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Template:Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel

Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip have occurred since 2001. As of January 2009, over 8,600 rockets had been launched, leading to 28 deaths and several hundred injuries,[1][2] as well as widespread psychological trauma and disruption of daily life.[3]

The weapons, often generically referred to as Qassams, were initially crude and short-range, mainly affecting the Israeli city of Sderot and other communities bordering the Gaza Strip. However, in 2006 more sophisticated rockets began to be deployed, reaching the larger coastal city of Ashkelon, and by early 2009 major cities Ashdod and Beersheba had been hit by Katyusha and Grad rockets.

Attacks have been carried out by all Palestinian armed groups[4] and according to a 2008 poll are supported by most Palestinian people[5], though the stated motives and goals have been mixed. The attacks have been widely condemned for targeting civilians and are defined as war crimes by human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Defenses constructed specifically to deal with the weapons include fortifications for schools and bus stops as well as an alarm system named Red Color. A system to intercept short-range rockets is being developed.

The attacks were a stated cause of the Gaza blockade, Operation Cast Lead (Dec 27, 2008 - Jan 21, 2009) and other Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, including Operation Rainbow (May, 2004) and Operation Days of Penitence (2004), Operation Summer Rains (2006), Operation Autumn Clouds (2006), and Operation Hot Winter (2008).

Overview

Attacks began in 2001. Since then, more than 8,600 rockets have hit southern Israel, nearly 6,000 of them since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. The range of the missiles has increased over time. The original Qassam rocket has a range of about 10 km (6 miles) but more advanced missiles, including versions of the old Soviet Grad or Katyusha have hit Israeli targets 40 km (25 miles) from Gaza.[1]

Some analysts see the attacks as a shift away from reliance on suicide bombing, which was previously Hamas's main method of attacking Israel, and an adoption of the rocket tactics used by Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.[6]

Participating groups

Khaled Meshaal 01

Khaled Mashal, political leader of Hamas

All the Palestinian armed groups carry out rocket and mortar attacks, with varying frequency.[4] The main groups are Hamas, Islamic Jihad[7], the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine[8], the Popular Resistance Committees[9], Fatah[10], and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine[4]. Hamas is the de-facto governing authority in the Gaza Strip, while Fatah holds the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority.

Islamic Jihad has involved other Palestinians in the activities, running summer camps where children were taught how to hold a Qassam rocket launcher.[11] One Islamic Jihad rocket maker, Awad al-Qiq, was a science teacher and headmaster at a United Nations school.[12]

Palestinian security forces say that they do little or nothing to prevent rocket attacks or to hold responsible the militants who launch them, according to a 2007 report by Human Rights Watch [13]

History

2001-2007

9-years old Israeli boy Osher Twito copes with lost of his leg after Qassam exploded next to him in Sderot Israel

9-year-old Israeli boy Osher Twito copes with the loss of his leg after a Qassam rocket exploded next to him in the city of Sderot

Rockets were originally fired mainly on Sderot, an Israeli city on the border of the Gaza Strip.[14] Sderot's population density is slightly greater than that of the Gaza Strip. Due to this, and despite the imperfect aim of these homemade projectiles, they have caused deaths and injuries, as well as significant damage to homes and property, psychological distress and emigration from the city. Ninety percent of the city's residents have had a missile exploding in their street or an adjacent one.[1]

On 28 March 2006, while Israelis went to general elections, the first Katyusha rocket from Gaza was fired at Israel. The rocket fell near the Itfah kibbutz on the outskirts of Ashkelon and caused no damage or casualties. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.[15][16] Several months later, On 5 July 2006, a rocket hit the center of Ashkelon for the first time, striking an empty high school. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the attack, which was claimed by Hamas, an "escalation of unprecedented gravity"[17][18], but the event was quickly overshadowed by the 2006 Lebanon War. On 5 January 2007 Palestinian militants fired a Katyusha rocket at Ashkelon. The Katyusha has a range of 18-20 kilometers, and the rocket was fired from the al-Attara region in the northern Gaza Strip, traveling about 17 kilometers before reaching its target.[19] On 7 October 2007 the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for a Grad-type Katyusha that hit Netivot. However, during this period Katyusha attacks from Gaza remained rare.[20]

2008-2009

In January of 2008 the border between Gaza and Egypt was breached by Hamas. It allowed them to bring in Russian and Iranian made rockets with a larger range.

Two premature Palestinian babies, admitted to the Barzilai Medical Center's NICU unit, were among the civilian targets of Iranian Grad missiles launched by Hamas at Ashkelon. Their mother Beit Lahiya was told by Palestinians doctors in Gaza that two embryos out of the the four she carried died in her womb, and if she wants to save two other babies, she had to go to Israel. Israeli official granted her entrance in 24 hours after it was requested. She gave the birth to a boy and a girl in Barzilai Medical Center on February 25, 2008. On the second day after the birth, Grad rocket hit the hospital ground only 200 meters away from Palestinian mother and her new born twins.[21] [22]

In the first half of 2008, the number of attacks rose sharply, consistently totaling several hundred per month. In addition, Ashkelon was hit many times during this period by Grad rockets.

From 19 June to 19 December 2008, an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was in effect. During this time, only several dozen rockets were fired at Israel, a marked decrease from the pre-ceasefire period. Hamas imprisoned some of those firing rockets.[23]

During the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Palestinian militants began to deploy improved Qassam and factory-made rockets with a range of 40 kilometers.[24] Rockets reached major Israeli cities Ashdod[25], Beersheba and Gedera for the first time, putting one-eighth of Israel's population in rocket range[26] and raising concerns about the safety of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Israel's largest population center,[27][28] as well as the Negev Nuclear Research Center.[29] According to Isaeli authorities, 571 rockets and 205 mortar shells landed in Israel during the 22 days of the conflict.[4]

On 18 January 2009, following a unilateral ceasefire declaration by Israel, Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced that they would cease rocket attacks for one week.[30] Rockets and mortar attacks continued almost daily into February.[31][32]

Tactics

[[Khaled Jaabari], Gaza commander of the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, said that the group uses Google Earth to determine targets.[33] Rocket fire is often timed for the early morning when children head to school.[34][35]

A source close to Hamas described the movement's use of stealth when firing during the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict: "They fired rockets in between the houses and covered the alleys with sheets so they could set the rockets up in five minutes without the planes seeing them. The moment they fired, they escaped, and they are very quick."[36]

Defensive measures

Fortifications and bomb shelters

Sderot Shelter

Bomb shelter in Sderot

Residential buildings and homes in Israel are generally equipped with bomb shelters. However, as of February 2009, approximately 5,000 residents of southern Israel, mostly elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, lacked proper reinforced rooms or reasonable access to public shelters.[37] Many Sderot families sleep together in a single fortified room in their homes.[38]

In March 2008 the Israeli Government placed 120 fortified bus stops in Sderot, following a Defense Ministry assessment that most qassam-related injuries and fatalites were caused by shrapnel wounds in victims on the street.[39] As of January 2009, all schools in Sderot have been fortified against rockets;[40] fortifications consist of arched canopies over roofs.[38] However, on 3 January 2009 a Grad rocket penetrated the fortification of a school in Ashkelon.[41]

In March 2009, Sderot inaugurated a reinforced children's recreation center built by the Jewish National Fund. The purpose of the center, which has "$1.5 million worth of reinforced steel", is to provide a rocket-proof place for children to play.[42][43] Sderot also has a "missile-protected playground," with concrete tunnels painted to look like caterpillars.[44]

Red Dawn

The Israeli government has installed a "Red Color" (צבע אדום) alarm system to warn citizens of impending rocket attacks, although its effectiveness has been questioned. The system currently operates in a number of southern Israeli cities within rocket range. When the signature of a rocket launch is detected originating in Gaza, the system automatically activates the public broadcast warning system in nearby Israeli communities and military bases. A two-tone electronic audio alert (with a pattern of high, 2 second pause, high-low) is broadcast twice, followed by a recorded female voice [45] intoning the Hebrew words for Red Color ("Tzeva Adom").[46]. The entire program is repeated until all rockets have impacted and no further launches are detected. In Sderot, it gives residents approximately 15 seconds warning of an incoming missile.[46] The system was installed in Ashkelon between July 2005 and April 2006.

Iron Dome

Iron Dome (Hebrew: כיפת ברזל‎) is a mobile system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. designed to intercept short-range rockets with a range less than 70 km. In February 2007, the system was selected by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak as the Israeli Defense Force's defense system against short range rockets. On July 7 2008, the first test of the system was completed successfully, and the first operational test is expected to take place at the end of 2009.[47] The system is scheduled to be operational in 2010.[48]

The system is composed of a radar, a control center, and interceptor missiles. Very limited information has been made available about the system in the Israeli media, but from this information it is known that the interceptor missile (named Tamir) is equipped with electro-optic sensors and several steering fins, providing it with high maneuverability. The system's radar identifies the rocket launch, extrapolates its flight path and transfers this information to the control center, which then uses this information to determine the projected impact location. If the projected target justifies an interception, then an interceptor missile is fired.

Effects

Casualties

Sderot - A Qassam rocket is displayed in Sderot town hall against a background of pictures of residents killed in rocket attacks

A Qassam rocket is displayed in Sderot town hall against a background of pictures of residents killed in rocket attacks

As of January 2009, rockets have killed 27 Israelis.[49] Most of those killed were civilians, including four children[4]. In addition, hundreds of Israelis have been injured.[1] Injuries have also occurred mainly among civilians, several of whom were injured very seriously[4].

The projectiles have also killed six Palestinians and injured dozens more. On 8 June 2005, rockets fired at the Israeli settlement of Ganei Tal killed two Palestinian workers and one Chinese worker in a packing plant. On 2 August 2005, a rocket apparently launched by Islamic Jihad killed a 6-year-old boy and his father in Beit Hanoun.[13] On 26 December 2008 a mortar aimed at Israel killed two Palestinian girls in the Gaza Strip, aged 5 and 12.[50]

Fatalities:

This is a list of Israeli fatalities per year (Source: [3])

YearTotal
20011
20045
20056
20064
20072
20088
2009None
2010None

Refugees

In May 2007, a significant increase in shelling from Gaza prompted the temporary evacuation of thousands of residents from Sderot.[51] According to the United Nations, 40 percent of the city's residents left in the last two weeks of May.[52] During the summer of 2007, 3,000 of the city's 22,000 residents (comprising mostly the city's key upper and middle class residents) left for other areas, out of rocket range.

During the 2008-2009 conflict, a large section of the residents of Ashkelon, a southern coastal city put in range of Grad-type rockets since the beginning of the conflict, fled the city for the relative safety of central and northern Israel.[53] On January 10–11, according to Israeli media, 40 percent of the residents fled the city, despite calls by the Mayor to stay.[54]

In February 2009, the BBC reported that 3,000 of Sderot's 24,000 residents had "upped and left."[3]

Education

Beersheva kindergarten after rocket attack from Gaza

Kindergarten classroom in Beersheba struck by a Grad rocket

Israeli media reported on 28 May 2007 that only 800 out of a total of 3000 pupils in Sderot had turned up to schools.[52]

During the 2008-2009 conflict, schools and universities in southern Israel closed due to rocket threats.[55] Hamas rockets landed on Israeli educational facilities several times (such as empty schools in Beersheba[56][57]) from 2008 to 2009, with no casualties as of January 15, except for cases of shock.[58][59][60][61] Studies resumed starting January 11, with IDF Home Front Command representatives stationed at schools.[62][63][64] Only schools with fortified classrooms and bomb shelters were allowed to bring in children.[65] Israeli Education Minister Yuli Tamir said she hoped a return to school would provide a little structure and routine in a time of great stress and uncertainty for the children.[66] However, students were reluctant to return, with students at Sapir College in Sderot reporting less than 25 percent attendance.[64]

In March 2009, the Ashkelon urban parent committee decided to keep children out of schools following a surge in the number of rocket attacks on southern Israel and a qassam hit on an empty school in the city. As a result, only 40 percent of school students and 60 percent of kindergarten children attended, though the municipality had decided to keep schools open. [67]

Psychological

In 2008, Natal, the Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War, conducted a study on the city of Sderot based on representative sampling. The study found that between 75 percent and 94 percent of Sderot children aged 4-18 exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress. 28 percent of adults and 30 percent of children had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The co-director of the study emphasized the distinction between post-traumatic stress symptoms, such as problems sleeping and concentrating, and PTSD itself, which can interfere seriously with daily life.[68][34]

The municipality of Ashdod has opened a treatment centre for those with shell shock.[69]

According to Amnesty International, "scores [of rockets] have struck homes, businesses, schools, other public buildings and vehicles in and around towns and villages in southern Israel. It is purely by chance that in most cases such strikes have not caused death or injury, and the lethal potential of such projectiles should not be underestimated. Above all, the constant threat of impending rocket attacks has caused fear and disrupted the lives of the growing number of Israelis who live within range of such attacks, reaching up to a million."[4]

According to a spokeswoman for the Sderot Hosen Center, which provides psychological support and rehabilitation for the community, attacks have taken a high toll on the mental health of children and adults in and around Sderot.

Children are afraid to sleep on their own, to be on their own, even to go to the toilet alone. They feel that their parents cannot protect them. Bed wetting is a common menifestation of their anxiety and insecurity. Their parents are similarly anxious and frustrated. It is even difficult to speak of PTSD, for as long as the rockets fall the trauma is renewed daily; we are not even in a post-trauma stage.[4]

Political

On December 12, 2007, after more than 20 rockets landed in the Sderot area in a single day, including a direct hit to one of the main avenues, Sderot mayor Eli Moyal announced his resignation, citing the government's failure to halt the rocket attacks.[70] Moyal was persuaded to retract his resignation.

On 9 February 2009, Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riad Malki accused Hamas of trying to influence the outcome of the 2009 Israeli general election by keeping up the rocket fire on southern Israel.[71]

Motives

Rationales given by the Palestinian groups responsible for the attacks vary, but often include the argument that the rockets are a method of protest and of calling attention to perceived injustices. According to other explanations, the attacks constitute revenge for - or defense against - perceived Israeli aggression.

Hamas

According to the BBC, Hamas views the attacks as legitimate because it regards the whole of historic Palestine as Islamic land, and thus sees the state of Israel as an occupier.

[Hamas] regards the whole of historic Palestine as Islamic land and therefore views the state of Israel as an occupier, though it has offered a 10-year "truce" if Israel withdraws to the lines held before the war of 1967. It therefore generally justifies any actions against Israel, which has included suicide bombings and rocket attacks, as legitimate resistance. Specifically in Gaza, it argued that Israel's blockade justified a counter-attack by any means possible.[72]

Hamas has given different explanations concerning various attacks. Salah Bardawil, a Palestinian legislator who serves as spokesman for the Hamas faction in parliament, has said "We know we can't achieve military equality, but when a person suffers huge pain he has to respond somehow. This is how we defend ourselves. This is how we tell the world we are here."[73] Regarding specific strikes in 2007, Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal called the attacks self-defense and retaliation against Israeli killings of Hamas supporters.[74] In January 2009 Mashaal called the rockets "our cry of protest to the world"[75] An attack in November 2008 was said by Hamas officials said to be in revenge for the recent deaths of its militants and increased Israeli closing of Gaza crossings.[76] A barrage in December 2008 was described by the group as retaliation for the deaths of three of its fighters in combat with Israeli troops.[77]

Other groups

A spokesperson from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, on 17 January 2009, called the rockets a "representation of our resistance", stressing that as long as rockets were launched, "our cause is alive".

The rockets are both a practical and a symbolic representation of our resistance to the occupier [Israel]. They are a constant reminder that the occupier is in fact an occupier, and that no matter how they may engage in sieges, massacres, fence us in, deny us the basic human needs of life, we will continue to resist and we will continue to hold fast to our fundamental rights, and we will not allow them to be destroyed. So long as one rocket is launched at the occupier, our people, our resistance and our cause is alive.
This is why they targeted the rockets - the rockets do make the occupier insecure, because every one is a symbol and a physical act of our rejection to their occupation, to their massacres, to their crimes, and to their continuing assaults on our people. Each rocket says that we will not allow their so-called "solutions" [the Israeli-Palestinian peace process] that are based on the abrogation and denial of our rights.[78]

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in a statement dated 19 January 2009, announced that they had launched rockets and mortars "to defend our people in the Gaza Strip".[4]

Views

Palestinians

A March 2008 poll by Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that 64 percent of Palestinians supported the attacks.[5] Some Gazans have viewed the attacks as creating a "balance of fear" with Israel and as retaliation for Israeli airstrikes.[73]

Mahmoud Abbas, Davos

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of the Fatah party, has condemned the attacks despite Fatah's participation in them.

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (of Fatah) has condemned the attacks several times, "regardless of who is responsible for them"[79], on one occasion calling them "absurd"[80], and on another saying that "they do not go in the direction of peace."[81] On at least one occasion in 2009, Hamas itself criticized rocket attacks by an unknown group, apparently out of fears that new rocket fire could disrupt reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah which were then underway.[82]

Israel

On 27 December 2008, upon the commencement of Operation Cast Lead, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an address to the nation: "for approximately seven years, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in the south have been suffering from missiles being fired at them. Life in the south under missile barrages had become unbearable. Israel did everything in its power to fulfill the conditions of the calm in the south and enable normal life for its citizens in the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The quiet that we offered was met with shelling."[83]

United Nations

On 18 January 2009, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said "for the sake of the people of Gaza, I urge in the strongest possible terms Hamas to stop firing rockets."[84] On 20 January, while visiting Sderot, the Secretary General called the rocket attacks "appalling and unacceptable". He added that the projectiles are indiscriminate weapons, and that Hamas attacks are violations of basic humanitarian law.[85] Earlier, in November 2007, Ban had condemned a rocket attack launched from a UN-run Gaza school.[86]

On 17 February 2008, John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator said while visiting Sderot, "The people of Sderot and the surrounding area have had to live with these unacceptable and indiscriminate rocket attacks for seven years now. There is no doubt about the physical and psychological suffering these attacks are causing. I condemn them utterly and call on those responsible to stop them now without conditions".[87]

United States

In July 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said "If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."[88] On 28 December 2008 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement: "the United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel".[89] On 2 March 2009 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attacks.[90]

European Union

On 7 June 2005, The European Union presidency, held by Luxembourg, condemned the firing of rockets by Palestinians at Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip and against Sderot.[91] In January 2009, European Union Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said "Launching rockets at civilians is a terrorist action, which has to be strongly denounced."[92]

Human rights groups

The attacks have been condemned as war crimes, both because they usually target civilians and because the weapons' inaccuracy would disproportionately endanger civilians even if military targets were chosen. Human Rights Watch has also condemned the attackers for firing from near residential structures, thus putting Gazan civilians at unnecessary risk.[13] According to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem,

Palestinian organizations that fire Qassam rockets openly declare that they intend to strike, among other targets, Israeli civilians. Attacks aimed at civilians are immoral and illegal, and the intentional killing of civilians is a grave breach under the Fourth Geneva Convention, a war crime, and cannot be justified, whatever the circumstances. Furthermore, Qassam rockets are themselves illegal, even when aimed at military objects, because the rockets are so imprecise and endanger civilians in the area from which the rockets are fired as well as where they land, thus violating two fundamental principles of the laws of war: distinction and proportionality.[93]

Image Gallery

Template:Gallery

See also

References

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  80. Abbas urges end to rocket attacks, BBC News 25-05-2007
  81. Sam Jones, Abbas accuses Israel of war crimes in Gaza, The Guardian 04-02-2009
  82. Hamas condemns Gaza rocket strikes on Israel, Associated Press (reprinted in Haaretz 12-03-2009)
  83. PM Olmert's Remarks on the Operation in the Gaza Strip, Jewish Policy Center
  84. Ban calls for end to Hamas rocket attacks, Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, UN News Centre 18-01-2009
  85. Ban Ki-moon ‘appalled’ by Gaza destruction, The Independent 20-01-2009
  86. Ban Ki-moon condemns rocket attack from Gaza school run by UN agency, UN News Centre 08-11-2007
  87. [http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ERC_visit_Day_4_Press_Release_17_Feb_2008_English.pdf UN HUMANITARIAN CHIEF: ONLY A JUST AND LASTING PEACE CAN END HUMAN SUFFERING IN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE], UN OCHA 17-02-2008
  88. Steven Lee Myers and Helene Cooper, Obama Defers to Bush, for Now, on Gaza Crisis, New York Times 28-12-2009
  89. U.S. Condemns Hamas in Midst of Israeli Strikes, Fox News 28-12-2008
  90. Clinton calls for 'durable' Gaza truce, condemns rockets, AFP 02-03-2009
  91. Declaration by the Presidency of the European Union on the firing of rockets at Gush Katif and Sderot in the Gaza Strip, 07-06-2005
  92. Hamas slams EU official over anti-Hamas statement, Xinhua 26-01-2009
  93. Qassam rocket fire into Israel, B'Tselem

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