1. At noon on Friday, November 28, 2008, during routine operations, an IDF force identified terrorist operatives laying an IED near the Gaza Strip border security fence in the region of Abasan, near Khan Yunis. A firefight developed between the terrorists and the IDF soldiers, resulting in the death of a Popular Resistance Committees operative and the wounding of four others.
2. In rapid response to the attack on the squad, at 1500 hours on November 28 the Palestinian terrorist organizations launched a massive barrage of 17 mortar shells directed at the Nahal Oz area. One rocket was also fired, which landed in an open area. Hamas claimed responsibility for most of the rockets fired (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, November 29). The Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket fire (Jerusalem Battalions website, November 29). Other terrorist organizations, such as the PRC, also claimed responsibility for the attack (Sawt al-Hak website, November 28).
3. One of the mortar shells hit an IDF base in the Nahal Oz region , wounding eight soldiers, one of them critically . It was a standard 120mm , apparently manufactured in Iran and smuggled into the Gaza Strip. In several instances such shells were used to attack Israel during the first half of 2008.1
Iranian-made 120 mm mortar shell with auxiliary motor.
Reactions from Hamas and the Other Terrorist Organizations
4. Spokesmen for the Palestinian terrorist organizations, especially Hamas, repeatedly stated that the mortar shell fire was a "legitimate” response within the equation of "responses for violations.” All the spokesmen accused Israel of responsibility for the incident, claiming that the mortar shell fire was carried out in response to Israel 's "violation” of the lull arrangement.
5. Some of the statements were the following:
i) Abu Ubeida , spokesman for Hamas's military-terrorist wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said that Israel had violated the lull. He said that from the very beginning the lull was conditional and that the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades had said that for every Israeli violation the organization had the "full right” to respond. He also said that the attack, which followed the killing of an operative, was meant to inform Israel that "the recent crime against the Palestinians which happened in east Khan Yunis will not go unpunished” (Al-Aqsa TV, November 29).
ii) Fawzi Barhoum , a senior figure in the movement, said that Hamas's response was a clear message to Israel about the organizations' "right” to react to every Israeli "violation” (Al-Qassam website, November 29).
iii) Musheir al-Masri , another senior figure, said that the lull arrangement continued and that it was Israel that had violated it. The shelling came in response to Israel 's partial invasion of the Gaza Strip and the "defense action” was part of the equation of the resistance [i.e., the Palestinian terrorist organizations] (Radio BBC, November 29).
iv) Ismail Radwan , a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said that Israel had not met its commitments to the lull arrangement, such as opening the crossings and lifting the siege [sic], and that the shelling of the IDF post was "the natural response to the crimes of the occupation” (Al-Aqsa TV, November 29).
5. Even as the heads of the terrorist organizations reiterated that the shelling was a pinpoint reaction to a specific event, they were required to comment on the extension of the lull arrangement, which, they have claimed, will expire on December 19. Abu Ubeida said that the Palestinian [terrorist] organizations would meet in the near future to decide on a united position regarding the arrangement's extension. He rejected the possibility that Egyptian mediation would have any influence on the organizations' decision, since Egypt had not been sufficiently strict in the demand that Israel meet its commitments regarding the agreement (Pal-today website, November 29). Senior PIJ figures said they doubted it was possible to extend the lull arrangement with Israel , because Israel did not meet its commitments (Al-Hayat, November 29).
Conclusion: the Erosion of the Lull Arrangement Continues
6. The mortar shell attack on the IDF base at Nahal Oz is another in the series which began on November 4 with the prevention of an abduction through a tunnel under the Gaza Strip border security fence. Since then, the following dynamic has been created: the Palestinian terrorist organizations try to carry out attacks (IEDs, rocket and mortar shell fire), the IDF acts to prevent the attacks (Israeli Air Force attacks, firing at terrorist squads near the fence), the terrorist organizations respond and then continue with daily sporadic rocket and mortar shell fire, Israel responds by closing the crossings.
7. The result of that dynamic over the past month has been a significance erosion of the lull arrangement. Publicly, however, at this stage Hamas and the other terrorist organizations have not announced the end of the lull and their activities are represented as responses to IDF actions, even when such actions prevent terrorist attacks against Israel . Hamas's response to the distress caused to the Gazans by the closing of the crossings is an exaggerated and distorted media campaign dealing with the suffering the "siege” has brought to the Gaza Strip, with the objective of exerting pressure on Israel to open the crossings even as rocket and mortar shell fire continue.
1 Note : This was not the first standard 120mm mortar shell attack against Israel . On February 24, 2008, such shells fell near Kibbutz Sa'ad in the western Negev , fired by Palestinian terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. An examination of the remains showed that a shell manufactured by Iran (copy of mortar shells produced by the Israeli military industry in the 1970s and supplied to Iran ). The rockets are equipped with auxiliary motors to increase their range from six to ten kilometers (less than four to more than six miles). On June 5, 2008, a 120mm mortar shell hit a factory in Kibbutz Nir Oz, killing Amnon Rosenberg, 51, from Kibbutz Nirim, and wounding four others, two of them seriously. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.