1. An IED placed near the security fence (which critically wounded an IDF officer) and an estimated 70 rockets and mortar shells which hit Israeli population centers in the south marked a new round of escalation in southern Israel. Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the rocket and mortar shell fire.
2. In response to the attacks the Israeli Air Force struck a number of terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip, among them terrorist squads preparing to launch rockets. Three Palestinian terrorist operatives belonging to Hamas' military wing and one from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) were killed in the strikes. According to media reports, Egypt mediated a lull beginning on the night of October 24.
The Situation on the Ground
The Events as They Occurred
3. As of October 23 Israel's south has been subjected to a new round of escalation, including massive rocket and mortar shell fire targeting the western Negev launched by the terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip.
4. On the evening of October 23 six rocket hits were identified in the western Negev. In response to the attacks, the Israeli Air Force struck rocket-launching squads, killing four Palestinian terrorist operatives. In return, on the morning of October 24 a massive barrage of rockets and mortar shells was initiated against civilian population centers in Israel's south. In the afternoon, a barrage of 10 rockets was fired into Israeli territory. The attacks wounded three civilians, two of them Thai guest workers who were severely injured when a chicken coop they were working in took a direct hit.
5. During the escalation, an estimated 70 rockets and mortar shells hit Israeli territory. In response to the rocket fire the IDF attacked a number of terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. Among the targets were terrorist squads which had launched rockets into Israeli territory or were preparing to do so. The IDF Spokesman reported Hamas would be the target of reprisals because it was responsible for the rocket attacks (IDF Spokesman, October 24, 2012).
Terrorist Organization Casualties
6. The Palestinian media reported that so far four Palestinian terrorist operatives had been killed by the IDF strikes, three of them Hamas operatives and one belonging to the PRC. The three Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives killed by an air strike in the northern Gaza Strip were preparing to launch rockets into Israel. They were Luay Abd al-Hakim Abu Jarad (24, from Beit Lahia), Yousef Abu Jalhoum (28 from Beit Lahia), and Ismail Fathi al-Teli (28, from Jabalia). The PRC terrorist operative, killed in Rafah, was Mahmoud al-Sheikh Khalil (23), who was engaged in firing rockets into Israeli territory at the time of his death (Filastin al-'Aan and the Ma'an News Agency, October 24, 2012).
Ismail al-Teli, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades terrorist operative, wears a camouflage uniform. He was killed in an IDF aerial strike in the northern Gaza Strip (Filastin al-'Aan, October 24, 2012).
Claiming Responsibility for the IED Attack near Kissufim and Rocket Fire
7. On October 23 an IDF officer was critically wounded when an IED exploded during an IDF action at the security fence near the Israeli village of Kissufim (central Gaza Strip). On October 24 the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military-terrorist wing, and the Salah al-Din Brigades, the military-terrorist wing of the PRC, claimed joint responsibility for the attack. Initially responsibility had been claimed by the military-terrorist wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (Ali Mustafa Brigades website, October 23, 2012).
8. Hamas and the PRC claimed joint responsibility for the massive number of rockets targeting Israeli population centers near the Gaza Strip on the morning of October 24. Both organizations issued announcements threatening a "deterrent response" to any Israeli activity (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, October 24, 2012). In a separate announcement, the PRC claimed responsibility for eight rockets fired on the morning of October 24 (Qawm website, October 24, 2012).
Joint claim of responsibility from the military-terrorist wings of Hamas and the PRC for the IED detonated near Kissufim on October 23 and the rocket fire targeting Israel's south (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, October 24, 2012).
Palestinian Media Responses
9. Hamas condemned the Israeli Air Force strikes in the Gaza Strip. Salah al-Bardawil, senior Hamas figure, claimed that "the Israeli response in the Gaza Strip was a ploy to restore its faded deterrent power." He claimed it expressed Israel's anger at the emir of Qatar's visit to the Gaza Strip. He said that because of existing circumstances, Israel would not carry out a large military operation [in the Gaza Strip] (Filastin al-'Aan, October 24, 2012).
10. The Jerusalem Brigades, the military-terrorist wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, announced a general enlistment of operatives in the Gaza Strip and promised to respond to Israel's activities in the Gaza Strip (in reality, there is no information as to whether or not the PIJ has participated in the current round of escalation). However, Khaled al-Batash, senior PIJ figure in the Gaza Strip, appealed to the various terrorist organizations to "inflict a united blow in response which would be painful for Israel " (The PIJ's PalToday website, October 24, 2012).
11. Saeb Erekat, a member of the PLO's Executive Committee, strongly denounced the Israeli action in the Gaza Strip. He appealed to the international community to accept responsibility for the Gazan population. Hanan Ashrawi, also a member of the PLO's Executive Committee, denounced the Israeli action and accused Netanyahu's government of trying to make political capital for the upcoming Israeli elections (Ma'an News Agency, October 24, 2012). As usual, the Palestinian denunciations and condemnations made no mention of the rocket fire targeting civilian in Israel's south or of the IED attack near the security fence.
[*] As of the night of October 24.