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Published:January 4th, 2009 10:31 EST
Israel Targets Iran-backed Hamas in Defensive Ground Operation

Israel Targets Iran-backed Hamas in Defensive Ground Operation

By SOP newswire2

As Iran-backed Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza continue to kill and wound Israelis by launching rockets and mortars aimed at civilians in southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) today (Jan. 3) began the second stage of Operation Cast Lead ? to protect Israeli civilians from rocket fire by sending IDF ground troops into Gaza. [1]  

The ground operation comes eight days after Israel began airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza in the first phase of the operation which followed eight years of Palestinian rockets aimed at Israel`s civilian population. During that time, terror groups in Gaza launched more than 10,000 rockets and mortars into Israel. [2]  

Approximately one million Israeli civilians (15% of the country`s population) now live within range of rockets launched by Iran-backed terrorist groups in Gaza. [3] During Operation Cast Lead, Hamas rocket fire struck the furthest ever into Israel, hitting Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashdod - each within the range of 25 miles (40 km) of the Gaza Strip. [4] 

With hopes for peace and a two state solution, Israel evacuated all of its civilians and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, uprooting homes, schools and places of worship (click here for Gaza by the Numbers ?). The only remaining Israeli in Gaza became Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit who was abducted from Israel on June 25, 2006 by Hamas in a bloody cross-border raid in which the terrorists killed two IDF soldiers and wounded four others. [5]  

Arab leaders and civilians have blamed Hamas for the current violence in Gaza. Said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, "We warned [Hamas] repeatedly that rejecting the truce would push Israel to aggression against Gaza. ? [6]  

We`re continuing to expand the operation while being well aware that this move will include challenges, difficulties, and also victims. We are doing it because of the faith that at this time this is our duty to citizens of the country," said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a televised statement today. "The decision to embark on the ground phase of the operation was taken following in depth consideration." [7]

Responding to the terrorism from Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a televised interview to Gaza`s citizens Dec. 25 on the Arabic TV network al-Arabiya You the citizens of Gaza, you can stop it. I know how much you want to get up in the morning to quiet, to take your children to kindergarten or school, the way we do, the way they want to in Sderot and Netivot ?

We want to live as good neighbors with Gaza, ? Olmert said. We do not want to harm you. We will not allow a humanitarian crisis and that you should suffer from a lack of food or medicines. We do not want to fight the Palestinian people but we will not allow Hamas to strike our children. ? [8]

During a visit five months ago to the southern Israeli city of Sderot, then-candidate and now President-elect Barack Obama defended Israel`s right to protect itself from such attacks: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing." [9]

Speaking about the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama also said during the visit, "A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." [10]

Despite the ongoing rocket and missile attacks, Israel has continued to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. During a one-day period alone " Dec. 31 " Israel facilitated the transport of 29 truckloads of food, including 15 truckloads of flour, into Gaza. [11] And even as Hamas was firing rockets and mortars during Israel during the ceasefire, Israel facilitated the delivery of 2,500 tons (delivered on 93 trucks) of humanitarian aid, medical supplies and medication through the Kerem Shalom cargo terminal. [12] 



Footnotes

[1] Jpost.com staff; Katz, Yaakov; AP, `Dozens of Hamas gunmen killed in clashes with IDF troops,` The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 3, 2009, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1230733150721&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull  

[2] Israelis living with rocket threat support Gaza military operation, ? Xinhua News Agency, Jan. 2, 2009, http://www.china.org.cn/international/news/2009-01/02/content_17044074.htm

[3] Summary of Rocket Fire and Mortar Shelling in 2008, ? Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Jan. 1, 2009, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e007.pdf 

[4] Ibid. 

[5] Harel, Amos; Issacharoff, Avi; Haaretz Service and Reuters, "Two soldiers killed, one missing in raid on IDF post," Haaretz, June 25, 2006, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/730994.html 

[6] Khalil, Ashraf, The already-strained Hamas-Egypt relationship sours, ? The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 31, 2008, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-hamas-egypt31-2008dec31,0,3951908,full.story

[7] Greenberg, Hanan, IDF enters Gaza; dozens of terrorists hurt, ? Ynetnews.com, Jan. 3, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3649729,00.html  

[8] PM Olmert Interviewed on Al Arabiya, ? Prime Minister`s Office, Dec. 25, 2008, http://www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/Spokesman/2008/12/spokeinter251208.htm  

[9] Ravid, Barak, "Obama in Sderot: Nuclear Iran would be game-changing," Haaretz, July 23, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1004747.html

[10] "Obama says nuclear Iran a "grave threat," Reuters, July 23, 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSL2376765320080723 

[11] Presentation to Military Attaches, ? Ministry of Defense, Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, December 2008 

[12] 12 Palestinians from Gaza transferred to Israeli hospitals for assistance and 2500 tons of humanitarian aid transferred to Gaza, ? Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 31, 2008

 

SOURCE:  The Israel Project