Al-Aqsa TV, June 11
Al-Aqsa TV, June 12
Mobile rocket launcher
Hamas fires mortar shells at Israel
Press conference of the Popular Resistance Committees
Talks regarding lull in the fighting, in the shadow of intensive mortar and rocket fire: Hamas firing mortar shells at Israel on June 11 (Al-Aqsa TV, June 11)
Decision of the Israeli ministerial committee for national security
1. On June 11, 2008, Israel’s Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs authorized Defense Minister Ehud Barak "to exhaust the dialogue with Egypt in order to achieve all of Israel’s conditions for an actual calm as have been agreed to by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Barak, and as were presented in detail to the Cabinet by Prime Minister Olmert. Included in this framework is advancing the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas since June 25, 2006” (Prime Minister’s Website, June 11, 2008 ). In addition, the Ministerial Committee instructed the IDF to " prepare for military action in the Gaza Strip, according to a rapid timetable, should the Cabinet convene and make a decision to this effect” (ibid.).
2. General Amos Gilad, head of the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s political-security branch, headed to Cairo in an attempt to reignite the lull talks and present Israel ‘s decision to Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. Amos Gilad was expected to emphasize Israel’s desire to see a progress in the negotiations for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, even if it does not take place in the first stage of the lull, making it clear to the Egyptians that Israel has to see a progress on that issue before lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip (Haaretz, June 12).
3. " Reliable sources” in Egypt told an Al-Hayat reporter that Egypt was making efforts to achieve a lull in the fighting. "A lull is the key to many important issues,” those sources said. "We are trying to broker the lull in the fighting in order to achieve a breakthrough regarding the prisoners’ exchange deal by releasing Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held in the Gaza Strip. We are also doing it to make peace between the Palestinian factions and to move the political process forward” (Al-Hayat, June 12).
Escalation on the ground 1
4. In the shadow of the lull talks, population centers near the Gaza Strip are intensively targeted by mortar shells and rockets. Examples follow:
a. On June 11, there were 7 mortar shell hits, three of which landed in a factory in Kibbutz Nir Oz (where Israeli citizen Amnon Rozenberg was killed on June 5), causing minor injuries to a factory worker. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
b. On June 12 , there were 22 mortar shell hits (including 9 122-mm hits) and 15 rocket hits (including 2-3 122-mm Grad rockets) in Israeli territory. As a result, a woman from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai suffered moderate injuries. As a result, several fires broke out.
5. On June 12 at noon , IDF soldiers spotted a suspicious bulldozer approaching the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip, not far from the village of Netiv Haasara . IDF soldiers shot the bulldozer, which stopped and caught fire. A man escaping from the bulldozer was also shot by the IDF soldiers. It seems that it was an attempt to perpetrate a showcase attack using the heavy mortar and rocket fire.
6. In the morning of June 12, IDF forces killed two armed terrorists who were setting an explosive charge near the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. As they were searching the area, the IDF forces spotted and killed another terrorist who was armed with a Kalashnikov rifle (IDF Spokesman’s Website, June 12). On June 11 in the afternoon, the IDF attacked a terrorist squad in the northern Gaza Strip while it was preparing to fire mortar shells at Israeli territory (IDF Spokesman’s Website, June 11). A total of seven terrorist operatives were killed on June 11-12.
7. Palestinian media reported that, on June 12 in the afternoon, a massive explosion took place in Beit Lahiya, destroying a house which belonged to Ahmed Hamouda. Seven Palestinians were killed and about 40 were wounded in the explosion. Some Palestinian media falsely claimed that the explosion was caused by an IDF air strike, and Hamas even threatened revenge on Israel . The IDF Spokesman noted that the IDF had nothing to do with the incident, and that no IDF forces were active in the region at the time of the explosion 2.
Ahmed Hamouda’s house that collapsed as a result of an explosion
(Al-Aqsa TV, June 12). It is yet another one of Hamas’s "work accidents”.
8. Hamas mouthpiece Al-Risala published an article in which Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives boasted of the considerable effectiveness of 120mm mortars , far exceeding that of self-manufactured rockets. They said that the mortars’ range was more than 6 km, that they were more precise, and caused more casualties in Israeli population centers ("Zionist settlements”) and IDF outposts (Al-Risala, June 12).
Mobile rocket launcher mounted on a vehicle
Hamas fires mortar shells at Israel on June 11 (Al-Aqsa TV, June 11)
Reactions to the Israeli decision
9. Hamas and Popular Resistance Committees’ spokesmen claimed that Israel ‘s decision to exhaust the lull talks was not serious, accusing it of planning a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. Several statements follow:
a. Hamas senior Fawzi Barhoum stated that the decision exposed Israel ‘s desire to conduct a large-scale attack in the Gaza Strip in order to destroy the "resistance” (terrorist organizations), topple the Hamas government, and eliminate the Hamas movement. Fawzi Barhoum called upon Egypt to take a stand with regard to the Israeli cabinet’s decision to thwart the lull talks, and noted the determination of Hamas and the Palestinian people to protect the Gaza Strip (Palestine-info, June 11).
b. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri noted that the Israeli announcement was not serious, saying that the evidence was the continuing, daily Israeli "aggression”, which resulted in the death of five Hamas operatives in the last 24 hours. He added that Hamas was preparing both for a lull in the fighting and lifting of the blockade on one hand and for a military confrontation with Israel on the other (Filastin al-Aan, June 11).
c. The Popular Resistance Committees convened a press conference in which its operatives noted that "the way things are going, an escalation is more likely than a lull”. They threatened to break the blockade on their own should Israel begin a military operation. The spokesmen said that if Israel did that, the case of Gilad Shalit would be closed and that the various organizations would make efforts to capture more Israeli soldiers (Al-Jazeera, June 11).
The press conference of the Popular Resistance Committees
(Al-Jazeera, June 11)
1 As at 16:00 , June 12.
2 The Fatah-affiliated Pal-Press website reported that Ahmed Hamouda , the owner of the house, was a senior operative of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and that he was working for Hamas’s (weapons) manufacturing unit. This further confirms that the explosion was the result of a "work accident”. Such accidents are fairly common, since Hamas’s manufacturing infrastructure is situated inside densely-populated areas.