IDF activities in the past 24 hours
During the past 24 hours the ground operation continued, with increased friction between the IDF and Hamas operatives. Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades terrorist operatives employ a battle strategy which avoids direct confrontation with IDF forces. They attempt to channel the soldiers into the heart of urban and refugee camp areas which they regard as the focal points for fighting the IDF, exploiting civilians as human shields. 1 The IDF's advance is slow, measured and controlled. Hamas has shown resistance and continues firing mortar shells from close proximity to residential dwellings in an attempt to draw the soldiers into built-up areas. During the ground operation the IDF has killed scores of armed terrorists, while casualties have been caused to the civilian population in areas where Hamas operatives are fighting.
IDF soldiers fighting in the Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, January 6, 2009).
Soldiers killed by friendly fire
The ground operation necessitates the combined action of the infantry, which fights within a complex, densely-populated, built-up area, accompanied by Israeli Air Force aircraft and artillery and tank support. In two instances, the proximity of the IDF forces to the sources of Hamas fire led to IDF tanks firing on IDF soldiers (Data from the IDF Spokesman):
A tank shell hits an IDF infantry force (Golani) :
On the evening of January 4 a shell was mistakenly fired at an area where IDF soldiers were fighting terrorist operatives. The shell hit an abandoned building with a Golani force positioned inside and the building collapsed, killing three IDF soldiers. Another soldier was mortally wounded and three more were critically injured, while 20 were slightly to moderately wounded. Those killed were Major Dagan Vertman , 32, from Maaleh Michmas; Sergeant Nitai Stern , 21, from Jerusalem; and Corporal Yusuf Muadi , 19, from Haifa.
The wounded received primary medical care on the scene and were later evacuated by helicopter and ambulance under heavy IDF artillery cover to hospitals in Israel . Golani Brigade commander Colonel Avi Peled, who was slightly wounded, directed the evacuation, calling for artillery backup and support from fighter planes.
A tank shell was mistakenly fired, hitting a building with a paratrooper officer inside, Captain Yehonatan Netanel , 26, from Kedumim.
IDF friendly fire casualties
Major Dagan Vertman, Sergeant Nitai Stern, Corporal Yusuf Muadi, Captain Yehonatan Netanel
(IDF Spokesman, January 6, 2009).
Later the same night five soldiers were slightly wounded by Hamas fire. During the ground operation five officers and soldiers have been killed, and several dozen have been wounded.
Air Force and Navy activities
During the past 24 hours IAF planes attacked dozens of tunnels along the Egyptian-Gaza border. The tunnels belonged to Hamas and served for smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip. The IAF also continued supporting the ground forces. They attacked armed terrorists in close proximity to IDF forces and launching areas where armed terrorists were organizing to fire at soldiers. Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF has attacked 950 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip in 1,100 plane and attack helicopter sorties.
Among the targets attacked were Hamas headquarters, sites for manufacturing and storing weapons, the terrorist infrastructure (training camps, police buildings, etc.) and rocket launching sites. In one instance, in a joint IDF-Israel Security Agency action, IAF planes attacked a building in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Ayman Siam , head of Hamas's rocket network, was in the building. Siam was one of the founders of the rocket network and commander of all of Hamas's Gaza Strip artillery.
At least 130 Hamas terrorists were killed during the last two days of fighting, according to reports from the forces fighting in the ground operation. In addition, more than 120 terrorists were detained and brought in for interrogation (IDF Spokesman, January 6, 2009 ). However, because of the massive use made by the terrorists of civilians as human shields, there are liable to be more civilian casualties as the fighting continues in built-up areas, as in fact occurred. So far more than 550 Palestinians have been killed and about 2,500 have been wounded. Most of those killed were terrorist operatives. The UN coordinator for humanitarian affairs noted that about 25% of those killed were reportedly civilians (Al-Jazeera TV, January 6, 2009 ).
