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Operation Pillar of Defense

From November 14 to November 22, 2012, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas engaged in a violent clash.  During these eight days, Hamas fired over 1,500 rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian areas, and the IDF targeted Hamas leaders and infrastructure.

  • Israel had been under continuous rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip since 2001, escalating after its unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005.  In October 2012 alone, Palestinians fired 116 rockets and 55 mortar shells at Israel.  Hamas had obtained Iranian-made long-range rockets reaching as far as the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas.  No state can live with a situation whereby its civilians are constantly threatened by rockets, giving them only a few seconds to take shelter.
  • On November 14, 2012, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) struck back.  Its goals were:
    • to protect the Israeli home front by damaging Hamas’ terror infrastructure, including weapons caches, munitions stores, smuggling tunnels, and launching pads;
    • to cripple Hamas leadership, including its communication, command and control operations;
    • to reestablish Israel’s military deterrence, so that Israelis do not again face the threat of daily missiles and rockets from Gaza.
  • Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, has ruled the Gaza Strip since Israel completely withdrew from the territory in 2005 and Hamas took over in a violent coup in 2007.  Hamas is a designated terrorist organization and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran, whose charter calls explicitly for the destruction of Israel and genocide of Jews everywhere.
  • Hamas deliberately targeted Israeli civilians while shooting from within populated areas such as near mosques, hospitals and schools. Hamas committed a double war crime: Firing at Israeli civilians while hiding among Palestinian civilians, using them as human shields.  Hamas’ cynical ploy was to initiate aggression, then attempt to gain empathy by playing victims.
  • In contrast, Israel did its utmost to protect Palestinian civilians.  The IDF hit over 1,500 targets in Gaza in pinpoint, “surgical” strikes, with only a handful of casualties, most of them Hamas terrorists.  While every civilian injury is tragic, most were victims of misfired Hamas rockets falling within the Gaza territory, or of secondary explosions of munitions stores—and the blame for these clearly lies squarely on Hamas’ shoulders.
  • Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile-defense system proved highly effective, intercepting over 400 rockets from Gaza headed toward Israeli population centers—a success rate of about 85% of the rockets aimed at population centers.
  • Over the eight days of intense fighting, six Israelis were killed, as well as about 160 Palestinians, most of them Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters.
  • Throughout the conflict, Israel continued to supply humanitarian aid—food, medicine, and other civilian goods—to the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.
  • On November 21, Israel and Hamas, with Egyptian mediation, agreed to a ceasefire.  The agreement called for an end to hostilities, including rocket and border attacks by all Palestinian factions.  Israel and Egypt opened their respective border crossings with Gaza to facilitate the movements of people and transfer of goods.

See also:

In the Aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defense, The Gaza Strip, November 2012 by Shlomo Brom (Ed.), The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Memorandum No. 124, December 2012.

Operation Pillar of Defense (Gaza-November 2012): Objectives and Implications by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Issue Briefs Vol. 13, No. 2, January 21, 2013