This Week in Gaza: 'Operation Pillar of Defense' Revives Israel-Hamas Conflict

REUTERS/Mohammed Salem


The latest violence in the Israel-Hamas conflict began on Wednesday with the Israel Defense Force's "Operation Pillar of Defense," a series of air strikes on the Gaza Strip. The first day of strikes saw the death of Ahmed al-Jaabari, the leader of the Hamas movement's military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Factions in Gaza have responded with rocket fire into southern Israel, with fears on both sides that the situation is about to escalate into another ground war.


Below is a summary of this week's reports from Mosaic on the conflict, as well as the various international responses to the violence.

Wednesday, November 14

Al Jazeera reported that in an air strike on Gaza City, Israel assassinated Ahmed al-Jaabari, the head of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, in an air strike on the Gaza Strip.  An Al Jazeera report looks at the most prominent chapters in the life of al-Jaabari, from his beginnings as a guerilla in the Fatah movement to his rise to power in al-Qassam, and the previous attempts on his life that killed his son and brother. It also looks at his role in the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

IBA reported that the IDF stressed that the attacks are an ongoing operation, the IDF chief of staff is overseeing the operation, and al-Jaabari is not the only target. The purpose is to stop the constant barrage of rockets on the south of Israel. Meanwhile, the Iron Dome system was bolstered in southern Israel, in the Negev town of Netivot, to guard against missile attacks from the Gaza Strip.

Press TV reported that the United States defended Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip, while Egypt called on Tel Aviv to immediately stop the attacks. The Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's health minister are calling on President Mohamed Morsi to reconsider all treaties and ties with Israel. The acting chief of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, also condemned the attacks, and called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League to discuss the Israeli aggressions.

Thursday, November 15

Saudi TV reported that Western reactions to the recent Israel-Hamas attacks varied from supporting Israel to considering the Israeli strikes a "disproportionate response" to the firing of rockets by Palestinian factions. Meanwhile, Arab nations unanimously denounced Israel, and held it completely responsible for the escalation. Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, said that the Israeli aggression on Gaza is as a test for the leaders of the Arab world, and called on Islamic and Arab leaders to change the rules of the game with Israel.

Press TV reported that the Palestinian prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, paid tribute to the late military commander Ahmed al-Jaabari, and said that his assassination will be avenged. He also hailed Egypt for its support in the decision to withdraw its ambassador from Tel Aviv. In Lebanon, the leader of the Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, said the fresh Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip has once again shown the "true face" of the US and its allies.

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza said a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip caused an explosion in Tel Aviv. Earlier, the Israeli army said a rocket fell on Rishon Lezion, a southern suburb of Tel Aviv. This is the first time rockets launched from Gaza hit a Tel Aviv suburb. Three Israeli soldiers were injured after a shell fell in the western Negev. Israeli police also confirmed that three people were killed in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi due to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

IBA reported that in Kiryat Malakhi, a direct hit by a Grad rocket on an apartment building killed Israeli civilians, including two women and a man who were trying to make their way into a fortified stairwell when the missile hit. IDF Spokeswoman Avital Leibovitch says that "all the options are on the table, including the possibility of a ground operation," and some reserve units have been alerted.

Friday, November 16

BBC Arabic reported that the Palestinian death toll has risen past 20, in addition to the over 250 people wounded in the more than 120 Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip. Israeli police confirmed that a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip fell south of Jerusalem, and two rockets fell in an open area near Tel Aviv. This comes as al-Qassam Brigades said it downed an Israeli warplane with a surface-to-air missile.

Al Jazeera reported that Israeli air raids continued despite the Netanyahu government's commitment to stop them during the visit of Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil to Gaza. Meanwhile, during protests in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Hamas flags were raised, and chants echoed in support of the movement, in a scene that has been rare since the Hamas-Fatah split in 2007. Clashes erupted across the West Bank and Jerusalem during demonstrations that took place after Friday prayers against the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.

Press TV reported that there is worldwide condemnation of the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. Demonstrators in several countries, including Turkey, Yemen, South Africa, Lebanon, Libya, and Greece, have taken to the streets in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Image: Jihad al-Masharawi, a Palestinian employee of BBC Arabic in Gaza, carries the body of his 11-month-old son Omar, who according to hospital officials was killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem


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Developments in Libya and the Middle East

REUTERS/Ismail ZitounyLibyan court revokes law banning Gaddafi glorification

Al Jazeera - Libya's Supreme Court ruled that a law, passed by the National Transitional Council, was unconstitutional. The law criminalizes the glorification of Gaddafi and his ideas, and punishes with a prison sentence anyone who harms the February 17 Revolution. The court's ruling ended the debate between the law's opponents and proponents. Some viewed the law as a restoration of the former regime's tools of governance, while others considered it a rupture with the Gaddafi era.

Egypt's high court dissolves parliament two days before presidential elections

New TV - Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved parliament, and confirmed the presidential run-off elections will be held on time. the struggle between Egypt's judges and the dissolved parliament seems ongoing, after parliament insulted and defamed the Egyptian judiciary and Judge Ahmed Rifaat, who presided over Mubarak’s case. This led the chairman of the union of judges to respond in kind, as the battle continues between the legislative and judicial powers. The ruling also found the disenfranchisement law invalid, keeping Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential race.

