Operation Cast Lead Update No. 13

Photo: Amir Cohen for Reuters, January 12, 2009

Photo: Amir Cohen for Reuters, January 12, 2009

IDF Spokesman, January 12, 2009

IDF Spokesman, January 12, 2009

Edi Israel, January 12, 2009

Edi Israel, January 12, 2009

Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired at Israel during Operation Cast Lead

Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired at Israel during Operation Cast Lead

Amir Cohen for Reuters, January 12, 2009

Amir Cohen for Reuters, January 12, 2009

Ismail Haniya speaks from a bunker

Ismail Haniya speaks from a bunker

Palestine-info website, January 13

Palestine-info website, January 13

PALDF, Hamas's main forum, January 13

PALDF, Hamas's main forum, January 13

IDF Spokesman, January 11, 2009

IDF Spokesman, January 11, 2009

Photo: Amir Cohen for Reuters, January 12, 2009  

IDF Spokesman, January 12, 2009

An electronic device confiscated from a convoy of humanitarian aid which passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing on January 12. The electronic devices which were expected to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip also included night vision equipment (Photo: Amir Cohen for Reuters, January 12, 2009).


IDF reserve soldiers entering the Gaza Strip battleground (IDF Spokesman, January 12, 2009).

The Situation on the Ground


 IDF reserve forces joined the ground forces fighting in the Gaza Strip, making it possible to slowly extend the ground action during the current phase. The IDF continues its gradual, methodical attacks, eroding the terrorist infrastructure and putting more pressure on Hamas. In the activity, many weapons caches have been uncovered, including some hidden in mosques.

 IDF forces have begun finding Hamas positions abandoned by terrorist operatives who went deeper into built-up areas. According to reports from soldiers, during the past 24 hours dozens of terrorists were killed. The Israeli Air Force attacked more than 80 targets, among them tunnels along the Egyptian-Gaza border, weapons manufacturing and storing sites, tunnels, a military-terrorist training base and rocket launchers.

 The trend toward less rocket and mortar shell fire into Israel continues, and averages about 20 a day. During the past 24 hours, 17 rocket and seven mortar shell hits were identified in Israeli territory. Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead 476 rockets and 173 mortar shells have hit Israeli territory.

Report by chief of military intelligence to government meeting

 At the government meeting held on January 11, Amos Yadlin, Chief of Military Intelligence (according to a briefing from Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel), raised the following issues:

•  Cracks are showing in Hamas. The positions of the leadership in Damascus remain stubborn, but the leadership in the Gaza Strip understands that a compromise must be made. Hamas, which did not expect Israel’s response to its violation of the lull arrangement, is finding it difficult to retain administrative responsibility and is worried by the increasing criticism of the Gazan population of its helplessness and lack of leadership.

•  The decrease in rocket and mortar shell attacks is the result of weapons shortages, operational difficulties and the harm done to the senior operatives of the rocket branch. The aerial attacks along the Egyptian-Gaza border have cut off Hamas’s weapons lifeline. Its operatives are in hiding deep within civilian areas. On the other hand, the chief of military intelligence made it clear that Hamas is not expected to raise a white flag, and that it is capable of exacting a price from Israel , both with rocket and mortar shell fire and with attacks on IDF forces .

Ground combat

 During the past 24 hours ground combat focused primarily on the northern Gaza Strip . IDF forces struck a number of armed terrorists and uncovered large weapons caches, including one in a mosque from which terrorists had fired at Israeli soldiers. In addition, an offensive tunnel was uncovered in the northern Gaza Strip which was intended to be used to attack Israel , as were the many weapons stockpiled close to the security fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

 On the night of January 12 an IDF officer was critically wounded, and two other soldiers sustained minor to serious injuries caused by an IED which exploded in a booby-trapped house. The explosion occurred during an IDF search in the northern Gaza Strip. A joint armored-paratrooper forces operating at night began a search of a house which led to the detonation of an IED which wounded the soldiers. A further search revealed other weapons and equipment, including an explosively formed penetrator, a bullet-proof vest and a camera.

