Bearing Witness

Israel-Gaza conflict 2006

The conflict began on June 24, 2006, when in light of ongoing Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli cities, Israeli operatives seized suspected Hamas members Osama and Mustafa Muamar in the Gaza Strip. On June 25, a Hamas attack in Israeli checkpoint resulted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit. In turn, Israel launched Operation Summer Rains on June 28.

Israel maintains that it mobilized thousands of troops in order to suppress Qassam rocket fire against its civilian population and to secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. It is estimated that between 7,000 and 9,000 heavy Israeli artillery shells have been fired into Gaza since September 2005, killing 80 Palestinians in 6 months. On the Palestinian side, approximately 1,000 Qassam missiles are believed to have been fired into Israel.

Israel has stated that it will withdraw from Gaza and end the operation as soon as Shalit is released. The Palestinians say the assault is aimed at toppling the democratically elected Hamas-led government and at destabilizing the Palestinian National Authority, citing the targeting of civilian infrastructure such as a power station and the captures of government and parliament members.

After Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan, pulling 9 thousand settlers from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, tensions had remained high in Gaza due to the continued shelling of areas in Israel with Qassam rocket attacks launched by Palestinians from Gaza into areas such as the Israeli city of Sderot, reported to have exceeded 800 rockets in the past seven months. Between the end of March and the end of May 2006, Israel fired at least 5,100 artillery shells into the Gaza Strip Qassam launching areas in an attempt to stop them from firing.

On June 9, during or shortly after an Israeli operation, an explosion occurred on a busy Gaza beach, killing eight Palestinian civilians.Other Israeli missile attacks included one on the Gaza highway on June 13 that killed 11 Palestinians and injured 30, and on June 20 that killed 3 Palestinians and wounded 15.

Hamas formally withdrew from its 16-month ceasefire on June 10, and began openly taking responsibility for the ongoing Qassam rocket attacks.

On June 24, 2006, Israeli commandos entered the Gaza Strip in the first capture raid into the Strip since Israel pulled out of Gaza in September 2005. In the raid they captured two Palestinians, identified by neighbors as brothers Osama Muamar, 31, and Mustafa, 20, who Israel claims are Hamas militants. Noam Chomsky has claimed in a recent interview that these two Palestinians were civilians, a doctor and his brother. Chomsky claims not to know the fate the kidnapped men.

On June 25, 2006, armed Palestinians crossed the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel via a makeshift tunnel and attacked an Israel Defense Forces post. During the morning attack, two Palestinian militants and two Israel Defense Force soldiers were killed and four others wounded, in addition to Corporal Gilad Shalit, who suffered a broken left hand and a light shoulder wound. Hamas claimed that the attack was carried out in response to the death of the Ralia family on north Gaza beach a few weeks before.

Shalit’s captors issued a series of statements demanding the release of all female Palestinian prisoners and all Palestinian prisoners under the age of 18. The statements came from Ezz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing Hamas), the Popular Resistance Committees (which includes members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas), and the Army of Islam. More than 8,000 Palestinians are held as prisoners by the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Prisons Service. Approximately two thirds of these prisoners were convicted in court, while around ten percent are held without charge.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

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Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000 – )

On September 28, 2000 the Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, with a Likud party delegation, and surrounded by hundreds of Israeli riot police, visited the mosque compound of the Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) in the Old City of Jerusalem. The mosque compound is the first Qibla of Muslims and the third holiest site in Islam. It also contains the area for the most holy site in Judaism. The pretext for Sharon’s visit of the mosque compound was to check complaints by Israeli archeologists that Muslim religious authorities had vandalized archeological remains beneath the surface of the mount during the conversion of the presumed Solomon’s Stables area into a mosque.

A group of Palestinian dignitaries came to protest the visit, as did three Arab Knesset Members. With the dignitaries watching from a safe distance.Palestinians saw Sharon’s visit as an assault on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. For this reason, the whole conflict is known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada. On September 29, 2000, the day after Sharon’s visit, following Friday prayers, large uprising broke out around Old Jerusalem during which several Palestinian demonstrators were shot dead. Already in the same day, the September 29, 2000, demonstrations broke out in the West Bank. In the days that followed, demonstrations erupted all over the West Bank and Gaza.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

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Intifada , 1987 – 1991

Palestinian uprising refers to a series of violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis between 1987 and approximately 1990.

On December 8, 1987, an uprising began in Jabalya where hundreds burned tires and attacked the Israel Defense Forces stationed there. The uprising spread to other Palestinian refugee camps and eventually to Jerusalem, the eastern part of which was and is occupied by Israel. On December 22, the United Nations Security Council condemned Israel for violating Geneva Conventions due to the number of Palestinian deaths in these first few weeks of the Intifada.