A look at Gaza after five years of Hamas rule and Israeli siege

BBC Arabic - Tuesday marked the 5th anniversary of Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip following an internal battle with its opponent Fatah, that lasted many months and shaped the beginning of the Palestinian political division. Attempts to remedy this division continue today. It also paved the way for an economic blockade by Israel on Gaza's crossings, the price of which is being paid by Gaza’s residents.

As rhetoric intensifies, the Syrian conflict nears global proxy

Al-Alam - In light of the on-the-ground developments of the Syrian crisis, and as clashes continue between armed groups and government forces while a political solution is still lacking, the positions of European and world capitals have differed on the situation in Syria. In contrast to the UN position expressing concern over the eruption of a civil war in Syria, France's position explicitly urged an escalation of the situation in order to topple the regime. It also threatened to impose harsh sanctions on Syria.


Tunisia arrests dozens of Salafi Islamists rioting over art show

BBC Arabic - Clashes in some areas of the densely populated capital continued until the early morning hours. According to the Interior Ministry, the clashes erupted overnight between security forces and groups affiliated with Salafi forces, and vandals in several neighborhoods of the capital Tunis. Vandalism, burning and looting affected security and judicial institutions, and syndicates. Protesters say the reason is the display of portraits they considered offensive to Islam.


Image: Judge Kamal Bashir Daham, head of Libya's Supreme Court, and members of the court panel meet to approve the constitutional invalidation of a law that will criminalise the glorification of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi or any of his supporters in Tripoli June 14, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny


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Egyptians Rally in Tahrir for Mubarak Retrial and More

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Egyptians hold the second million-man march within two days

Al Jazeera - Tahrir Square witnessed a demonstration titled the “Friday of Determination”. Following the verdict of Mubarak and some of his regime’s figureheads, masses took the squares and held spontaneous protests; they were not mobilized by any particular revolutionary or political force. The protests, in which thousands participated, viewed the verdict as a step toward reproducing the former regime. The demands varied throughout the demonstrations, and included the implementation of the disenfranchisement law on candidate Ahmed Shafiq, preventing him from participating in the presidential run-off round, and the re-trial of deposed President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, and his regime's figureheads.


Two Sudans disagree over border of demilitarized zone

Dubai TV - The current African-mediated talks between Sudan and South Sudan have stalled once again since they started four days ago in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Both sides have failed to establish a demilitarized zone on their shared borders. Observers believe that both sides do not wish to continue fighting in light of their current crises, and the fear of UN sanctions if they fail to resolve their problems.

Benghazi residents protest unequal distribution of Libya's National Council seats

Al Jazeera - Hundreds of people demonstrated in the Libyan city of Benghazi yesterday, demanding a fair redistribution of the Public National Conference's seats among all Libyan regions. The protestors believe the current distribution of seats is prejudice, as it is based on the population density, and may lead to the monopoly of political decisions. In addition, the protestors expressed their intention to boycott the anticipated parliamentary elections, if their demands are not met.

A look back at Naksa Day, or the Day of the Setback

Palestine TV - Tuesday was the 45th anniversary of the June War, known as the Naksa, or the day of the setback, when tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced. On that day in 1967, Israel launched an attack that targeted a number of Arab countries and occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It changed the geographic and demographic reality in what remained of Palestine, in the years following the Nakba, or the catastrophe, when its land was occupied and its people were displaced. And despite the long years of great pain between 1948 and 1967 that hold the history of dark massacres, the refugees have never stopped waiting for their return. Refugee camps and journeys of displacement remain witnesses to the severity of the occupation that has changed and is still changing the map of this region.

Afghan President Karzai condemns NATO air strike as Panetta arrives in Kabul

Al-Alam - Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the NATO air strike conducted in the southern province of Logar that resulted in the death of 18 people, assuring that targeting civilians cannot be justified. Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Panetta arrived to Afghanistan in a surprise visit. Panetta said the purpose of his visit is to get an assessment from American General John Allen, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, of the ability to cope with the Taliban's threats and Haqqani fighters, referring to another network tied to al-Qaeda.

Image: A protester acting as Hosni Mubarak wears a mask depicting the deposed Egyptian president during a mock trial at Tahrir square in Cairo June 8, 2012. Hundreds of activists gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to demonstrate against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik ahead of a run-off vote, saying they did not want to be ruled by another former military man. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem


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Palestinians Killed at Nakba Rallies

(Al Jazeera English: 1534 PT, May 15, 2011) Several people have been killed and scores of others wounded in the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, Ras Maroun in Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as Palestinians mark the "Nakba," or day of "catastrophe."


The "Nakba" is how Palestinians refer to the 1948 founding of the state of Israel, when an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled following Israel's declaration of statehood. Al Jazeera's Nisreen El Shamyleh reports.