 In another incident in the northern Gaza Strip, an IDF soldier was critically wounded and three others sustained minor injuries from friendly fire (the third instance of friendly fire during Operation Cast Lead). Since the beginning of the operation, ten IDF soldiers have been killed (four of them by friendly fire) and about 200 have been wounded, nine of them critically.

 Additional incidents of the past 24 hours:

•  A mosque used for terrorist purposes : In the southern Gaza strip IDF infantry forces were fired on from inside a mosque . With Israeli Air Force backup, the soldiers attacked the terrorists. After the attack, a search of the mosque revealed large quantities of weapons , including rockets and mortar shells.

Click for video of the search

•  Weapons discovered : In several instances during combat in the outskirts of Gaza City , IDF forces discovered weapons. In one instance, an infantry force identified armed terrorists in the southern part of Gaza City and opened fire. A search carried out afterwards revealed large quantities of weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, mortar shells and machine guns.

•  Tunnels exposed : A paratrooper force exposed a terrorist tunnel near the border security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. Its opening was in a house about 300 meters from the fence, and it was to be used to enter Israeli territory and carry out a showcase terrorist attack . In another instance, a tunnel was discovered whose entrance was in a house in the northern Gaza Strip; the tunnel was destroyed in a controlled explosion.

•  Encounters with terrorist squads : An armored force identified a terrorist operator placing an IED to the south of Gaza City and shot him. In another instance, an IDF force identified terrorist operatives placing an IED in the Gaza City zone and attacked with Israeli Air Force backup.

Israeli Air Force and Navy attacks continue

 During the past 24 hours the Israeli Air Force attacked more than 80 targets , among them 20 tunnels along the Egyptian-Gaza border, rocket and mortar shell launching squads, launchers and launching sites, weapons stores and manufacturing sites in the houses of Hamas operatives, tunnels dug under operatives’ houses, a Hamas training facility and terrorist squads preparing to attack IDF forces. Navy ships continued enforcing the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire into Israeli Territory

 Rocket fire into Israel remains at a level of about 20 identified hits a day. On January 12, 17 rocket and seven mortar shell hits were identified. Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead 476 rockets and 173 mortar shells have hit Israeli territory.

 Hamas’s long-range rocket fire continues. On the morning of January 12 a rocket hit was located in the city of Kiryat Gat ; there were no casualties. Several rockets fell in the city of Ashqelon , one of them a direct hit on a house which caused extensive damage to the top floor; seven people were treated for shock. Four rockets fell in the Beersheba area; there were no casualties and no property damage was reported.

Edi Israel, January 12, 2009
The rocket which hit Ashqelon and the damage it caused (Edi Israel, January 12, 2009).

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 to the Gaza Strip 


 On January 12, a humanitarian corridor was opened for the fifth time. It lasted lasting from 1000 hours to 1300 hours, making it possible for the Gaza Strip population to stock up on food and repair the infrastructure. Hamas exploited the pause to continue firing at Israel . During the three-hour pause a barrage of rockets was fired at the cities of Sderot and Ofakim . Eighty-one trucks of humanitarian aid passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing and 12 through the Karni crossing (for the first time since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead).

•  On January 13 the humanitarian corridor was opened between 0900 and 1200 hours, and 109 trucks were expected to enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing, as well as four tankers carrying diesel fuel for the Gaza power station. In addition, wounded Palestinians were expected to be transferred by ambulance through the Kerem Shalom crossing for treatment in Egypt . The Karni crossing will remain closed, since on January 12 the IDF discovered a tunnel dug nearby . 1 IDF forces searched the area to find other tunnels and to make it possible to reopen the Karni crossing in the near future.

 Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip attempt to smuggle in equipment, including military equipment, in the trucks which deliver supplies to the Gaza Strip . On January 12 four trucks were held up at the Kerem Shalom crossing which were supposed to bring special equipment to Gaza ‘s energy authority to be used to maintain the electrical network. The trucks were used to try to smuggle in many electronic appliances, including microwave ovens. Among the materiel were photographic and night vision equipment, apparently intended for terrorist organization use in the Gaza Strip . Nevertheless, Israel authorized the passage of one truck which carried equipment to repair the electrical network. 

Amir Cohen for Reuters, January 12, 2009

Hamas and the other terrorist organizations exploit the deliveries of humanitarian aid to smuggle electronic devices. Among them were photographic and night vision equipment, apparently intended for terrorist organization use in the Gaza Strip (Photo: Amir Cohen for Reuters, January 12, 2009).

 Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, more than 900 trucks carrying food, medical equipment and drugs have been delivered to the Gaza Strip, as part of the continuous humanitarian aid made possible by Israel . In addition, more than one million liters of fuel have passed through the Nahal Oz crossing to enable the power station, hospitals and wells in the Gaza Strip to continue functioning. Most of the power lines from Israel to the Gaza Strip were repaired. The daily pause in the fighting for the humanitarian corridor makes it possible to repair the infrastructure, to stock up on food delivered from Israel , to receive medical treatment and to transfer the wounded to hospitals in Egypt , and some even to Israel . To make the deliveries of humanitarian aid to the civilian population more efficient, every Israeli brigade fighting in the Gaza Strip is joined by a "humanitarian team,” which organizes the aid during brigade action.


 Humanitarian aid from various countries continues arriving in the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing. For example, on January 12 a group of doctors from France , Germany and Greece entered the Gaza Strip. They will assist at the Red Crescent hospital in Khan Yunis (Agence France Presse, January 12, 2009 ). During the week five more doctors are expected to arrive from Lebanon (Al-Hayat, January 12, 2009 ).

 At the same time, Palestinians continue trying to infiltrate into Egypt from the Gaza Strip. On January 12 ten Palestinians tried to enter Egypt near the Rafah crossing. As they were being detained by the Egyptian security forces, an Egyptian policeman was wounded by stones thrown by the Palestinians (Al-Yawm Al-Sabaa, January 12, 2009 ).

The Egyptian Initiative to Stop the Fighting – Update

 On January 11, the Hamas delegation participated in another round of talks with Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian general intelligence, and other senior intelligence figures. Muhammad Nasr, from the Hamas leadership in Damascus , and Salah Bardawil, from the Gaza Strip, left Cairo on January 11 to update the Hamas leadership on the results of the talks. On January 12 the Hamas delegation returned to Cairo with the responses of the "internal” and "external” Hamas leadership to the Egyptian initiative.

 Some of the details of the talks were reported in the Arab media:

•  On January 11, Egyptian and Palestinian sources told a correspondent from IslamOnLine that Egypt had tried to convince Hamas first of all to agree to a ceasefire and then to begin talks. The rationale was to reach an agreement for a mechanism for implementing Security Council Resolution 1860 and the Egyptian initiative. The sources described the talks as "positive and productive,” noting that the Egyptians had managed, "to a certain degree,” to convince the Hamas delegation to stop firing first and not to bind the ceasefire to the mechanism for its implementation.

•  On January 11, Palestinian sources told the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that Hamas was asking for a "package deal” which included a lull arrangement. "Egyptian sources” told the paper that the talks had been difficult because Hamas refused to discuss the issue of the deployment of international forces and would agree to a two- or three-week ceasefire, during which it would be possible to deliver humanitarian aid and to hold talks about the final agreement. The sources also said that Egypt had proposed a "new formula” for managing the crossings which included a return to the 2005 agreement (the Crossing Points Agreement on Movement and Access), and Hamas would be integrated into the Palestinian Authority apparatus which participated in managing the crossings.