Using civilians as human shields in fighting in the northern Gaza Strip
Hamas customarily makes extensive use of civilians as human shields. It situates its military facilities and terrorist operatives in civilian houses and public institutions, and wages fighting from densely populated areas. Initial reports from the fighting arena indicate that Hamas has used the human shield tactic during the current fighting. In addition, they have forced civilians not to abandon their houses and prevented them from escaping to the south. Hamas also tries to collect the flyers dropped by Israel to prevent residents from evacuating their houses.
Mortar Shell Fire from Within a Populated Area
(Al-Aqsa TV, January 6)
Click for video
Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire
Rocket fire into Israeli territory continues at the rate of several dozen hits a day. During the past 24 hours 25 rockets landed in Israeli territory, four of them 122mm Grad rockets; seven mortar shells also hit. A number of rockets fell in the cities of Ashqelon , Ashdod and Sderot, and in other Negev towns and villages. About ten civilians were treated for shock. Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, 350 rockets and 129 mortar shells have landed in Israel ; mortar shells are also fired at the IDF forces operating in the Gaza Strip.
At 1530 hours, a long-range rockets fell in the center of the city of Ashdod on a kindergarten , causing extensive property damage. Several civilians were treated for shock but there were no injuries, because according to Home Front Command orders, educational institutions in Ashdod are closed. A number of nearby buildings were also damaged, one of them a synagogue.
Left: Removing a rocket from a soccer field in a regional council near the Gaza Strip (Zeev Trachtman, January 5, 2009). Right: A bombed-out kindergarten in the city of Ashdod (Yossi Landau, photo courtesy of the ZAKA spokesman, January 6).
Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired at Israel during Operation Cast Lead
Delivering humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip
Deliveries of humanitarian aid continue
On January 5 Israel delivered 49 trucks through the Kerem Shalom crossing. Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, 450 trucks carrying humanitarian aid have entered the Gaza Strip. On January 6, 82 trucks entered. Distributing the aid to the Palestinians is delayed because of problems on the Palestinian side.
Humanitarian aid delivered to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing,
January 5 (IDF Spokesman, January 5, 2009).
Deliveries of humanitarian aid through the Rafah crossing
On January 5 the Rafah crossing was opened. Through it passed:
Twenty wounded Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to Egypt .
A convoy of 12 tons of aid from Saudi Arabia .
A convoy from Qatar .
A convoy from Malaysia .
A convoy from Turkey ( Egypt did not permit the entrance of two additional Turkish convoys).
On January 5 more humanitarian aid arrived in Egypt which is expected to be delivered to the Gaza Strip. Turkey , Jordan , Saudi Arabia , Libya and Qatar sent planes with humanitarian aid for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The following countries are also expected to send aid:
Lebanon : Al-Manar TV announced that a Lebanese plane had landed in Jordan carrying 20 tons of equipment for the Palestinians.
India : India will send a million dollars worth of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
Egypt : On January 5 Egypt sent ten trucks through the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Sweden : Sweden will contribute $1.3 million to the UN fund for Gaza Strip relief.
The governor of the Sinai district confirmed that the Rafah crossing would remain open to the passage of Palestinians with humanitarian problems. In addition, trucks have entered the Gaza Strip with food and medicine (Middle East News Agency, January 5). At the same time, Egypt is taking security measures along its Gazan border. On January 5 the Egyptian security forces detained 22 Palestinians who had infiltrated into Egypt .
Humanitarian Problems in the Gaza Strip Worsen
Recently, the humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip worsened as a result of the fighting and Hamas administration's dysfunction. Blackouts have been reported throughout the Gaza Strip resulting from the collapse of power lines. Kanaan Abaid, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority, claimed it was impossible to send teams to fix power failure because of the attendant danger (Filastin al-Yawm, January 4). The local authorities reportedly do not function, garbage is not collected and the basic infrastructure is not repaired. In addition, there is a lack of goods usually smuggled in from Egypt because the tunnels have been bombed by the IDF.
