Operation Days of Penitence

Operation Days of Penitence
Operation Days of Penitence
Part of the 2004 Israel–Gaza conflict
Date September 30 – October 16, 2004
Location Gaza Strip
Result Israeli victory
 Israel (IDF) Flag of Hamas.svg Hamas
Casualties and losses
5 killed (3 civilians) 104 - 133 killed (42 civilians)

Operation Days of Penitence (Hebrew: מבצע ימי תשובה) was the name used by Israel to describe an Israel Defense Forces operation in the northern Gaza Strip, conducted between September 30, 2004 and October 16, 2004. The operation, focused on the town of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia and Jabalia refugee camp, which were used as launching sites of Qassam rockets on the Israeli town of Sderot and Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, and in particular in response to the death of two children in Sderot. The operation resulted in the deaths of between 104 and 133 Palestinians (42 civilians), and 5 people on the Israeli side (2 soldiers and 3 civilians).

The operation's name corresponds to the Hebrew name for the High Holiday season during which the operation was carried out.



Following the death of two Israeli children from a Qassam rocket launched by Palestinian militants, Israel launched a major military attack onto the northern Gaza strip, focusing on the towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia and the Jabaliya refugee camp. The stated goal of the operation, code-named "Days of Penitence" (ימי תשובה) by the Israeli Defence Force, was to prevent Palestinians from launching rockets and mortar shells into Israeli settlements in Gaza and the town of Sderot in Israel.

During this attack the Israeli military killed between 104 and 133 Palestinians, including 62-87 militants and 18-31 civilians; demolished 77 houses and damaged hundreds more; damaged public facilities, including schools, kindergartens and mosques, and destroyed farmland. According to Israeli soldiers, many of the buildings that were demolished were used by Palestinian militants as a cover for launching Qassam rockets and for shooting anti-tank missiles.

During the U.N.Security Council deliberations over censuring Israel for this military attack, Israel accused the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) of complicity in Palestinian attacks by allowing its vehicles to transport rockets. The Israeli government released a video claiming that it showed rockets being loaded into the UNRWA ambulance. UNRWA denied the accusation and demanded an apology stating that the object was a stretcher, not a rocket (the person in the video was carrying the lightweight object with just one hand). On October 6th, Israel retracted the accusation.(Reuters) See further discussion here.

The attack resulted in a proposed resolution of the U.N. Security Council condemning the Israeli action, calling for Israeli withdrawal and respect for human rights of Palestinians. The resolution was vetoed by the United States on October 5 who criticized it for ignoring terrorism against Israelis.

Over the weekend of October 17, the Israeli military announced that its troops withdrew from the Jabalia refugee camp and other populated areas and redeployed to positions nearby and proclaimed the attack a success, with a warning that the troops would return if the rocket attacks resume, which analysts from both sides say is likely. [1]

Both sides claimed victory in the operation.

Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli Defence Forces spokesman, acclaimed the operation's success: "We really impaired the ability to shoot Qassams from Jabalya. We engaged many cells and now there are fewer Hamas members to shoot rockets," he says. "We dealt a hard blow to the whole Hamas infrastructure in Jabalia." [2]

The Palestine Information Center published a statement by Hamas spokesman Ismail Hanneya who asserted that the problem was not in resistance or in Qassam missiles but rather in what Hamas views as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land: "Hamas achieved a victory over the Zionist enemy ... the blows of the resistance and the steadfastness of the people caused the occupying forces to withdraw without achieving any of their goals." [3]


Notable events in the timeline are as follows:

September 29

  • Five Palestinians, including Hamas member Tawfik Ali Charafi, are killed during Israeli raids in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip and Nablus in the West Bank. The Israeli government claims the troops entered in response to continued shelling of the Israeli town of Sderot from the Jabalia area, including Qassam rockets launched on September 28. (BBC) (Reuters) (Al Jazeera) (Haaretz)
  • Two Israeli children, aged 3 and 5, are killed after a Qassam rocket attack by Hamas on the town of Sderot. Hamas claimed the attack was launched in retaliation for the Israeli raid of the Jabalia refugee camp, which left four Palestinians dead. (BBC) (Haaretz)
    • Two Palestinian teenagers are killed and power supplies are knocked out after an Israeli raid on the Jabalia refugee camp. The raid was launched in response to the rocket attacks on the town of Sderot which left two children dead. (BBC)