•  On January 11, "a well-placed Egyptian source” told an Al-Sharq Al-Awsat correspondent that the Hamas delegation had presented its reservations regarding the Egyptian initiative and had reiterated its demands for an immediate cease fire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the opening of the Gaza Strip crossings, including the Rafah crossing. Omar Suleiman made it clear to the Hamas delegation that the Egyptian initiative included components which required an immediate response, such as the ceasefire. The initiative contained, said the source, other issues which in the future would be discussed with Israel or with Mahmoud Abbas. The source also made it clear that Egypt would present the Hamas delegation’s reservations to the Israeli delegation headed by Amos Gilad when it came to Cairo

Responses of Senior Hamas Figures to the Egyptian Initiative

 In public statements, senior Hamas figures try to present a softened response to the Egyptian initiative, even if in practical terms Hamas firmly adheres to its intransigent stance:

•  On January 12, Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV broadcast a 20-minute recorded speech by Hamas administration prime minister Ismail Haniya . Haniya spoke about the political activity carried out through various channels. He said that Hamas did not reject the activity, adding that Hamas’s approach to every initiative would be positive if it would stop the IDF activity, remove the IDF from the Gaza Strip and require the opening of the crossings. "We will cooperate in a responsible, open, serious and positive fashion to any initiative that can make that happen.”

Ismail Haniya speaks from a bunker 

Ismail Haniya speaks from a bunker (Al-Aqsa TV, January 12, 2009 ).

•  Usama Hamdan , Hamas representative in Lebanon , said that there were points in the Egyptian initiative that "currently need to be repaired.” He repeated Hamas’s familiar demands: the end of the IDF action, the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip and the opening of the crossings. He added that Hamas opposed the deployment of international forces in the Gaza Strip, and that Egypt objected to their deployment on its territory. "Since Hamas and Egypt both insist on the same thing, Amos Gilad has to understand that he faces a fait accompli and has to find answers…” (Al-Jazeera TV, January 12, 2009 ).

•  Salah Bardawil , a member of the Hamas delegation to the talks with Egypt , said that Hamas had not rejected the Egyptian initiative. He said that "we will not lose Egypt and will not enter into a media contest with it…” (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, January 12, 2009 ).

 On the other hand, the Egyptian media continue severely criticizing Israel (sometimes with anti-Semitic undertones), but at the same time harshly attack Iran , Syria and Hamas for opposing Security Council Resolution 1860 and other initiatives for a ceasefire, and castigate Iran and Syria for encouraging Hamas to continue fighting. Some prominent examples are the following:

•  Al-Ahram (January 12) : An editorial criticized Khaled Mashal, who had "given Israel a new excuse to spill innocent blood…by stating that the movement opposes Security Council Resolution 1860…If the Palestinians, who are the victims, oppose the stopping of the fighting or an Israeli withdrawal, what can be expected from the aggressor, Israeli, except for a refusal to implement the resolution and to continue its military actions?!” The paper again stated that the rockets fired by Hamas into Israel were ineffective since in the current fighting they had caused the deaths of more than 900 Palestinians and destroyed the [Gazan] infrastructure, as opposed to the small number of Israelis harmed. It added that the rockets "make noise” rather than sowing death and destruction, and wondered "whether the time has not come for the leaders of Hamas and the other Palestinian factions to show more mercy for innocent civilians…”

•  On January 12, Galal Dwaydar wrote an editorial for Al-Akhbar entitled " Hamas , Iran and Syria are guilty of the deaths of the shaheeds in Gaza .” He said that Hamas’s "unwise policy” "gave Israel the excuse to kill,” and that Hamas would not act that way " without the incitement and pressures from Iran and Syria , based on the millions of dollars they send the leaders of that movement every month .” He also said that Iran sought to exploit Hamas to give itself a role in the Arab world, while Syria "wants to whitewash the feeble, defeatist position it has shown by remaining silent over the occupation of the Golan [Heights] for almost 40 years [sic].”