Contacts between Egypt and Hamas to Stop the Fighting
On January 5 a delegation of Hamas representatives from both the Damascus and Gaza leadership arrived in Cairo for talks, at Egypt 's request. It included Imad al-Alami and Mahmoud Nasser from Damascus , and Iman Taha and Jamal Abu Hashem from the Gaza Strip.
Regarding the delegation to Egypt , Musa Abu Marzuq , deputy head of Hamas' political bureau in Damascus , said a ceasefire would have to relate to the following three issues (Quds Press Agency, January 5):
A mutual cease fire : first Israel would end the IDF action in the Gaza Strip, and after that rocket fire would stop.
An IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
An opening of all the Gaza Strip crossings.
Egyptian foreign minister Abu el-Gheit called on all the Palestinian organizations to hold an urgent meeting in Cairo to reach an agreement about ways of dealing with Israel . He added that Egypt was in contact with Israel about opening the Rafah crossing for delivering food to the Gaza Strip, but that it was not the time to open the Rafah crossing permanently (Radio Sawa, January 4).
Interviewed by Al-Arabiya TV on January 5, El-Gheit noted the following:
The ceasefire would require Israel to stop its activities in the Gaza Strip and withdraw, in return for which Hamas and the other organizations would stop firing rockets.
The Rafah crossing would open for the delivery of medicine and medical equipment to the Gaza Strip, and anyone who was skeptical could "go to the crossing and see for himself.” He also said that the November 2005 crossings agreement was to be implemented and that the European delegation (which had visited Egypt ) expressed its willingness to send additional inspectors.
Stationing international inspection forces in the Gaza Strip had been suggested. Its role would be to prove that there was no rocket fire or other provocation from the Palestinian side, and to oversee the opening and closing of the crossings.
As to the tunnels , he said that " Egypt is doing everything it can to take control of them.”
Disruptions in Hamas's Propaganda Apparatus
Disruptions continue in the functioning of Hamas's propaganda apparatus. The Palestine-info website, its main portal, could not be accessed on January 6. The Hamas newspapers, Felesteen and Al-Risala , have stopped publication. Al-Aqsa TV 's website operates only partially. On the other hand, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website could be accessed as of January 6 after several days of inactivity. According to its homepage, it was attacked by "Zionist hackers” as part of Israel 's "propaganda war.”
Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV, which broadcasts anti-Israeli and anti-Western propaganda and incitement, announced it would begin transmitting via the European Eurobird satellite. The corporation running the satellite company has its main offices in Paris 2 (an Information Bulletin will shortly be posted).
Al-Jazeera TV continues providing strategic support for Hamas's faltering propaganda apparatus. It broadcasts Al-Aqsa TV videos and provides a platform for Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida. It continues extensively broadcasting pictures of the bodies of women and children, reports only on civilian casualties (ignoring those of terrorist operatives), and broadcasts emotional protest demonstrations from the Muslim world. It also broadcasts Hamas's lies regarding the "blow” the "resistance” (i.e., the terrorist organizations) has dealt to the IDF, which it claims "slaughters civilians” and does not achieve anything by its military action.
Abu Obeida on Al-Aqsa TV, rebroadcast via Al-Jazeera TV (Al-Jazeera TV, January 6, 2009).
Middle East Reactions
During the ground action as well, the Hamas heads and spokesmen continue calling for rocket fire and attacks on Israeli civilians:
Mahmoud al-Zahar praised the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades for "sacrificing themselves for the sake of Allah.” He said that the mission was "to build a world without Zionists, oppression and aggression.” He said that the IDF's ground attack had given Hamas justification for attacking hospitals, ambulances and synagogues, and to kill both men and women . (Al-Aqsa TV, January 5, 2009 ).
In a written statement issued by Iran 's Fars News Agency, Ismail Haniya said that Israel 's ground incursion would fail exactly as its aerial attack had because of "the determination of the Palestinian people.” He criticized the UN Security Council for supporting Israel (Fars News Agency, January 5, 2009 ).
