GAZA CHRONOLOGY June 19 – Dec. 27, 2008
Written by Anis
Ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Hamas government comes into force for six months. Israel insisted on a verbal agreement. It stated: cessation of all military hostilities on both sides, opening of Gaza's borders after 72 hours for 30% more trade, unrestricted trade after ten days. Egypt supports the extension of the agreement to the West Bank. (source: International Crisis Group: Ending the War in Gaza. Middle East Briefing No. 26, 5.1.2009, p. 3)
Israeli warships fire four rockets at Palestinian fishermen in Palestinian waters. On the same day aircraft circling over Gaza City break the sound barrier near the ground and trigger a panic among the people. In the area of Khan Yunis Israeli patrols shoot over the border fence at farmers who work on their fields on the other side of the border. (source: Ma'an, 26.06.2008). This scenario is repeated almost daily.
Two young officials of Jihad are murdered in their homes in Nablus by units of the IDF (Israeli Defence Force). On the same day al-Quds Brigades fire three rockets at Sderot in retaliation. (source: Ma'an 24.06.2008) The Israeli side uses the action of Jihad as an excuse to close the border crossings again.
The al-Aqsa Brigades fire a rocket on Sderot after many Fatah members have been arrested in raids by the Israeli army. With this the al-Aqsa Brigades want to force the extension of the ceasefire to the West Bank. The spokesman of the Hamas government in Gaza warns the al-Aqsa Brigades that their actions would prevent the lifting of the blockade and favour instead the narrower interests of a organisational and political nature.
A delegation of farmers complain to Hamas' Ministry of Agriculture that because of the Israeli bombardment they can no longer cultivate their fields along the border fence.
During a meeting of the Israeli labour party the Minister of Defence, Ehud Barak, threatens a ground invasion into the Gaza strip, despite Hamas' adherence to the ceasefire.
The director of the secret service Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, thinks that a ceasefire would reduce the pressure on Hamas to release Shalit. He calls on the army to prepare for a major military offensive. (source: Ma'an 8.8.2008) These statements reinforce the impression among Palestinians that as far as the Israeli military leadership is concerned the purpose of the ceasefire is to gain time in order to prepare an offensive.
The Israeli navy sinks a fishing boat (source: http://www.btselem.org/english/testimonies/20080910_israeli_navy_boat_charges_into_a_fishing_boat_witness_al_hasi.asp), after fishing boats were shot at and rammed several times.
Israeli troops enter into Khan Yunis. Deliberately targeted projectiles kill six Hamas members and injure several people, including one woman. In the Deir al-Balah several rockets are fired at residential areas. Near Wadi Salqa two houses of the Hawaidi family are destroyed and seven family members, three of them women, are kidnapped and taken to Israel. The same day Israeli border guards prevent French consular officals, who want to get a picture of the situation, from entering the Gaza strip. (Some background information: the dubious tunneller Abu Dawabah is arrested and claims during interrogation that both Hamas and and al-Aqsa brigades had offered him money for kidnapping an Israeli soldier. (source: Ma'an 3.11.2008) One day later the Hamas Ministry of Internal Affairs issues a denial. (See also International Crisis Group: Ending the War in Gaza. Middle East Briefing No. 26, 5.1.2009, p.5)
Residential areas in the north of the Gaza strip and Khan Yunis are bombarded. Israeli troops kill a leader of Jihad and six Hamas officials. Because of this, Hamas, the al-Aqsa Brigades and Jihad fire rockets into Israel. Until then Hamas fully observed the ceasefire. Jihad and the al-Aqsa Brigades state that the ceasefire will not prevent them from reacting to Israeli violations of the agreement. In spite of this, Hamas wants to continue the ceasefire and ask Egypt for mediation.
The Gaza Strip is completely sealed off. Even food, medicine, fuel, spare parts for generators and water pumps, paper, telephones and shoes can no longer or only in minimal amounts enter the Gaza Strip.
Israeli bulldozers enter into the strip at several points. This leads to armed clashes with the units of the DFLP.
Hamas Chief Ismail Haniya declares to European delegates who had broken through the sea blockade with a boat of the Free Gaza Movement and visited Gaza that Hamas could live with a solution of the Palestine problem on the basis of UN Resolutions. (source: Ma'an 9.11.2008)
A further four Hamas members are killed. Israeli airplanes fire rockets at residential areas. The Palestinian factions are getting ever more skeptical about the ceasefire. Israeli bulldozers cut a 150 metre swath into an area in the Gaza Strip for military patrols, destroying about 750 hectares of agrarian land. (source: Ma'an 21.11.2008)
Israeli boarder patrols bar a UN food convoy from passing the border. The DFLP claims that for Israel this was not about the ceasefire, but about breaking resistance to the occupation. In the following days the PFLP, the DFLP, the Popular Committees and Hamas fire projectiles at Israeli places while Israeli airplanes bomb the north of the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli Minister of Transport calls for killing the whole Hamas leadership. During new attacks another four members of the Popular Committees are killed. By now 15 people have been killed during the air strikes in recent days. The Popular Committees declare the end of the ceasefire. Their spokesperson blames Israel.
The DLFP and Jihad fire rockets into Israel.
