire. Among those killed were Imad Abu Iskar and Hassan Abu Iskar , both well-known Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives (IDF Spokesman, January 6, 2009).

 Two Palestinians who live near the school said that a group of armed men fired mortar shells from a street close to the school, afterwards fleeing the scene and mingling with the crowd on the street. Only later did the IDF respond with fire. The two refused to be identified out of fear for their lives (AP, January 6, 2009).

Mortar Shell Fire at IDF Forces from the Jabaliya Refugee Camp

Mortar Shell Fire at IDF Forces from the Jabaliya Refugee Camp

A video made by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades broadcast on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV on January 6, 2009. It shows a squad of 2-3 rocket launching terrorists dressed in civilian clothing firing 120mm mortar shells [according to our information, made in Iran]. According to the sound track, the squad is operating in the Jabaliya refugee camp [the same day the incident occurred at the UNRWA school]. The squad was photographed firing mortar shells from the middle of a main street and near residential buildings. The narrator says that they are firing at the [Israeli] enemy attacking Jabal al-Kashif (an area to the north of and dominating the Jabaliya refugee camp).

Click for video

Hamas Forces Civilians to Stay at Home

 Sources in the Gaza Strip reported that despite IDF warnings to the civilian population, Hamas operatives force the Palestinians living in the northern Gaza Strip to say at home and prevent them from escaping south, away from the fighting. Moreover, Hamas operatives also tried to collect the warning notices dropped by the Israeli Air Force to prevent the Palestinians from leaving their homes (See Appendix B for an example of the flyers). Hamas's assumption is that civilian presence will limit IDF activity. At the same time, civilian residences serve the terrorist operatives as shelters and weapons storehouses.

Terrorists Fight in Civilian Clothing

 Hamas and other terrorist organization operatives customarily wear civilian clothing during battle to be able to blend into the civilian population and make it difficult for the IDF to operate, despite the high price to the civilians. Evidence can be found in the video of Hamas operatives firing from the Jabaliya refugee camp on January 6.

Al-Aqsa TV, January 6, 2009

Mortar shell launching operatives in civilian clothing firing at IDF forces from close proximity to residential buildings in the Jabaliya refugee camp (Al-Aqsa TV, January 6, 2009). The activity of terrorists wearing civilian clothing endangers the population.

 The above was verified by Islam Shawan , Hamas administration spokesman, who said that Hamas police in the Gaza Strip were on high alert to protect the "internal front” from the IDF. He said the police in the field wore civilian clothing to make it impossible for the IDF forces to identify them (Radio Sawt al-Aqsa, January 5, 2009).

Islam Shawan (Filastin al-‘An website, August 2, 2008).
Islam Shawan (Filastin al-‘An website, August 2, 2008).

Storing Weapons in Civilian Residences

 Civilian residences serve as storehouses for weapons. During IDF attacks secondary explosions were readily discernible in many locations, the result of weapons and ammunition stored there. Thus the terrorist organizations expose the civilian population to danger, despite the efforts made by the IDF to prevent civilian casualties.

Appendix II

IDF Warnings to the Civilian Population

Example of a flyer for Rafah residents 
Example of a flyer for Rafah residents (Posted on a Fatah Internet forum).

 To deal with Hamas's strategy of using civilians as human shields, during Operation Cast Lead the IDF sent a series of announcements and warnings to the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip. They were meant to limit civilian casualties in so far as possible and avoid harming those not involved in terrorism and fighting. The announcements informed the Gazans of attacks the IDF intended to carry out and instructed them to evacuate areas where there were terrorist operatives or facilities belonging to the terrorist infrastructure.

 The IDF used various methods to make sure the warnings reached the civilians, and Gazans were instructed to obey IDF warnings and to avoid friction with the terrorist organizations in the following ways:

•  Almost a million flyers were dropped from airplanes in a series of overflights in various regions of the Gaza Strip.

•  Over 150,000 attempts were made to warn civilians by telephone (tens of thousands of Gazans responded).

•  Local Hamas and other terrorist organization radio and television stations were entered and used to transmit announcements. 


Translation of flyer

To the residents of the Gaza Strip:

The IDF is going to operate against the movements and organizations which carry out terrorist attacks against the residents of the State of Israel.

The IDF will strike and destroy any structure or site where ammunition and weapons are located.

As of this announcement, the life of anyone whose house contains ammunition and weapons is in danger and he is to leave to protect his own life and those of his family. You have been warned!

Translation of telephone announcement

To the residents of the Gaza Strip:

Military announcement

The IDF is operating against the movements and organizations which carry out terrorist attacks against the residents of the State of Israel.

The IDF will strike and destroy any structure or site where ammunition and weapons are located.

As of this announcement, the life of anyone whose house contains ammunition and weapons is in danger and he is to leave to protect his own life and those of his family.

You have been warned!

Translation of radio announcement

Military announcement

The IDF is operating against the movements and organizations which carry out terrorist attacks against the residents of the State of Israel.

The IDF will strike and destroy any structure or site where ammunition and weapons are located.

As of this announcement, the life of anyone whose house contains ammunition and weapons is in danger and he is to leave to protect his own life and those of his family.

You have been warned!

1 For example, on j an 6 Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida told Al-Jazeera TV that the number of deaths of IDF soldiers was estimated at "several dozen.”

2 For further information see our January 6, 2009 Bulletin entitled "Hamas Exploitation of Civilians
as Human Shields” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e028.pdf .

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