•  On January 12, Egyptian satellite television hosted Mohammed Bassiouni, former Egyptian ambassador to Israel and head of the Foreign Relations National Security Committee at the Shura Council. He said that Hamas did not agree to the deployment of international forces in the Gaza Strip because it wanted to ensure its own presence there, and the continuation of its rocket supplies . He added that "it is well known that Iran plays a central role by urging Hamas to continue fighting and at the same time supplies it with rockets and [other] weapons . It is a contest of wills between two blocks: one that calls for calm, peace and stability in Egyptian leadership, and the other which calls for escalation and involving Egypt for the same of haggling over its own private interests…”

Fostering the Myth of Victory – Update

 Disregarding the blow it suffered, the great destruction visited on the Gaza Strip, the many losses and harsh Egyptian criticism, in the midst of the fighting Hamas has begun constructing the myth of its "victory.” In our assessment, it was inspired by Hezbollah’s success to create the myth of "the divine victory” after the second Lebanon war, and to fix it in the public perception in Lebanon and the Arab world, and even in Israel and the international community. In the battle for hearts and minds, Hezbollah used the components of de-legitimizing the IDF operation in Lebanon , magnifying Hezbollah’s military capabilities, reinforcing Hezbollah’s existence as an organization with a military infrastructure ("the shield of Lebanon ”), and eluding responsibility for the war. 2

 Even now, even before the dust has settled, it can be seen that Hamas is trying to foster a "myth of victory” in a similar fashion. Two of its components are the following:

•  De-legitimizing the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip :

1) The Hamas media and Al-Jazeera TV , which provides it with strategic support, constantly reiterate that the IDF is operating against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The message is reinforced by the constant, methodical presentation of horrific pictures of women and children hurt in IDF attacks. On the other hand, Hamas avoids issuing information about the many terrorist operatives killed or relating to the serious damage done to its military infrastructure.

2) Hamas claims that Israel’s motives for Operation Cast Lead were political, involving the election of its leaders, and not about protecting its citizens, making no mention whatsoever of the massive amounts of rocket fire endured by Israel during the eight years which preceded the operation. (Note: What annoys Hamas is the overwhelming public and political support in Israel for the operation, as opposed to the schisms within Israeli society during and especially after the second Lebanon war, which were well-exploited by Hezbollah for its propaganda.)

Palestine-info website, January 13 
Enlisting the Gaza Strip population in the armed campaign. The title reads
"With spirit and blood we will redeem you, Gaza .” A poster drawn by
Hamas-affiliated Omaya Joha (Palestine-info website, January 13).

•  Glorifying Hamas’s military successes and downplaying those of the IDF :

1) Hamas’s main propaganda weapon in claiming "success” is the continued rocket fire into Israel (even though it has declined). Hamas also claims it and the other organizations can launch rockets deep into Israel for a number of months and that most of its military capabilities have not been utilized. Hamas’s propaganda machine quotes "commentators” who claim that Israel has not achieved anything in the operation, since the rocket fire continues without a stop and that Israel has drained its "bank of targets.”

2) Hamas spokesmen emphasize that the Hamas administration is fully functional and continues providing the Gaza Strip residents with services. (Note: In actual fact, the Hamas administration is having a hard time functioning at all.) With a lack of success in the field, Hamas issues false announcements about its "successes in battle,” such as claiming to have abducted an IDF soldier on January 12, to have fired a rocket at an Israeli Air Force base 50 kilometers away, that its rockets can reach Tel Aviv, and that it blew up eleven Israeli tanks; all of the above are fabrications. It also shows the same pictures of wounded Israelis in hospitals again and again to create the impression that Israel has suffered many casualties. In our assessment, it is reasonable to assume that Hamas will try for a genuine operational achievement during the fighting or near its end which will support the claim of a Hamas "victory.”

  PALDF, Hamas's main forum, January 13
False announcement: "Eleven Israeli tanks blown up by the Palestinian
resistance, may Allah protect it” (PALDF, Hamas’s main forum, January 13).