Much of the Palestinian violence was low-tech; dozens of Palestinian teenagers would confront patrols of Israeli soldiers, showering them with rocks. However, at times this tactic gave way to Molotov cocktail attacks, over 100 hand grenade attacks and more than 500 attacks with guns or explosives. Many Israeli soldiers were killed this way. The IDF, in contrast, possessed the latest weaponry and defense technologies.

In 1988, the Palestinians initiated a nonviolent movement to withhold taxes collected and used by Israel to pay for the occupation of territories. When time in prison didn’t stop the activists, Israel crushed the boycott by imposing heavy fines while seizing and disposing of the equipment, furnishings, and goods from local stores, factories, and even homes. On April 19, 1988, a leader of the PLO, Abu Jihad, was assassinated in Tunis. During the resurgence of rioting that followed, about 16 Palestinians were killed. In November of the same year and October of the next, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions condemning Israel.

As the Intifada progressed, Israel introduced various riot control methods that had the effect of reducing the number of Palestinian fatalities. Another contributor to the high initial casualties was Yitzhak Rabin’s aggressive stance towards the Palestinians (notably including an exhortation to the IDF to “break the bones” of the demonstrators). His successor Moshe Arens subsequently proved to have a better understanding of pacification, which perhaps reflects in the lower casualty rates for the following years.

Attempts at the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were made at the Madrid Conference of 1991.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

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Lebanon invasion , 1982

From 1978 the presence of Palestinian guerrillas in Lebanon led to Arab raids on Israel and Israeli retaliatory incursions.

On 6 June 1982 Israel launched a full-scale invasion. By 14 June Beirut was encircled, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Syrian forces were evacuated mainly to Syria 21-31 Aug.

In Feb 1985 there was a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the country without any gain or losses incurred. Israel maintains an occupied area called as a ‘security zone’ in South Lebanon and supports the South Lebanese Army Militia of Lahad, both were occupying the south of Lebanon to defend israelis from palestinian attacks, and both carried out number of massacres against Lebanese and Palestinian people.

Israel’s alleged complicity in massacres in two Palestinian refugee camps increased Arab hostility and many other massacres like Beirut, Nabattiyeh, Abbasiyeh, Qana with hundreds of lebanese civilians killed by Israelis. Talks between Israel and Lebanon , between Dec 1982 and May 1983, resulted in an agreement, drawn up by US secretary of state George Shultz, calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon within three months. Syria refused to acknowledge the agreement, and left some 30,000 troops, with about 7,000 PLO members, in northeast, Israel retaliated by refusing to withdraw its forces from the south.

Meanwhile the problems in Lebanon continued. In 1984, under pressure from Syria, President Gemayel of Lebanon abrogated the 1983 treaty with Israel , but the government of national unity in Tel Aviv continued to plan the withdrawal of its forces. Guerrilla groups of the lebanese resistant on south of Lebanon started their resistant against the Israeli occupation since 1985 when the main important resistant group in Lebanon which is Hizbollah was founded. Most of the withdrawal was complete by June 1985 except the south of Lebanon of what so called the ‘security zone’. The south of Lebanon was liberated by resistant operations when Israel withdraw in 25/5/2000. Israel still occupying Shebaa farms and other small areas until today.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

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October War , 6-24 Oct 1973

In 1973 Egypt joined Syria in a war on Israel to regain the territories lost in 1967. The two Arab states struck unexpectedly on October 6, which fell on Yom Kippur , Israel’s holiest fast day .

After crossing the swise channel the Arab forces gain a lot of advanced positions in Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights and manage to defeat the Israeli forces for more then three weeks.

Israeli forces with a massive U.S. economic and military assistance managed to stop the arab forces after a three-week struggle and defeat with the cost of many casualties,and the Arabs strong showing won them support from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and most of the world’s developing countries.

Israel, forced to compete with the nearly unlimited Arab resources, was faced with a serious financial setback. Only massive U.S. economic and military assistance enabled it to redress the balance, but even American aid was unable to prevent a downward spiral of the economy.

In an effort to encourage a peace settlement, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon charged his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, with the task of negotiating agreements between Israel and Egypt and Syria. Kissinger managed to work out military disengagements between Israel and Egypt in the Sinai and between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights during 1974.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

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War of Attrition 1968 – 1970

The War of Attrition (Al-Istinsaf) was a limited war fought between Egypt and Israel from 1968 to 1970. It was initiated by Egypt as a way to recapture the Sinai from Israel, which had controlled it since the Six-Day War. The war ended with a ceasefire signed between the countries in 1970 with frontiers at the same place as when the war started.

The war began in June 1968 with sparse Egyptian artillery bombardment of the Israeli front line on the east bank of the canal. More artillery bombardments in the following months killed some Israeli soldiers. IDF’s retaliation came on the night of October 30 when heli-borne commandos destroyed Egypt’s main electricity supply. The blackout caused Nasser to cease hostilities for a few months while fortifications around hundreds of important targets were built. Simultaneously Israel reinforced its position on the east bank of the Suez Canal by constructing the Bar Lev Line, a set of thirty-five small forts running north-south along the canal guarded by infantry.

