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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Hezbollah Leader Praises Egyptian Protesters

(Mosaic Video Alerts: 1100 PST, February 7, 2011) Press TV: Hezbollah's Nasrallah salutes Egypt protestors, lashes out against U.S. and Israel.



Click here for important background information on the unrest in Egypt.



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Protests in Egypt Continue on 14th Day

Protests continue for the 14th day in Egypt. Al Jazeera's Arabic language channel showed protesters saying they will not leave Tahrir Square in Cairo until Mubarak steps down and reported that the army is trying to close off the square.


Iran's Arabic language channel, Al Alam, reported that protest leaders have formed a unified group called the "Youth of the Egyptian Revolution." The group said they will continue protesting until all of their demands are met, including Mubarak's resignation. According to Al Alam, the Muslim Brotherhood said their talks with the regime had failed.


Egyptian state television, Nile TV, reported that Egyptian Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Shafiq believes it would be "unacceptable" for Mubarak to step down and that the regime was necessary to maintain stability for the next few months. He also said the army is not disturbing the protests and is only there for security. Nile TV also reported that the government approved a draft bill that would increase military and government employee salaries by 15 percent by April.


According to the BBC Arabic channel, U.S. President Barack Obama told Fox News that the Muslim Brotherhood is not the majority in Egypt. Press TV, the English language channel from Iran, showed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's first speech since the demonstrations began in Egypt. He supports the Egyptian protesters, saying they are "restoring the dignity of Arab people," and criticized the United States for supporting dictatorships.


Lebanon's New TV looked back at the life of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. They recount his career and the protests that led up to his 1981 assassination, which left his Vice President Hosni Mubarak in power.


Dubai TV reports that violence has erupted in Tunisia, including in the northwest city of Kef where youth set a police station on fire and the army was deployed in the streets. They also said protests broke out in Algeria, where youth unemployment is 20 percent.


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Mubarak's War on Islamists

On Wednesday, an Egyptian court convicted 26 men of spying for Hezbollah and plotting attacks on Egyptian soil on behalf of the Lebanese militant group.

The men, including Lebanese, Egyptians, Palestinians, and one Sudanese, received sentences ranging from six months to life in prison.

Hezbollah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has strongly criticized the Egyptian courts for jailing the men accused of working for his organization. He said the judgment by the Security Court in Cairo was "unjust and politicized."

Amnesty International on Thursday called for a retrial of 26 defendants, criticizing the use of an emergency court.

"These men should be retried by an ordinary court which gives them a chance of getting a fair trial," said the London-based rights watchdog.

Hezbollah’s differences with Egypt hit a pinnacle during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Egypt’s decision to keep the Rafah exits from Gaza sealed infuriated Nasrallah, who, on December 28, 2008, called for the Egyptian people to help the besieged Gazans and called on the Egyptian government to open the Rafah border crossing.

“Oh Egyptian official, unless you open the Rafah border crossing, unless you help your brethren in Gaza, you will be accomplices to the crime, accomplices to the killing, accomplices to the siege, and accomplices in generating the Palestinian catastrophe,” he said in a televised speech.

His statements at the time were interpreted by the Egyptian government and state-controlled media as meddling with Egyptian affairs and a call for a military mutiny and overthrow of the regime in Egypt.

But now Egypt has another issue to account for; on Thursday the Islamic Resistance Movement in Gaza, Hamas, accused Egyptian security forces of killing four Palestinians by pumping poisonous gas into a cross-border smuggling tunnel, a claim Cairo denied.

"Hamas holds the Egyptian side responsible for the killing of four innocent workers after Egyptian security forces pumped poisonous gas into one of the tunnels," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters in Gaza.

Egyptian security officials said, however, that their forces had destroyed four smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border but were not aware of any casualties.

Many analysts in the region believe that the Egyptian government is afraid that having a successful Islamic regime such as Hamas on their doorstep would strengthen their own Muslim Brotherhood, which poses a serious political threat to the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. Some Arab media commentators have upped the ante by accusing Mubarak of declaring a war on Muslim organizations. But the Egyptian government and its media have been pointing the finger towards Iran and describing Hezbollah and Hamas as proxies to Tehran.

Egypt, which for many years took the lead in championing Arab causes in Palestine, Algeria, and Yemen, has been replaced by non-Arab countries like Iran and Turkey. For the past several years, the popularity of the ruling regime has been on a steady decline both in Egypt and in the region. Being popular with the people, however, has long ceased being a priority for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: the popularity battle was lost a long time ago to the likes of Hassan Nasrallah, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Recep Tayeb Erdogan.


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