Egypt Police Fire Tear Gas at Nakba Protest

(Al Jazeera English: 1707 PT, May 15, 2011) Egyptian police have fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo, after a group of demonstrators reportedly attempted to storm the building. Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith reports.



Marking Nakba

(Press TV: 0509 PT, May 16, 2011) Analysis of the Nakba protests from Iran's Press TV.





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World Reacts to Bin Laden Death

(Euronews: 0413 PT, May 2, 2011) World leaders have been reacting to the death of Osama bin Laden. In Kabul, Afghan president Hamid Karzai said that the al-Qaeda leader's killing showed the fight against terrorism should be focused in neighbouring Pakistan. Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Bin Laden's death proved that all terrorist group leaders would eventually face justice. British Prime Minister David Cameron struck a cautious tone, welcoming Bin Laden's death but warning that the threat of terrorism had not yet been defeated.



(Associated Press: 0606 PT, May 2, 2011) Leaders, experts and citizens around the world are reacting to news of the death of Osama bin Laden in a US military operation.



(Euronews: 0925 PT, May 2, 2011) Reaction in the Arab world has been mixed. In the Gaza strip, Hamas's leader Ismail Haniyeh was guarded, yet also clear he saw no change for the better coming from it: "If the news is correct, we regard this as a continuation of the American policy that is based on oppression and shedding the Muslim and Arab blood."



(ITN News: 0724 PT, May 2, 2011) Former UK prime minister Tony Blair responds to death of Osama bin Laden.




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Palestinians Protest Division and Occupation on Land Day

(Mosaic Video Alert: March 31, 2011) To commemorate "Land Day," Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, and the 1948 territories protested against Palestinian division and Israeli occupation by carrying Palestinian flags and chanting slogans calling for national unity.



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Gaza Mourns Children Killed by Israeli Airstrikes

(Mosaic Video Alert: March 24, 2011) New TV reports on the Israeli airstrikes over the Gaza Strip  which targeted the neighborhoods of al-Shuja'eiya and al-Zaitoun and killed nine people, including several children. The public held funerals for the martyrs on what the government called the "day of mourning their souls." The mourners believe that Israel "carefully and deliberately" chose the timing of the attacks, as the world is preoccupied with the revolutions occurring throughout the Arab world.



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WikiLeaks Fuels Hamas-Fatah Conflict

The documents released by WikiLeaks continue to be disseminated around the world, providing the public with an unprecedented glimpse into U.S. diplomacy. Some of the information cited in the documents was direct, open and damaging even if the U.S. continues to question the legitimacy of the leak.

WikiLeaksThe 250,000 U.S. Embassy diplomatic cables reveal communications between 274 embassies in countries around the world and the U.S. State Department, effectively impacting the entire world and the Middle East is no exception.


Many Arab state-run media outlets have been skeptical in their coverage of the cables. Some chose to focus on issues unrelated to their country while others opted to undermine the implications of the leak.

Tarek al-Homayad, editor-in-chief of al-Sharq al-Awsat, a leading Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily, portrayed the leaks as a crisis for America, but called into question the accuracy and relevance of the reports:  “We must take care that not everything written by the American embassies is fact. Some contain analysis and reporting while the rest merely express points of view, not actual policies.”

The documents prompted the two main Palestinian rivals, Hamas and Fatah, to exchange accusations and blame, especially in regard to the recognition of Israel.

Wasn’t recognizing Israel part of the negotiation process?  So why is it now a major issue? It seems that each faction is trying to undermine the other in a bid to rally public support and avoid accountability.

The next revelation, however, didn’t only come as a shock to Palestinians, but raised concern over the credibility of their leadership in Ramallah.  Among the documents was a claim by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Israel consulted Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA) before launching its Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Barak is quoted in the cable saying both Egyptian and PA officials rejected offers to assume control of Gaza after Hamas’ defeat.

Would the PA have conspired with Israel had it known that more than 1,400 Gazans, mostly civilians, would be killed in the three-month armed conflict? If this is the case, shouldn’t the PA be held accountable, along with Israel, and perhaps face war crimes charges?

This revelation, if accurate, does not only indict the PA. It seems that Egypt also played a conspirator role in the war on Hamas. In a meeting with U.S. General David Petraeus in the summer of 2009, Egyptian Security Chief Omar Suleiman complained that neither the ‘Hamas terrorist organization,’ nor Fatah really want to reconcile. Suleiman said his country cooperates with Israel in its effort to prevent ‘arms smuggling and money into Gaza.’

Egypt has been playing the role of mediator between Fatah and Hamas since the latter’s violent takeover of Gaza more than three years ago.

Nearly two months ago, the two Palestinian rivals agreed to take the required steps to end their division, share power and vowed to hold more talks before signing a final deal in Cairo. 

Now with the WikiLeaks revelations, which raise questions about Cairo’s role as an honest peace broker, Hamas and Fatah may have to find another sponsor or it may be time for the Palestinians to assume responsibility and solve their own problems.

The 251,287 cables that have been published are filled with juicy gossip. The repercussions of the recent leaks on world diplomacy remain undetermined, but we can be certain the damage they caused Palestinian reconciliation is irreversible.


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