September 30

  • Israel launches a major offensive into the Jabalia refugee camp killing at least 23 gunmen and civilians. Earlier this morning, a column of Israeli tanks moved into the center of the camp, followed by bulldozers. At least three Palestinian civilians have been killed thus far. Homes are being demolished, forcing people to flee. 72 Palestinians are known to have been wounded. (BBC) (Reuters)
  • Two Palestinians are killed by Israeli troops returning fire after an Israeli soldier was killed at an observation post in the northern Gaza strip. The troops have been engaged in that part of the northern Gaza Strip since yesterday, September 29. (AP)

October 1

October 2

October 3

  • On interview to CBC, UNRWA's commissioner, Peter Hansen says that he is sure that members of Hamas are also members of UNRWA. The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, who designate Hamas as a terrorist organization said it "will immediately seek clarification from Mr. Hansen directly and from UN authorities." (CBC)
  • The United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) demands an apology from Israel over claims that Gaza militants used a UN vehicle to transport a homemade Qassam rocket. The UN body showed what it said was the ambulance seen in footage released by the Israel Defense Forces and presented its driver and rescue workers to reporters. (Haaretz) (Jerusalem Post)
  • United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan requests that Israel halt its current military operations in the Gaza Strip, saying that they have led to "the deaths of scores of Palestinians, among them many civilians, including children." He also urges the Palestinian Authority to convince Hamas to halt the firing of rockets into Israel [4].
  • At least four civilians—a deaf man and 3 children—are killed during Israeli raids in the Gaza Strip town of Jabalia. More than 60 Palestinians, including civilians, have been killed during Israel's current offensive into Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says the Gaza operation will continue until Qassam rocket attacks end. (BBC) (Toronto Star)
  • Two Palestinians are killed by an Israeli helicopter-launched missile moments after they launch a Qassam rocket into Israel. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)

October 4

  • Israel Defense Forces killed six more Palestinians in their attack on Jabalia including five Palestinians who were killed in an air strike just before dawn. IDF said it targets bomb-planters and Qassam launchers. (UN Monitor)
    • Two senior Hamas activists were also seriously injured in a separate Israeli helicopter gunship attack in Gaza City overnight. Two rockets were fired at Mohammad al Simri and Hassan al Jabari. A Palestinian woman was also injured in the attack. (UN Monitor)
    • Ramzi Hassaballah, 21, was fatally hit by a bullet in the eye in Jabalia. (UN Monitor)
    • Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon warned that the raid could last weeks. Melbourne Herald

October 5

  • The United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate end to military operations in the northern Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of Israeli forces. The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 11 in favor and one against, with Britain, Germany and Romania abstaining. (ABC News)
  • A 13-year-old girl, Iman Darweesh Al Hams, was shot by soldiers from an Israeli military post near Rafah, while she was on her way to school. According to Israeli forces, the area was restricted and they suspected that Iman’s schoolbag contained a bomb. IDF chief of staff Moshe Yaalon said she was sent there as a decoy by Palestinian militants. Platoon soldiers accused their commander of shooting 20 rounds at close range to "confirm the kill". The Israeli army chief prosecutor ordered an investigation of the allegations. (Haaretz) The Gaza attacks have left 68 Palestinians dead. (Haaretz)
  • Palestinians claim an Israeli unmanned drone aircraft fired a missile towards the Al Ajramy street in Jabalia camp. Two brothers were killed, Hasan Abdul Hai Darweesh, 30, and Mousa Abdul Hai Darweesh, 24, both from the neighboring Mashrou' neighborhood. Six others were injured, two of whom critically. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • In Gaza City, Bashir al-Dabbash, a leader in the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, is killed by a missile fired from an Israeli aircraft. (INN) (BBC)
  • Three Hamas militants are killed after infiltrating the Israeli settlement of Kfar Darom. One of the militants blew up when hit by Israeli gunfire, killing a Thai worker in addition to himself. The other two militants were killed by IDF forces. Gaza Strip. (Haaretz) (INN) (IMRA)