In February 1969 Egypt was ready for the next round. President Nasser declared the cease-fire from November the previous year to be null and void. On March 8 Egyptian artillery began massive shelling of the Bar Lev Line causing many Israeli casualties. Soviet MiG-21 fighters were also employed in the attack. The IDF retaliated with deep raids into Egyptian territory causing severe damage. In May, June and July 1969, 47 IDF soldiers were killed and 157 wounded. Although Egypt suffered many times more casualties than Israel, Egypt continued with its aggressive stance. Israel managed to sustain the high casualty rate but was hard-pressed to find a definite solution to the conflict.

In July Israel escalated by attacking with the Israeli Air Force (IAF). On July 20 and July 24 almost the whole IAF bombed the northern canal sector destroying anti-aircraft positions, tanks and artillery. The aerial offensive continued until December and reduced Egypt’s anti-aircraft defence to almost nothing. It managed to reduce the artillery bombardment somewhat but shelling with lighter weapons and especially mortars continued.

On October 17, 1969 talks between the Superpowers began. It led to the Rogers plan that was publicized on December 9. It called for Egyptian “commitment to peace” in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai. Both parties strongly rejected the plan. President Nasser instead opted to plead for more sophisticated weaponry from the Soviet Union to withstand the IAF’s bombings. The Soviets initially refused to deliver the requested weapons.

On January 22, 1970, President Nasser secretly flew to Moscow to discuss the situation. His request for new SAM batteries (including the 3M9 Kub and Strela-2) were approved. Their deployment would require qualified personnel along with squadrons of aircraft to protect them from Israeli attacks. In effect, he needed Soviet troops in large numbers, something Moscow could not allow. He then threatened to resign, implying that Egypt might turn to Washington for help in the future.

Despite these losses the Soviets and Egyptians managed to press the air defenses closer and closer to the canal. The Soviet operated SAMs shot down a number of Israeli aircraft. Israel could not respond effectively. The SAM batteries would allow Egypt to move in artillery which in turn could threaten the Bar Lev Line. In April 1970 negotiations resumed, this time with the U.S. being the primary negotiator. A cease-fire agreement was reached on August 7. It was to last for three months and neither side was allowed to change “the military status quo within zones extending 50 kilometers to the east and west of the cease-fire line.”

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

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Six-Days war , 5-10 June 1967

After the Suez-Sinai war Arab nationalism increased dramatically, as did demands for revenge led by Egypt’s president Nasser. The formation of a united Arab military command that massed troops along the borders, together with Egypt’s closing of the Straits of Tiran and Nasser’s insistence in 1967 that the UNEF leave Egypt, led Israel to attack Egypt, Jordan, and Syria simultaneously on June 5 of that year. The war ended six days later with an Israeli victory. Israel’s French-equipped air force wiped out the air power of its antagonists and was the chief instrument in the destruction of the Arab armies.

The Six-Day War left Israel in possession of Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, which it took from Egypt; Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which it took from Jordan; and the Golan Heights, taken from Syria. Land under Israel’s jurisdiction after the 1967 war was about four times the size of the area within its 1949 armistice frontiers. The occupied territories included an Arab population of about 1.5 million.

The war ended six days later with an Israeli victory. Israel’s French-equipped air force wiped out the air power of its antagonists and was the chief instrument in the destruction of the Arab armies.

The occupied territories became a major political issue in Israel after 1967. The right and leaders of the country’s orthodox religious parties opposed withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, which they considered part of Israel. In the Labor Alignment, opinion was divided; some Laborites favored outright annexation of the occupied territories, others favored withdrawal, and some advocated retaining only those areas vital to Israel’s military security. Several smaller parties, including the Communists, also opposed annexation. The majority of Israelis, however, supported the annexation of East Jerusalem and its unification with the Jewish sectors of the city, and the Labor-led government formally united both parts of Jerusalem a few days after the 1967 war ended. In 1980 the Knesset passed another law, declaring Jerusalem “complete and united,” Israel’s eternal capital.

The 1967 war was followed by an upsurge of Palestinian Arab nationalism. Several guerrilla organizations within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) carried out guerrillas attacks on Israeli targets, with the stated objective of “redeeming Palestine.” guerrillas attacks on Israelis targets at home and abroad unified public opinion against recognition of and negotiation with PLO, but the group nevertheless succeeded in gaining widespread international support, including UN recognition as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians.”.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

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Suez campaign , 29 Oct – 4 Nov 1956

During the 1950s there was considerable tension between Israel and Egypt, which, under President Nasser, had become a leader in the Arab world. His nationalization of the Suez Canal 1956 provided an opportunity for Israel with Britain and France, to attack Egypt and occupy a part of Palestine that Egypt had controlled since 1949, the Gaza Strip , from which Israel was forced by UN and US pressure to withdraw 1957 .