The Functioning of Hamas’s Propaganda Machine and its Spokesmen – Update

 Since it was hit by an IDF bombardment, Al-Aqsa TV has not been broadcasting as usual and the quality of its broadcasts is low. Most of its programming consists of songs inciting violence against Israel or live broadcasts from the Gaza Strip (in many instances pictures taken from the Ramattan News Agency ). Al-Aqsa TV continues providing updates of the events on the ground using crawlers which appear at the bottom of the screen every few minutes. The news is broadcast from an improvised studio, and there are occasional religious programs broadcast from studios outside the Gaza Strip which regularly host Islamic clerics and political commentators who try to keep up the Palestinians’ spirits. Sometimes there is an open line, usually following IDF attacks, to talk to Hamas terrorist operatives who report from the field.

 The Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip has gone underground. The volume of telephone and studio interviews formerly given by senior Hamas figures has dwindled considerably. Some of them have completely disappeared from the media arena or occasionally surface with a written statement or a recorded speech (for example, a recorded speech and note to the press from Ismail Haniya, and the improvised interview with Mahmoud al-Zahar in his hiding place). With the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip absent from the screen, its place has been taken by the leadership in Syria (Khaled Mashal, Musa Abu Marzuq, Muhammad Nizal) and the Hamas representative in Lebanon (Usama Hamdan).

 The leading Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip is Musheir al-Masri , who has taken a starring role since the war began. Backup is supplied by Fawzi Barhoum, Ayman Taha, Ismail Radwan and Taher al-Nunu. They have kept a low profile as well and go to television studios far less frequently than they did before Operation Cast Lead.


Hamas Makes Massive Use of the Civilian Population as
Human Shields, Causing Them Harm
(Update, January 13)

 In recent days senior figures in Israeli military intelligence, the Israel Security Agency and the Ministry of Defense have revealed a number of examples of the use Hamas makes of civilians as human shields, and of the) protests made by local residents:

•  On January 12, Avi Dichter, Minister of Internal Security , told Israeli Army Radio that senior Hamas figures had taken shelter in the Shifa hospital , situated in an affluent section in the western part of Gaza City . He said that Hamas commanders stayed there, in some instances wearing hospital white coats. Sometimes they throw the medical teams out of their offices to hold meetings. He said that on January 10, terrorist operatives were ordered to come to the hospital to receive their salaries.

•  Dichter added that after the Imad Akel mosque in Jabaliya had been attacked by the Israeli Air Force, there was a long secondary explosion, caused by explosives and ammunition the terrorists had stored there. The secondary explosions damaged a house near the mosque, injuring the family living there.

•  At the January 11 government meeting, Yuval Diskin, head of the Israel Security Agency , said that there was clear evidence that the civilians in the Gaza Strip opposed the positioning of rocket launchers near their houses . Hamas does not treat such opposition lightly. There is also clear evidence that Hamas has killed dozens of Palestinian Fatah supporters in cold blood under cover of battle. He added that there was public criticism of the catastrophe Hamas has visited on the Gaza Strip (Cabinet Secretary’s briefing, January 11, 2009 ).

•  General Amos Yadlin, Chief of Military Intelligence, reviewed the situation in the Gaza Strip and gave further evidence of the cynical use Hamas makes of the civilian population as human shields. He presented a video of a school and school yard completely booby-trapped by Hamas 3 (Cabinet Secretary’s briefing, January 11, 2009 ).

  IDF Spokesman, January 11, 2009
Left: The school building. Right: The fuse (the white cord)
around the building visible near the wall. (IDF Spokesman, January 11, 2009 ).

1 Another example of the terrorist organization policy of regarding the crossings as preferred attack targets, thus harming the vital interests of the civilian Gazan population.

2 A detailed analysis of the components can be found in our May 11, 2007 Bulletin entitled "Hezbollah as a case study of the battle for hearts and minds in the confrontation between Israel and the terrorist organizations” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hezbollah_e1tc_0507.pdf .

3 For further information see our January 12 Bulletin entitled "Operation Cast Lead, Update No. 12” on our website.