October 6

  • An Israeli tank fired artillery at homes in the Al Maslakh neighborhood of Jabalia camp killing Abdullah Qahman, 15, Hamdan Faraj Ubaid, 50, and his 22-year-old son Hammudeh Ubaid. IDF said it shot back after being attacked by anti-tank weapon, hitting the house from which the rocket was fired. Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, (Guardian)
  • Ahmad Imad Abu Samak, 8, and Amneh An Najjar, 60, were critically injured by bullet wounds to the head in al Maslakh and Nuzha neighborhoods, respectively, of Jabalia town.
  • A 10-year-old boy, Muhammad Mansour Abed Rabu was wounded in his left leg by Israeli gunfire in al Mahkama street in Jabalia. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)

October 7

  • Suleyman abu Foul, 15, and his 14-year-old nephew Raed abu Zaid, were killed by Israeli fire in Jabalia. Israeli military sources said Suleyman and his nephew were killed by a missile fired from a helicopter after an airborne drone spotted two suspicious figures who appeared to be launching a Qassam rocket. A 16-year-old from Jabalia, Muhammad Abu Saif, died from wounds received by Israeli bullets in the neck and the chest on October 1. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • Their deaths—plus the death of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who had been injured earlier—pushed the toll from the latest fighting to more than 80. Late in the day, Israeli forces shot a 12-year-old girl, Samah Mu'een Udeh, in the head in the Beit Hanoun community. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)(Boston Globe)
  • Witnesses say that two Palestinian children were killed when the Israeli military shelled a crowd near the Jabaliya refugee camp. Israel says that an Israeli helicopter gunship fired at two people attempting to launch a Qassam rocket. (BBC)

October 8

  • A nine-year-old girl, Samah Samir Nassar, was killed and several homes were damaged.
  • Israeli tanks fired shell towards Abu Hasira neighborhood, near Jabalia Youth Club and killed two Palestinians: Muhammad Nabil Subeh and Yasir Al Khateeb, both 19, from Jabalia camp. Three other people were injured, one of whom critically. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • A worker at Rafiah Yam is shot and killed by Palestinian militants. (INN),(INN)
  • Salih Abu Al Ghseen, 35, a man suffering from mental illness, was killed by Israeli forces east of Wadi as-Salqa village in the middle of the Gaza Strip. (Al Mezan Center for Human Rights).

October 9

  • Israeli troops shot and killed a local leader of the Hamas’ military wing in Jabalia, Abed Rauf Nabhan, as he was preparing to fire an anti-tank missile at Israel Defence Forces tanks invading the Jabalia refugee camp. The Israeli military claimed that Nabhan was responsible for the launching of the rocket that killed two young children in Sderot on Sukkot eve, triggering the army offensive in northern Gaza. Abed Nabhan, 25, was one of five Palestinians killed Saturday. (ABC News) (Maariv)
  • Israeli tanks fired shells towards a 6-story residential building, owned by the Salim family, in the town of Beit Lahia. It hit the sixth floor and killed Ameen Mahmud Salim, 36 Sufiyan Mousa Salim, 28. Three of the family members were injured in the attack: Dawoud Salim, Ahmad Salim and Muhammad Salim. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • Palestinian anti-tank missile hit a house in Beit Hanoun, causing to collapse on the people inside. (Maariv)

October 10

  • At approximately 3am today, Sunday 10 October 2004, explosion is heard at the Center of the town of Beit Hanoun. Palestinian say a missile hit close to the UNRWA Women's Center and injured two Palestinians critically.(Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • Raid Muhammad Al Mabhouh, 22, from Jabalia camp died from wounds sustained on October 1, 2004. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • Israeli forces fired a missile at a house owned by Adnan Al Ajrami and a crafts factory in a densely populated neighborhood in Jabalia camp. The house and factory were destroyed and nine neighboring homes were severely damaged. A schoolteacher, Mahir Muhammad Zaqout, 39, was killed on his way to school and nine people were injured, including 4 children. The IDF said it targeted bomb-planters.(Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • An Israeli drone launched a missile towards Al Ajrami Street in Jabalia refugee camp. Four Palestinians were injured, one of whom, 21-ear-old Sameh Zamil Al Wheedy, died at hospital a few hours later. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)

