Who Started the Israel-Gaza Conflict?

By   Robert Wright.  The Atlantic. Nov 16,2012

On Monday my Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg    began  a post with this sentence: “Rockets are flying    from Gaza into Israel at a fast clip, and Israelis, it is said, are divided on the question of how to respond.”

That same day I came across this report from Ma’an, a Palestinian news agency:

  GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Palestinian factions met on Monday in Gaza City to discuss Israeli attacks and threats of a wider operation in the enclave.
Hamas called the meeting to try and avoid further casualties after Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in Gaza since Saturday, said Democratic Front for    the Liberation of Palestine leader Talal Abu Tharefa.
Abu Tharefa told Ma’an any truce with Israel must include an end to Israeli airstrikes and attacks, adding that the Palestinian resistance would retain the    right to respond to Israeli aggression.

So in Israel the question was how to respond to aggression from Gaza, and in Gaza the question was how to respond to aggression from    Israel. And each side considered its own use of force–what the other side called provocation–a response to provocation.

On Thursday, after Israel had killed a senior Hamas military commander and his son, and a rocket    from Gaza had killed three Israelis, I aired this question on twitter: “Does anybody know of a truly symmetrical timeline of Israel-Gaza    escalation–including missiles from Gaza and Israeli strikes?”

A number of people sent links, but none of the timelines seemed wholly objective; all seemed to have at least a wisp of Israeli or Palestinian perspective.    Happily, Emily Hauser, an American-Israeli writer who lived in Tel Aviv for 14 years, offered to do her best to assemble a symmetrical timeline from available    sources. You’ll find it below, with fatalities in boldface.

Since Emily didn’t want to devote the rest of her life to this project, she had to choose a starting date, and she chose Nov. 8. But her preamble acknowledges that    picking any date is in a sense arbitrary.

So examine this timeline and draw your own conclusions. I’ll save my conclusion for the bottom of this post.


A summary of events in the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, Nov 8 – Nov 15 

By Emily L. Hauser

Recent events in Israel and the Gaza Strip have been unusual only in scope. Violence and fear of violence is a near-daily reality for the residents of Gaza    and Israel’s southern communities. There’s a constant back and forth, and on both sides, there’s always something or someone to avenge.

For instance, some Palestinian sources date the start of this latest round of violence back to November 4, when    Reuters reported  the death of “an unarmed, mentally    unfit man” who strayed too near the border fence, did not respond to reported Israeli warnings, and was then shot. Palestinian medics report that Israeli    security personnel prevented them from attending to the man for a couple of hours, and say that he likely died as a result.

But it’s genuinely impossible to date today’s hostilities conclusively to one incident or another; even the “two-week lull” that    some outlets have said preceded Nov. 8 (when the timeline below begins) was, according to Reuters    “a period of increased tensions at the Israel-Gaza frontier, with militants often firing rockets at Israel and Israel launching aerial raids targeting    Palestinian gunmen.”

According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of November 13, Palestinian militants had fired  797 rockets into Israel in the course of 2012    , and according to the Israeli human rights organization    Btselem,    between January 2009 (the conclusion of the last all-out Gaza war) and September of this year, 25 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, and 314    Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, with six more being killed by Israeli civilians.

Thursday, November 8

In an exchange of fire on the border of Gaza with militants from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), Israeli forces killed a 12 year old (or 13 year old) Palestinian boy. “The PRC said it had confronted an Israeli force    of four tanks and a bulldozer involved in a short-range incursion beyond Israel’s border fence with the Gaza Strip.” Later, Palestinian fighters blew up a tunnel along the Gaza-Israel border, injuring one Israeli soldier.    Reuters

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported the incident as follows: “An IDF [Israeli military] engineering force located a number of powerful explosive    devices to the west of the fence. After the IDF disarmed charges found on the Gaza side of the border, and were repairing the border fence, explosives in an underground tunnel were detonated, causing a large explosion…damaging a jeep and lightly injuring a soldier.”Israeli MFA



Saturday, November 10

An IDF force patrolling near the border, inside Israel, was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from inside the Gaza Strip. Two soldiers were seriously    injured. MFA

In retaliation, Israeli tanks fired into Gaza, killing four Palestinians; Palestinian fighters retaliated in turn with rockets into    Israel; an Israeli air strike targeted a rocket crew, & killed a militant. “Popular Resistance Committees, said it had fired rockets    at communities close to the border and the towns of Sderot and Netivot in southern Israel, in what it called ‘the revenge invoice’ for the deaths in Gaza.” The IDF reports that “over the past few hours, 25 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel.”    Reuters

In addition to the four Palestinians killed immediately by Israeli fire, 38 were injured, one of them dying on November 13. As a result of    additional Israeli artillery fire that day, 11 Palestinians, including a 10 year old child, were also injured. An Israeli drone fired a missile at members    of the armed wing of Islamic Jihad in north Gaza, killing one militant.    Palestinian Center for Human Rights

Sunday, November 11

Israeli government reports four civilians injured in rocket fire from Gaza; Israeli attacks result in one Palestinian civilian killed and dozens injured.    Institute for Middle East Understanding

Sixty-four rockets and several mortars were fired into Israel; two Israeli homes hit directly. “A number of Israeli civilians were wounded by the rocket fire, although not seriously; several were treated for shock and there was extensive property damage.”    MFA

Ynet reported that over 100 Qassam rockets, mortar shells and Grads fired from Gaza into Israel in the course of 24 hours; the Israeli air force “struck    several terror hubs in the Strip.” Ynet

A Palestinian civilian was injured by Israeli artillery fire, and a militant killed in drone strike.    PCHR

Monday November 12


Israeli warplanes opened fire on three different Gaza targets between the hours of 2:20 and 3:20 am; no casualties reported.    PCHR

In the morning, damage was done to a private home inside Israel when a rocket hit its yard. A ceramics factory was later hit, and that evening, two rockets were intercepted by Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system.    MFA

At 9:07 PM, HaAretz reported that “The representatives of Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip announced an agreement to hold their fire on    Monday, following days of persistent rocket attacks…. However a matter of minutes later, two rockets [exploded] in open fields near [the southern town of]    Sderot. No casualties or damage reported.”    HaAretz

Tuesday November 13

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh praised Gaza’s main militant groups in Gaza for agreeing to the truce: “They showed a high sense of responsibility by    saying they would respect calm should the Israeli occupation also abide by it,” he said.”    Reuters

A rocket exploded in an open area in Ashdod.    MFA

Wednesday November 14

Reports emerged that Israel has targeted Ahmed Jabari, head of Hamas’s military wing; Israel confirmed the assassination,    citing his “decade-long terrorist activity,” and said that killing was the part of an operation in which the military struck 20 different targets across    Gaza.    HaAretz [Note:             Later reports   indicate that Jabari was considering a permanent truce agreement at the time of his assassination]

Over the course of the day, Israeli strikes killed 8 Palestinians, leaving 90 injured. The dead include a 65 year old man, a pregnant 19 year old, a 7 year old girl, and an 11 month old boy. Ma’an News Agency

At 10:17 PM, HaAretz summarized the day’s rocket attacks: 60 rockets fired, of which the Iron Dome defense system intercepted 17; later entries for that    night show another 12 rockets, some of them intercepted.    HaAretz

One rocket hit an Israeli shopping center, damaging stores and a vehicle.    MFA

Thursday November 15

At 6:45 AM, HaAretz summarized the early morning in Israel: “Throughout the night some 25 rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel; since the beginning of    Operation Pillar of Defense 104 rockets have been fired toward Israel; 28 people suffer anxiety; two lightly wounded.”

At 6:50 AM HaAretz reported: “Three Hamas operatives killed in two separate Israel Air Forces airstrikes…. Israel Defense Forces strikes    in the Gaza Strip throughout the night leave 15 wounded.”

At 7:32 AM, HaAretz reported that “According to a military source, overnight strikes in Gaza damage a substantial portion of Hamas’ long-range missile    infrastructure.”

HaAretz reported that three Israelis were killed in Kiryat Malachi, about 20 miles north of Gaza, after more than a dozen more rockets    were fired over the course of the morning and one hit the apartment building in which the Israelis had lived.    HaAretz

Three Israeli civilians killed [as reported by HaAretz above]; two others seriously injured, one boy moderately injured, and two babies lightly injured. Elsewhere, rockets also struck a residence and a school.    MFA

At 7:23 PM, HaAretz reported that the Israeli military reports striking 250 sites in Gaza since the start of the current operation, during which time 274    rockets had been fired at Israel, 105 of them intercepted .

At 9:50 PM, Israel reported having hit an additional 70 targets in Gaza.

At 11:00 PM, HaAretz reported that “according to Hamas figures, 16 Palestinians have been killed and 151 wounded in Gaza since the start of Operation    Pillar of Defense (on Nov. 14). Hamas says it has fired 527 rockets at Israel, while Islamic Jihad has fired 138.”    HaAretz

At midnight, Ma’an reported that “on Thursday, Israel killed 11 Palestinians in Gaza [presumably including the 3 Hamas operatives noted    above], including two toddlers, and militants returned fire killing three Israelis [as reported above by HaAretz et. al.] in a rocket attack on southern    Israel. Islamic Jihad fired a Fajr missile at Tel Aviv [Israel’s cultural center, and the farthest any rocket had ever been fired] and Hamas said it downed    an Israeli reconnaissance drone over eastern Gaza.” Ma’an

Note:    I depended on a variety of sources to prepare this timeline because none, other than Reuters, can be considered strictly “objective” in the conflict – each    comes from within the societies that have been at war with each other for decades, and as Americans learned during the Gulf War, that can lead venerable    NGOs or news organizations to err on the side of national loyalty, even if unintentionally (and of course, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a direct    party to the conflict).

        Emily L. Hauser is an American-Israeli writer. She lived in Tel Aviv for 14 years and has studied and written about the contemporary Middle East for        25; she writes for Open Zion on The Daily Beast, and also at her own blog. She can be followed on Twitter at @emilylhauser.

OK, my own takeaway from this timetable (drum roll) is that it’s very hard to say which side started the conflict.


2 thoughts on “Who Started the Israel-Gaza Conflict?

  1. Spearide says:Considering the fact that there has been losses of human lives on both sides,the initiator of this sad conflict is not really significant.
    Palestinian militants are absolutely wrong firing rockets into lsreal:despite this, the lsreali response has been heavy handed and disgraceful.
    A two state solution is my suggested way forward and this is largely possible if the politicians would for once shelve their egos and be the statesmen their people desire them to be.
    Isreal may claim superiority in terms of personnel and materiel,how ever,when you consider the overcrowding and inhuman conditions right insde Gaza you do not need a soothsayer to know that the Palestinians have enough motivation to mount a total resistance.
    Gentlemen,let’s be reasonable.

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