Islam Shawan , spokesman for the Hamas administration's interior ministry, said that policemen in the Gaza Strip were on high alert to protect the "internal front” from the IDF's action in the Gaza Strip. He said the police on the ground were wearing civilian clothing to prevent IDF forces from identifying them (Radio Sawt al-Aqsa, January 5, 2009 ). 3
Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah continues encouraging the Palestinians with daily speeches, while avoiding any commitment to help. On January 5 he made no reference to the IDF ground operation, but did appeal to the Arab world to pray for the victory of the "resistance” in Gaza . Sheikh Nabil Qaouk , Hezbollah figure responsible for the south Lebanon sector, said that in view of information regarding concentrations of Israeli forces in the north, Hezbollah forces in south Lebanon were "careful and alert” (Lebanese News Agency, January 5, 2009). In Lebanon , protest and solidarity rallies with the residents of the Gaza Strip continue.
Iranian parliament chairman Larijani claimed that the Israelis were behaving "worse than the Nazis,” and that although Israel had started the ground operation in the Gaza Strip, it could not determine how it would end (Mehr News Agency, January 5, 2009 ).
Iranian foreign minister Mottaki criticized the Arab countries and the UN Security Council for their silence. He said that the fact that they did not take serious steps had made it possible for Israel to enter the Gaza Strip (Press TV, January 4, 2009 ).
The United States
American President George Bush said he understood Israel 's desire to defend itself and that Hamas had caused the situation in the Gaza Strip. He added that instead of taking care of the Gazans, Hamas had chosen to use the Gaza Strip to fire rockets into Israel . He also said that he wanted a ceasefire, but not at the cost of an agreement which would not prevent a return of the current crisis. The international community, he said, had to deal with Hamas, and that any future ceasefire would require an assurance that Hamas would not use the Gaza Strip as a launching pad for rockets against Israel (CNN, January 5, 2009 ).
Referring to the fighting in the Gaza Strip for the first time, American president-elect Barack Obama said he was "deeply worried” by the situation, but noted that there was a president in office and therefore he would not interfere in "sensitive” deliberations of the Bush administration. However, he also noted that he was being updated on the situation daily and was in contact with the heads of the current administration regarding the issue (Ynet, January 5, 2009 ).
A spokesman for the American State Department said that the United States , in cooperation with European countries, was trying to put together a three-stage mechanism for ending the fighting: ending the fire against Israel , opening the crossings and stopping the smuggling . A White House spokesman said that Israel had to ensure that the number of civilian casualties was minimal (AP, January 5, 2009 ).
European statesmen are actively working to end the fighting as soon as possible:
French president Nicholas Sarkozy visited Egypt , Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He called for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the fighting in Gaza . He said that Hamas had been irresponsible and could not be forgiven, and that it was guilty of the suffering of the Palestinians. In addition, he called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. He also said that moderate Arab regimes, especially Egypt , had to be strengthened.
The Czech foreign minister , representing the Presidency of the European Union, said that a ceasefire had to be reached as soon as possible, even before Israel had completed its military objectives. He said no logical negotiations could be held between Israel and the Palestinians while the fighting was still going on (CNN, January 5, 2009 ). He also stated that the EU had a plan to stop the fighting, but first it had to consult with the sides involved, both directly and indirectly (Agence France Presse, January 5, 2009 ).
1 For a comprehensive study see out 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 .
2 According to Hamas's PALDF Forum, January 5, Al-Aqsa TV has begin broadcasting via the European communications satellite Eurobird (frequency 11766 and/or 10873/27500 V. An examination proved the truth of the statement. For further information see our January 6, 2009 Bulletin entitled " Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV broadcasts via a European satellite operated by a corporation whose head offices are in Paris .”
3 Terrorist operatives often fight in civilian clothing instead of uniforms to be able to blend in better with the local population and to make it difficult for IDF soldiers to fight, even if by doing so the terrorists cause real civilians to be harmed.