Great Britain and France ostensibly joined the attack because of their dispute with Egypt’s president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had just nationalized the Suez Canal. Nasser took over the canal after Great Britain and France withdrew offers to finance the construction of the Aswân High Dam. Israel scored a quick victory, seizing the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula within a few days. As Israeli forces reached the banks of the Suez Canal, the British and French started their attack.

The fighting was halted by the UN after a few days, and a UN Emergency Force (UNEF) was sent to supervise the cease-fire in the Canal zone. In a rare instance of cooperation, the United States and the Soviet Union supported the UN resolution forcing the three invading countries to leave Egypt and Gaza. By the end of the year their forces withdrew from Egypt, but Israel refused to leave Gaza until early 1957, and only after the United States had promised to help resolve the conflict and keep the Straits of Tiran open.

* The above iformation was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

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First Arab-Israeli War , 15 May 1948

Arab opposition to an Israeli state began after the Balfour Declaration 1917, which supported the idea of a Jewish national homeland. In the 1920s there were anti-Zionist riots in Palestine, after the British mandate government allowed thousands of Jews to immigrate to Palestine from all over the world.

In 1936 an Arab revolt led to a British royal commission that recommended partition (approved by United Nations 1947), but rejected by the Arabs.

When it became clear that the British intended to leave by May 15, leaders of the Yishuv decided (as they claim) to implement that part of the partition plan calling for establishment of a Jewish state. In Tel Aviv on May 14 the Provisional State Council, formerly the National Council, “representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the World Zionist Movement,” proclaimed the “establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called Medinat Israel (the State of Israel) … open to the immigration of Jews from all the countries of their dispersion.”

On May 15 the armies of Egypt, Transjordan (now Jordan), Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq joined Palestinian and other Arab guerrillas who had been fighting Jewish forces since November 1947. The war now became an international conflict, the first Arab-Israeli War.

The Arabs failed to prevent establishment of a Jewish state, and the war ended with four UN-arranged armistice agreements between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. The frontiers defined in the armistice agreements remained until they were altered by Israel’s conquests during the Six-Day War in 1967.

“Battle of the Roads”. The Arab League sponsored Arab Liberation Army, composed of Palestinian Arabs and Arabs from other Middle Eastern countries, attacked Jewish communities in Palestine, and Jewish traffic on major roads. The Arab forces mainly concentrated on major roadways in an attempt to cut off Jewish communities from each other. Arab forces at that time had engaged in sporadic and unorganized ambushes since the riots of December 1947, and began to make organized attempts to cut off the highway linking Tel Aviv with Jerusalem, the city’s only supply route. The Arab Army cut off supplies and controlled several strategic vantage points overlooking the sole highway linking Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, enabling them to fire at convoys going to the city. By late March 1948, the vital road that connected Tel Aviv to western Jerusalem, where about 16% of all Jews in the Palestinian region lived, was cut off and under siege.

April 6-12, 1948 : Operation Nachshon. The Haganah decided to launch a major military counteroffensive to break the siege of Jerusalem. On 6 April the Haganah and its strike force, the Palmach, in an offensive to secure strategic points, took al-Qastal, an important roadside town 2 kilometers west of Deir Yassin. But intense fighting lasted for days more as control of that key village remained contested.

April 9, 1948 : Throughout the siege on Jerusalem, Jewish convoys tried to reach the city to alleviate the food shortage, which, by April, had become critical. On 9 April 1948, IZL-Lehi forces attacked Deir Yassin, as part of Operation Nachshon to break the siege of western Jerusalem. On Deir Yassin massacre, Irgun and Lehi members attack the Arab village of Deir Yassin, killing between 100 and 120 Arabs civilians.

May 15, 1948 : Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Transjordan, Holy War Army, Arab Liberation Army, and local Arabs attack the new Jewish state with the intent of destroying it. The resulting 1948 Arab-Israeli War lasts for 13 months. By the end of the war, about 700,000 Palestinian Arabs leave as refugees for a variety of reasons among them, including: avoidance of crossfire, anticipation of war, expulsion, and the Jews massacre against number of Arab villages.

June 1948 : Violent confrontation between the Israel Defense Forces under the command of David Ben-Gurion, and the paramilitary Jewish group Irgun known as The Altalena Affair results in the dismantlement of the Irgun, Lehi, and all Israeli paramilitary organizations operating outside the IDF.

April 1949 : Israel concludes Armistice Agreements with neighbouring countries. The territory of the British Mandate of Palestine is divided between the State of Israel, the Kingdom of the Jordan (changed from Transjordan) and Egypt.

* The above information was obtained at www.palestinehistory.com

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