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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Palestinian Detainees: The Incomplete Road to Freedom

Palestinians rejoiced today in Gaza and the West Bank as 477 prisoners were released in the first phase of the exchange deal for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. But in an op-ed titled "Thousands Are Left Behind by the Shalit Prisoner Exchange," the general director of al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, warned that the release of 1,000 should not mean forgetting the 6,000 political prisoners still languishing behind bars.


A freed Palestinian prisoner is hugged by his wife and daughter upon arrival at the Rafah crossing with Egypt in the Gaza Strip.

The release of a total 1,027 Palestinian prisoners will be completed within two months. However, 163 detainees will be exiled to Gaza and another 40 will be deported from their homeland to Turkey, Syria, Qatar and Jordan.

For detainees staying behind, worsening conditions in Israeli prisons had pushed over 2,000 Palestinian prisoners to take part in a three-week hunger strike to protest the poor conditions and lack of basic rights. According to Amnesty International, "consistent allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including of children, were frequently reported. Among the most commonly cited methods were beatings, threats to the detainee or their family, sleep deprivation, and being subjected to painful stress positions for long periods. Confessions allegedly obtained under duress were accepted as evidence in Israeli military and civilian courts."


In an article titled "How Israel takes its revenge on boys who throw stones," Catrina Stewart offers a glimpse into the brutal treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli jails. She reports that children as young as 12 are taken from their homes at night, deprived of food and sleep, physically and psychologically abused, and forced to sign a confession they often can't even read. The article states that "Israel's policy has been successful in one sense, sowing fear among children and deterring them from future demonstrations. But the children are left traumatised, prone to nightmares and bed-wetting." And yet Palestinian minors were excluded from the first round of the prisoners' release, leading UNICEF to appeal for the release of Palestinian child detainees.


Amidst joyous celebrations in Gaza City, one Palestinian wrote that she "didn't know whether to be happy or sad…We will never stop singing for the freedom of Palestinian detainees until the Israeli prisons are emptied."


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Tonight on Mosaic: Palestinians give cautious welcome to unity accord‎

Several days ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas a choice between seeking reconciliation with Hamas and achieving peace with Israel. Today, Abbas said the Palestinian Authority will stand by Hamas. He made this statement at the signing ceremony for the national reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo, Egypt. Palestinians expressed cautious optimism over the agreement, hoping it will open a new chapter for Palestinians.


Dubai TV reports that Syria protests have spread to the country’s second largest city, Aleppo. Students from the University of Aleppo took to the streets to demand that authorities lift the siege on Daraa. Nearly 3,000 protestors demonstrated in the coastal city of Baniyas with the same demand. Over 1,000 people have been arrested over the past three days, raising the total number of Syrian detainees to 2,800.


In Bahrain, 23 doctors and 24 nurses will be put on trial for their involvement in the uprising. The Bahraini military court is accusing them of providing medical care to protestors, being involved in the attempts to topple the ruling family, participating in illegal gatherings, and damaging public opinion by spreading false news. Al-Alam reports that this comes days after the military court issued death sentences to four young men accused of killing two police officers during protests.


In Libya, Muammar Gaddafi’s forces have shelled the Misurata port again, this time killing five people. Al-Jazeera reports that the forces are preparing to launch a new attack on the Wazen border crossing with Tunisia. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that over 80,000 Libyans have been displaced from the western Jabal al-Gharbi district in the past few days. International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said that NATO forces might be used to capture Gaddafi.


France 24 reports tonight from Morocco, where demonstrators are gathering under the slogan “the people want to topple corruption and despotism.” The Morocco protests began on February 20, and have been growing in size everyday, despite King Mohammed VI’s promises to release of political prisoners and enact reforms.


Hundreds of Iraqis poured into Tahrir Square in central Baghdad last week to participate in the “Friday of Resistance.” Protestors are demanding the end of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, the eradication of corruption, and the release of detainees. In Mosul, demonstrators rallied in Ahrar Square for the 20th consecutive day, despite the government’s attempts to scatter the crowd.


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Tonight on Mosaic: Fatah and Hamas sign unity agreement

Al-Jazeera reports that the rivaling Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have signed the reconciliation agreement brokered by Cairo. Over the last several days, Fatah and Hamas delegates met with Egyptian leaders to finalize the agreement before signing it. Many believe that this reconciliation would not have been possible during former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.


