Today: Remembering Israel’s ‘Operation Pillar of Defence’

From Middle East Monitor: On 14 November 2012, Israel launched “Operation Pillar of Defence” against the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Over the following eight days, almost 175 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. Five years later, Gaza is still subject to Israeli aggression, in violation of the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

What happened?

Tensions between the Israeli occupying forces and Gaza escalated in the days leading up to the military operation. On 10 November, Israel responded to an attack on a military jeep by killing four Palestinian teenagers while they played football in a Gaza sports stadium. Days of rocket fire from both sides ultimately led to Israel launching an official offensive, ostensibly against the besieged territory’s ruling party, Hamas.

On Wednesday afternoon, 14 November, the Israeli army targeted and killed Ahmed Jabari, the chief of the Hamas military wing, prompting widespread protests. The army also struck 20 other points in the Gaza Strip, including residential areas, claiming that weapons were hidden in civilian neighbourhoods. More than 10 people were killed on the first day, including 11-month-old Omar Misharawi, the son of BBC Video Editor Jihad Mishrawi.

Israel continued its missile strikes throughout the night, and Hamas responded with rocket fire into Israeli suburbs and cities the next day, although no one was killed.

Read: 17 years after Second Intifada, Israeli police continue to kill Palestinian citizens 

On 16 November, the then Prime Minister of Egypt, Hisham Qandil, visited Gaza to show solidarity with the Palestinian people, but a three hour ceasefire that was arranged for his visit did not last long; both Israel and Hamas accused the other of firing over the border during the brief lull. That night, Israel called up over 75,000 army reservists and visible signs of a build-up of ground forces near the Gaza border prompted many analysts to believe that a ground offensive could be imminent.

The Israeli government broadened its targets in the offensive to include Hamas government sites as well as allegedly military targets, launching an air strike on Saturday, 17 November, that destroyed the offices of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The World Health Organisation condemned the strikes, stating that Gaza’s hospitals were overwhelmed with casualties and faced a critical shortage of drugs and medical supplies. The same day, Haaretz quoted Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai saying that, “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

In the occupied West Bank, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in support of the people in Gaza but were met with aggression from Israeli forces; dozens were injured in subsequent clashes.

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