October 11

  • At 3:15am, an Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicle launched a missile towards Al Harthani Secondary School in Beit Lahia. Three people were injured, one critically. (Al Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • In the middle-Gaza town of Deir Al Balah, Israeli tanks and armored bulldozers entered the Al Mahata neighborhood of Jabalia camp. Samir Muhammad Khammash, 29, was killed by a bullet to the head. Five other people were injured, including three children. Ibrahim Fayiz Abdul Hadi, 7, was injured while inside his house. (Al Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • At 10:30am, artillery from the Israeli settlement of Neve Dekalim was launched on the Palestinian refugee camp at Khan Younis. The maternity ward of Nasser Hospital was hit. Hospital workers and patients were treated for trauma. (Al Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • At 3:15am today, 22-year-old Ahmad Zaki Hamad, from the town of Beit Hanoun, and 21-year-old Yousif Abu Saif of Jabalia were pronounced dead from injuries suffered in two separate missile attacks on October 10. (Al Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • About 3:56pm, two Qassam rockets were launched at Kibbutz Saad in the Negev. No injuries were reported. (INN)
  • About 5:50pm, security fence workers were fired upon south of Kissufim. No injuries were reported.(INN)
  • About 6:16pm, three Israeli soldiers were wounded in Jabaliya. (INN)
  • About 8:38pm, two 25 kilogram bombs were disarmed by Israeli demolition experts (INN)
  • About 7:52pm, a Qassam rocket was launched against Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak in the Negev. No injuries were reported. (INN)

October 12

  • About 8:15am, several mortar shells were fired at the community of Ganei Tal. (INN)
  • At approximately 11:00 am, Palestinian security and hospital sources claim that Israeli soldiers at the Neve Dekalim settlement shot at UNRWA Al Khalidyeh Primary School in Khan Younis refugee camp critically injuring 10-year-old Ghadeer Jaber Mkheemar in the chest while she was inside her classroom. Israeli military sources claim that the soldiers where shooting at a mortar emplacement either next to or within the school grounds. (Al Mezan Center for Human Rights) (CNN) (UNRWA) (PDF)
  • About 12:30pm, an anti-tank missile was fired at Israeli soldiers near Rafah. (INN)
  • About 1:15pm, a bomb was detonated against Israeli soldiers operating in Jabaliah. (INN)
  • About 4:22pm, Israeli soldiers fire at fighters attempting to launch a missile from within the area of a mosque in Khan Yunis. The missile launch is prevented. (INN)
  • Mortar attack in southern Gaza. (INN)

October 13

  • About 4:48am, Arab medics reports that an Israeli helicopter missile strike upon a house in Beit Lahia killed Mohammed Marous, 22,a Hamas militant and wounded three others. (Reuters)
  • Israeli Defence Forces kill two al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades militants in Jabalia. (Haaretz)
  • At 12:20pm today Israeli forces fired a missile towards a crowd of people in the western part of Beit Lahia killing two Palestinians, Riziq Hasan Az Zeety, 38, and Muhammad Said Al Masri, 25. (Al Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • Two Qassam rockets landed in open field near Sderot. An early warning system to alert the residents of Sderot, which was installed by the IDF, worked flawlessly, according to security officer. Due to the closeness of Gaza launch sites to Sderot only 15-20 seconds of warning is possible. (Haaretz)(INN)
  • In Rafah at 6:40pm, Israeli forces killed Jihad Housam Barhoum, 16, and critically wounded Abdul Rahman Barhoum, 8, when a tank fired shells at the refugee camp. (Al Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • In Hebron, IDF forces arrested Imad Qawasameh, Hamas senior who was responsible for the double suicide bombing which killed 16 people in Beersheba on August 31, 2004. According to witnesses, Imad surrendered immediately after a Caterpillar D9 armoured bulldozer started to demolish his house. (Haaretz)(INN)
  • About 7:20pm, a Qassam rocket landed near Kibbutz Miflasim in the Negev. (INN)
  • About 9:21pm, mortar shells land within the Israeli community of Netzarim. (INN)
  • Four militants are killed in two actions by Israeli soldiers. (Reuters)

October 14

  • In the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, Israeli forces stormed into Block (J) of the refugee camp at 9:45pm. Tanks fired shells towards the densely populated block killing Ismail Muhammad As Sawalha, 70, Ahmad Salih Al Tahrawi, 21, and Ali Abdul Kareem Shaath, 23. In addition, Khadra Shoman, 75, was wounded by shrapnel wound to the head. Israeli press, however, reported that the Tahrawi and Shaath were armed militants. (Al Mezan Center for Human Rights)

October 15

  • Israeli Defence Forces prevented a launch of Qassam rocket from Jabalia refugee camp. According to soldiers from the Golani Brigade, militants were accompanied by children, who helped carry the rockets to the launch site. The army refrained from using a helicopter gunship because of the presence of children allegedly being used as human shields. Israeli forces report that infantry units engaged the militants with warning shots causing them to flee, abandoning the launcher and other equipment. (Haaretz)
  • At 12:05am today, Israeli forces launched a missile towards Block (7) in Jabalia camp. Two Palestinians, Muhyi Ad Din Al Madhoun, 19, and Nidal Harb Masoud, 20, were killed. Several homes were also damaged in the attack.
  • Three armed militants, two of al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and one of Hamas were killed in Jabalia by Israeli Air Force strike. (Haaretz)
  • IDF begins to redeploy in northern Gaza area. Troops, armored forces and engineers pull-back from Jabalia, Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun. The forces remain on alert to reenter the area if a Qassam rocket should be launched. (Haaretz)
  • An IDF investigation regarding the death of Iman Darweesh Al Hams in Rafah on October 5 cleared the Givati Brigade platoon commander on the scene of charges by fellow soldiers that he emptied his rifle magazine into the girl's body as she lay wounded. The IDF accepted the commander's claim that he fired into the ground near the girl after coming under fire in a dangerous area. The officer was suspended from duty pending the final outcome of a police investigation. (BBC)(Maariv)
  • In Rafah, two soldiers are lightly injured from an anti-tank missile. (Haaretz)

October 16

  • One al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades militant, hit on Friday, dies from his wounds. (Haaretz)
  • Israeli Defence Forces pulled out of Jabalia and Beit Lahiya and redeployed on surrounding ridges. Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim told Israeli Radio that the pullback was a gesture to the Palestinians before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan but Israeli officials warned that they would return should Qassam rocket attacks continue. (Haaretz)
  • The US State Department welcomed the Israeli withdrawal and stressed the U.S. government position that Palestinians were responsible "for ending violence and terror, and particularly for ensuring that this area - that no area is used for attacks on Israel with rockets." (Haaretz)


Number of casualties during September 29, 2004 - October 15, 2004 is as follows:


  • Two children killed by a Qassam rocket in Sderot.
  • One Israeli woman, civilian resident of the Eley Sinai
  • Two IDF


According to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, 133 Palestinians (including 31 children) were killed by IDF forces during Operation Days of Penitence. The Al Mezan Center reported that 417 Palestinians, including 138 children, were wounded during the Israeli offensive. Names, ages, and addresses of each Palestinian killed were made available on their website, though combat status (militant or civilian) was not given.[1][2]

The Palestinians killed ranged in age from 4 years old to 77 years old. The average age was 24.5 years old. Most of those killed were reportedly residents of Jabalia refugee camp, the largest refugee camp in Gaza. The lists that follow were reproduced from data provided by the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. Some Israeli sources dispute the accuracy of these figures.

Municipality Number Killed
Jabalia camp 51
Gaza City 23
Beit Lahia 19
Jabalia 13
Khan Yunis 7
Beit Hanoun 6
Rafah 6
Deir al-Balah 3
Unknown 2
an-Nuseirat camp 1
Bureij camp 1
Wadi as-Salqa 1


  1. ^ http://www.mezan.org/site_en/press_room/press_detail.php?id=295
  2. ^ http://www.mezan.org/site_en/resource_center/mezan_publications/detail.php?id=95

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