New TV reports that the death of al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, does not mean an end to the organization. Three people are being considered to replace bin Laden: Ayman al-Zawahri, the “mastermind” behind the 9/11 attacks; Anwar al-Awlaki, the leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch; and Abu Yahya al-Libi, the head of the organization’s military operations. Security experts believe that bin Laden’s successors will launch even fiercer attacks on Western interests around the world.


The BBC reports from Libya, where NATO is searching for a naval mine near Misurata's port that is preventing the evacuation of African workers and wounded people trapped at the port. While sporadic battles continue between Gaddafi and opposition forces in Misurata, thousands of people in the capital Tripoli attended the funeral of Saif al-Arab, Gaddafi's youngest son, and three of his grandchildren who were killed in a recent NATO air strike. People at the funeral chanted slogans demanding that NATO halt airstrikes in Libya.


In Yemen, one person was killed and two were injured in Aden after police fired at protestors demanding the expedition of the trial of security forces accused of killing a detainee. Al-Alam reports that this news comes as demonstrations demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh's resignation and prosecution continue throughout the country. The Yemeni people affirmed that demonstrations will continue until the their demands are met.


Future TV reports that new images have been released showing the Syrian army arresting, beating, and insulting demonstrators participating in rallies during Syria’s “week of breaking the siege.” Syrian security forces were heavily deployed in several areas including Baniyas, Daraa, Baida, al-Qamishli, al-Riqqah, and Damscus. As crackdowns on protests continue throughout Syria, France and Britain are urging the EU to impose sanctions against Syrian officials, including President Bashar al-Assad.







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Tonight on Mosaic: Arab world reacts to bin Laden's killing

Tonight, al-Jazeera reports on the death of Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda. Reuters quoted a US Department of Homeland Security official saying that the instructions issued to the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) team were to kill bin Laden, not capture him. President Barack Obama announced bin Laden’s death in a speech late last night, describing it as “the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al-Qaeda.” Americans gathered by the thousands in a number of cities to celebrate the news.  



The BBC reports on the mixed reactions to the death of bin Laden in the Arab world. Many expressed happiness and relief over his killing, while others doubted that bin Laden was actually dead. Hamas has condemned the killing, describing bin Laden as a “holy warrior.” The Saudi Arabian government has expressed hope that his death will be a step forward in the international efforts against terrorism.


In other news, Future TV reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has requested that the US end monetary support of the Palestinian Authority if a united national government is formed that includes Hamas. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh responded by demanding that the Palestinian Liberation Organization withdraw its recognition of Israel. Some political analysts believe that a third intifada is inevitable, whether or not the UN recognizes the Palestinian state.  

Al-Alam reports that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has refused to sign the deal put forth by the Gulf Cooperation Council. The opposition’s Joint Meeting Parties are holding Saleh responsible for the failure of the agreement. Meanwhile, the Yemeni people remain determined to attain what they consider to be their most important demands, including Saleh’s resignation and prosecution.


New TV reports on the disastrous consequences that violence in Libya is having on children. Forced to live amidst war and death everyday, children have been drawing pictures of weapons, bombs, and other violent scenes. Teachers have reported that children have also been drawing people crying and frequently using the color black.


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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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Israel Opposes Palestinian Reconciliation Deal

(Euronews: 0410 PST, April 28, 2011) Palestinians in Hamas-ruled Gaza have been celebrating the news of a provisional agreement with the rival Fatah group to end their bitter feud. But reaction in Israel has been less positive, due to fears the more militant Hamas will take control of the West Bank.




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Fatah and Hamas Strike Deal to Form Unity Government

(Euronews: 1154 PST, April 27, 2011) Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah say they have resolved their deep divisions. Holding talks in the Egyptian capital Cairo, the two groups reportedly thrashed out a deal opening the way for a unity interim government and general elections.


A spokesman for Hamas in Gaza told Reuters news agency that both sides had signed initial letters on an agreement and all points of differences had been overcome. The reported deal came as thousands of protesters gathered in the West Bank and Gaza calling for reconciliation.




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Palestinians Rally for National Unity as Syrians Demand Political Reform

(Mosaic Video Alert: March 15, 2011) The BBC reports on pro-democracy protests in Syria in which hundreds of Syrians took to the streets of the capital Damascus, chanting slogans and demanding political reforms. Protestors marched from the Hamadiyah Market to the area of Hariqa calling for freedom. This unprecedented mobilization in Syria was organized on Facebook. In the West Bank city of Ramallah, hundreds of protestors gathered in response to a call made by youth groups on Facebook. Dubai TV reports that demonstrators called for an end to internal Palestinian division between Fatah and Hamas. They chanted slogans demanding national unity and appealed to both Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.



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