The food crisis gets worse and worse. 50% of the bakeries cannot operate anymore due of lack of flour. Others use animal feed to bake bread. Israeli tanks enter the strip, there are armed clashes with the PFLP and the mujaheddin, another resistance group of Fatah. The Israeli Navy arrest 15 fishermen and three foreign solidarity activists off the coast of Gaza. The "Internationals" accompanied the fishermen in the hope that their presence would guarantee a minimum of protection. They are taken to Israel and get expelled after six days of solitary confinement. (source Ma'an 18.11.2008). The three fishing boats were given back after 9 days, but one boat was damaged, the GPS device was missing. During their days in prison, the solidarity workers were barred from contacting their lawyers and their embassies. (source: http://www.freegaza.org/de/home/547-three-palestinian-fishing-boats-returned and http://www.freegaza.org/de/home/558-kidnapped-in-gaza]
Yet again a Hamas member is killed by targeted rocket strikes. Hamas increasingly comes under pressure from the other groups as well as their own base, who demand they force Israel to keep to the ceasefire. But how?
Diplomatic sources claim that the Egyptians stepped in and got Hamas and the Israeli government to agree to resume the ceasefire according to the conditions originally negotiated. This is confirmed by Hamas. Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha furthermore states that the other resistance groups also agree to the continuation of the ceasefire - on condition that the blockade is lifted. Israel does not comment on this.
A member of the Popular Committee is killed by an Israeli rocket. After Israeli claims that rockets were fired – but no one claimed responsibility for that - the Israeli Minister of Defense Barak retracts the order to open the border for urgently needed food deliveries. As far back as August rockets had been fired on several occasions from the Gaza Strip to the Negev desert, without claim of responsibility, which led to the closure of the border each time. At the time Hamas leader Mammud al-Zahhar accused Israeli agents of creating a pretext for a land invasion. (source Ma'an 12.9.2008). Also at the time the names of groups nobody in Gaza had heard of before and knew anything about crop up such as Ahrar al-Jalil, Tawhid Brigades or Hisb Allah. Some believe they are collaborators wanting to corrupt the ceasefire. Other voices believe they are small radical cells who think Hamas have made too many concessions.
The Israeli army kills a man from Khan Yunis, who doesn't belong to any organisation. On the same day eight Israeli soldiers are injured at a boarder border post through attacks by the mujaheddin.
Jihad declare they no longer feel bound by the ceasefire. The al-Aqsa Brigades fire projectiles at Sderot again. Hamas and Jihad are warned by mediators from Qatar that Israel plans a major military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The political leadership of Hamas issues an urgent appeal to armed groups including their own al-Qassam Brigades to stop firing rockets into Israel.
Israeli tanks enter the Gaza Strip again. Two teenagers are killed in air strikes.
Al-Aqsa Brigades fire rockets at Ashkelon.
Massive assaults by Jewish settlers on Palestinians in Hebron. While the al-Aqsa Brigades, the DFLP and the al-Quds Brigades of the Jihad fire rockets at Israeli places as a reaction to the events in the West Bank, Hamas organises solidarity demonstrations with Palestinians in Hebron to rescue what is left of the ceasefire agreement.
The blockade in the Gaza Strip is getting more severe. A boat from Israel with peace activists wanting to bring food and gifts for children to Gaza on the occasion of the feast of sacrifice is forced to turn back by Israeli warships. The same fate befalls a boat from Qatar and another one from Libya, both of which want to deliver food to Gaza.
Tzipi Livni states that in case a Palestinian state is set up the Palestinian people living in Israel would be expatriated. By now no organisation thinks there is any purpose in extending the ceasefire. Brigades of the DFLP, al-Aqsa, the Popular Committees and Jihad fire at Israeli places on a regular basis. The political leadership of Hamas in Gaza, especially the de facto president Haniya has no means of preventing this, because even their own armed faction, the al-Qassam Brigades, no longer see any sense in the ceasefire.
The Hamas leadership abroad states through Khaled Mashaal that Hamas reject an extension of the ceasefire, whereas Haniya still hopes that Egypian mediation will help achieve an extension.
On the same day the six-month-ceasefire ends all factions declare at separate mass events that they consider the ceasefire to be finished – even Fatah.
Fawzi Barhum, the spokesman of Hamas, calls on all factions to form a common resistance front. His acerbic reply to the Russian demand that Hamas should consider the extension of the ceasefire is that the onus was now on the international community to put pressure on Israel to cease the attacks on the Palestinian people, instead of blaming the victims of these attacks. (source: Ma'an 21.12.2008) But the Egyptians do not react.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hamas government, Mahmud al-Zahhar, declares once again that Hamas is prepared to continue with the ceasefire agreement, provided Israel adheres to the conditions agreed in June, in particular the lifting of the blockade. But the discourse of al-Qassam Brigades is more subdued. Abu Ubaida, spokesman of al-Qassam Brigades, speaks only about the possibility of suspending the military action and no longer about a ceasefire and does not exclude any military action in Israel if Israel does not stop its agression against Gaza. (source: Ma'an 23.12.2008)
The Israeli military attacks the Gaza Strip, killing about 1,360 people, mostly civilians including more than 400 children, by 18th January 2009. Many thousands are injured and made homeless. Israel uses phosphorus as a weapon, turns over a cemetery, shoots at the UN, schools, mosques etc. About 13 people die on the Israeli side, some of them are killed by their own soldiers. The West puts the whole blame for the catastrophe on Hamas.
25 February 2009
From the Free Gaza Movement: