Israel Bombs Gaza: A Chronological Reminder

By Jamie

14 November 2012

Israel has been pummelling Gaza all afternoon, assassinating Hamas's military chief and killing (so far) an estimated nine people, reportedly including at least two children.

In its defence, Israeli spokespeople have claimed that the attack was a response to 'more than 100 rockets being fired in the previous 72 hours' (or some iteration thereof; you'll be hearing versions of this claim incessantly for the next few days). True or not, this aggregate misleads: it doesn't mention Israel's attacks over the same time period, of course, still less Israel's decades long occupation, which can only be sustained with constant low-level and periodic escalations of violence of the kind we're seeing now. But more narrowly: it conceals the fact that, prior to Israel's attack, Hamas and other Palestinian factions had offered, and largely adhered to, an informal truce.

Here, as best as I can gather from news sources, is the accurate chronology, focusing on Palestinian rockets only:

12 Nov: Palestinian militant groups announce that they've agreed to adhere to a truce, should Israel halt its operations. Islamic Jihad: 'The ball is in Israel's court'. There was 'no immediate response' from Israel, although Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak struck a belligerent tone with reporters, declaring: "The matter has definitely not ended". While Hamas took part in some of the missile launches at the weekend, by Monday it had stopped, 'suggesting it was looking to step back from the brink'. But already, Netanyahu had convened foreign ambassadors to prepare the diplomatic ground for an escalation. 

12 Nov: According to the Israeli military, 12 rockets were fired on Nov 12; however Israel apparently later revised this number down to 6 rockets. This was clearly a 'significant drop' from the previous days: given that Al Jazeera reports that 115 rockets had been fired since Nov 10 (The Israeli military's estimate was 119, though this may have been before they revised down the 12 Nov figure). The rockets on 12 Nov were claimed not by Hamas but by smaller groups. 

13 Nov: By 8am GMT, only 1 rocket had reportedly struck Israel. Israel, however, struck 3 targets in Gaza in the early hours of Tuesday (no casualties). [Al Jazeera] Two more rockets were fired into Israel in the afternoon. I couldn't find reference to any others. Israel and Hamas reportedly agreed a tacit truce, mediated by Egypt. Likud MK Benny Begin: "This round of firing appears to have ended".

14 Nov: Four rocket strikes reported.

14 Nov: Israel launches major attack, assassinating Jabari and striking over 20 locations across Gaza. The attack is still continuing. BBC, Reuters, the Jerusalem Post, the Guardian and Ynet all report that Israel's strike broke a lull in the fighting, during which rocket attacked had 'trickled down to a small number' (Jerusalem Post). As the International Crisis Group's Nathan Thrall puts it, 'this thing started after people were already talking about a ceasefire. The front page of Haaretz this morning was talking about a ceasefire and there was a lull at four in the afternoon when Jabari’s car was hit.'

So: Israel was offered a truce; didn't respond; then tacitly agreed to a lull, which appeared to be working, until Israel shattered it with a massive escalation; in self-defence.

Past data suggests that Palestinian rocket fire largely follows rather than provokes Israeli violence, and that, once a lull or truce has been agreed, Israel overwhelmingly kills first. This latest escalation, which may expand still further, appears to have followed the same pattern.

Update: It has now emerged that Israel launched its attack knowing that a long-term truce agreement was in the works. Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reports:

'Hours before Hamas strongman Ahmed Jabari was assassinated, he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the ceasefire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip. This, according to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who helped mediate between Israel and Hamas in the deal to release Gilad Shalit and has since then maintained a relationship with Hamas leaders...

Baskin told Haaretz on Thursday that senior officials in Israel knew about his contacts with Hamas and Egyptian intelligence aimed at formulating the permanent truce, but nevertheless approved the assassination.

“I think that they have made a strategic mistake," Baskin said, an error "which will cost the lives of quite a number of innocent people on both sides."

"This blood could have been spared. Those who made the decision must be judged by the voters, but to my regret they will get more votes because of this,” he added.

[...]

“He was in line to die, not an angel and not a righteous man of peace,” Baskin said of Jabari and of his feelings in the wake of the killing, “but his assassination also killed the possibility of achieving a truce and also the Egyptian mediators’ ability to function'.

Elsewhere, Baskin described the decision to assassinate Jabari as 'total insanity':

'Jaabri was behind enforcing all of the recent ceasefire agreements. He sent his troops out to stop the rockets and was prepared to reach a long term ceasefire. Jaabri was also the main interlocutor of the Egyptian intelligence service in reaching ceasefire understandings. Now who are they supposed to talk to? Who can expect the Egyptians to continue to mitigate our relationship with Gaza? Now the government and people of Israel will face a massive barrage of rockets and they bought the entrance card to Cast Lead II.'

Key words: 


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12 Comments on "Israel Bombs Gaza: A Chronological Reminder"

By Jaap Hamburger, on 14 November 2012 - 23:01 |

Jamie,

excellent chronology/analysis/conclusions. Compliments.

Jaap Hamburger A Different Jewish Voice, Amsterdam NL

By SamJam, on 14 November 2012 - 23:44 |

Ali Abunimah reports that the latest round of violence began on November 8th with an Israeli incursion into Gaza, killing a 13yr old boy
http://blogs.aljazeera.com/topic/gaza/interview-ali-abunimah-situation-gaza

By Alex, on 15 November 2012 - 02:10 |

I fail to see the logic in your argument.

You claim in your commentary that Israel was the primary agitator yet in the chronology you state that on the 12th November rockets (regardless of how many) were fired at Israel from Gaza. On the 13th Israel responded. 

Exactly how is this evidence that Israel broke a truce and is to blame? 

(This is simply based on what you have said, I am not even refuting the fact that the estimates and time scale of the rockets you quote seem to be falsified.) 

By SRwalker, on 15 November 2012 - 03:45 |

I want to thank you for posting this on Daily Kos. I would have commented there myself but I was banned there after being gang Hide Rec’d  by Daily Kos’ Hasbara Mafia. Good to see they haven’t gotten to you.

Shannon Walker aka crankyInNYC

By Elena, on 15 November 2012 - 08:14 |

Your timeline should start at least from November 5th!!! Look at the killings of palestinian civilians by IDF on 5th and 8th of November!!!!
http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/gazaunderattack-israels-latest-assault-on-gaza-the-lie-of-who-started-it/

Please add. There is plenty of other sources for the 2 killings, if you need help researching look at docus made by http://www.youtube.com/user/harryfear  and ask @jncatron

Great thanks for your article.

By NJ, on 15 November 2012 - 09:28 |

Would be nice to see the data mentioned in the last paragraph, I think it the strongest part of (any) argument.

By Brian, on 15 November 2012 - 11:17 |

We have observed that there seems to be no peace between Palestine and Israel that can last. But does that mean there’s no solution? Well there I did hear of one suggestion. The continual rounds of rocket and air strike retaliation can only stop if “exponential backoff” is observed. Firstly, both sides have to agree to NO RESPONSE of any kind other than an agreement for a period of truce. If a rocket or air strike occurs, then BOTH sides must Back Off any further retaliation for a period of time equal to double whatever the previous ‘truce’ duration. The next backoff period has to be 4 times as long, the next 8 times and so on, always increasing in powers of two. It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that the effective truce must get longer and longer. A third party has to apply penalties to both parties in a fair manner if any retaliation is outside the backoff time or more than proportionate.

So, who can this ‘third party’ be and what penalties would be appropriate for either side?

I suggest the UN observes and removal/denial of statehood is the penalty.

History waits.

By David, on 15 November 2012 - 12:59 |

As always- one of the most important decisions in editing is cropping- and you cropped this picture in the middle!  Nov 12? the official line is that on Saturday an anti-tank rocket was fired at an Israeli jeep on routine patrol near the border with gaza. It was to that attack that Israel first fired back in this round—though things have been heating up for the last two weeks- an increasing amount of explosives near israeli patrols and then an explosion next to an Israeli jeep a week ago from a tunnel dug underneath… 

It seems that the radical groups in Gaza were counting on israeli politicians not wanting to get involved in something like this too close to the elections? or perhaps they felt some other pressure to act (like Israel’ bombing of a Hamas/ Jihad weapons storehouse in Sudan a month ago). The brief truce that you pointed to as the start of your timeline- was broken by Salafist groups in Gaza- probably counter to Hamas/ Jihad wishes.. but by then (after also facing a week of Syrian munitions falling amongst towns and open areas on the Syrian border) Israel decided it had to make a strong message that it will not tolerate rampant/ random attacks on its citizens. 
The public outcry against the million Israelis in the south that have been living “within 15 seconds of bomb shelters” has been growing for months / years already.

By Jamie, on 15 November 2012 - 13:49 |

  Alex: I haven’t ‘falsified’ anything. The numbers and dates above are taken from mainstream news sources and the Israeli government and each statement is sourced, so people can check for themselves. As for your chronological point: as I pointed out explicitly, the above timeline only mentions Palestinian rocket attacks; it is not comprehensive. So you can’t use it to make the kind of point you’re making. What it does show is that prior to Israel’s attack a lull was in effect and working: rockets had reduced to a very small number. Israel’s attack broke that lull, which makes claims that it was a necessary response to rocket attacks ring hollow.

Elena: thanks. See also this timeline from Jadaliyya. But the timeline above isn’t meant to be comprehensive: its purpose is much narrower, to show the lull that was in effect just prior to Israel’s attack.

By Jamie, on 15 November 2012 - 13:49 |

David: not sure how many times I have to say this, but the timeline above is not comprehensive. Thus, it ‘cropped’ out the Israeli attacks between Nov 8-13 which killed several Palestinian civilians. The point of the timeline was to show that Israel’s decision to escalate into an all-out attack violated a lull in the fighting which was holding. Now it has emerged (see ‘update’) that not only did Israel’s attack violate a de facto truce, it knowingly preempted a long-term truce agreement.

By David, on 15 November 2012 - 15:24 |

there was a tentative talk of cease fire- which nobody trusted would last- that was violated by another radical group in gaza. Correct that it wasn’t Hamas or Islamic Jihad that fired those 4+ rockets—but the terms of the ceasefire was that no rockets would be shot.So 4 rockets is a violation.

i’d also take issue with two points- in which you insist on compartmentalizing things—- this is a conflict between two parties- so ‘palestinian rocket fire only” is not so useful. and then the above point that the reason for the escalation is the grander context—- and you can’t analyze whats going on without the larger context—thats how people end up in castigating modes that don’t reflect complexity of the real life situation here.

in other words- whats the point of a timeline that’s not just “not comprehensive”.
And the “long-term truce agreement” was that not pre-empted by the ied’s, rocket fire, snipes and more that have been aimed out of Aza for the last months?

And while i’m venting- for all those who justify these rockets in the name of fighting the occupation—- can you think of a stupider strategy to make real change? okay- it’s a nice way to play hero, get revenge etc. But it’s clearly not a durable political strategy- not even on the level of protesting, etc like happens in the West bank. I’d wager that the people firing the rockets are just quite happy to dream of killing Jews in their land… as a form of vengeance/ retribution. You know that in the version of Islam many of these groups follow- there is absolutely no space for a Jewish sovereign nation to exist on lands that were part of the Muslim conquest. No room. And to people like that what do you recommend we Israeli’s do?

By James Arnold, on 16 November 2012 - 04:02 |

David: Jamie can obviously speak for himself, but it is pretty clear that he was NOT trying to “justify these rockets”. To imply that he was is pretty low, even if you are “venting” (not generally the best state of mind in which to comment on international politics).

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