2004 Israel–Gaza conflict

2004 Israel–Gaza conflict

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=2004 Israel-Gaza conflict
partof=the Al-Aqsa Intifada


caption=Area of the conflict
date=2004
place=Gaza Strip
casus= Qassam rocket attacks
result= Stalemate
combatant1=flag|Israel (Israel Defense Forces)
combatant2=
commander1=
commander2=
strength1=
strength2=
casualties1=
casualties2=
The 2004 Israel-Gaza conflict refers to the series of battles between Palestinian militants and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Several qassam rocket attacks on Israel (Sderot and the Negev) forced the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes and land incursions. The fighting included two IDF operations, Operation Rainbow and Operation Days of Penitence.

Timeline

In response to a repeated shelling of Israeli communities with Qassam rockets and mortar shells from Gaza, the IDF operated mainly in Rafah — to search and destroy smuggling tunnels used by militants to obtain weapons, ammunition, fugitives, cigarettes, car parts, electrical goods, foreign currency, gold, drugs, and cloth from Egypt. Raids in Rafah left many families homeless. Israel's official stance is that their houses were captured by militants and were destroyed during battles with IDF forces. Many of these houses are abandoned due to Israeli incursions and later destroyed. According to Human Rights Watch, over 1,500 houses were destroyed to create a large buffer zone in the city, many "in the absence of military necessity", displacing around sixteen thousand people. [cite web|url=http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/gaza/|accessdate=2006-03-29|title=Razing Rafah: Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip|publisher=Human Rights Watch]

On 2 February 2004, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced his plan to transfer all the Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli opposition dismissed his announcement as "media spin" but the Israeli Labour Party said it would support such a move. Sharon's right-wing coalition partners National Religious Party and National Union rejected the plan and vowed to quit the government if it were implemented. Surprisingly, Yossi Beilin, peace advocate and architect of the Oslo Accords and the Geneva Accord, also rejected the proposed withdrawal plan. He claimed that withdrawing from the Gaza Strip without a peace agreement would reward terror.

Following the declaration of the disengagement plan by Ariel Sharon and as a response to suicide attacks on Erez crossing and Ashdod seaport (10 people were killed), the IDF launched a series of armored raids on the Gaza Strip (mainly Rafah and refugee camps around Gaza), killing about 70 Hamas militants. On March 22, 2004, an Israeli helicopter gunship killed Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and on April 17, after several failed attempts by Hamas to commit suicide bombings, his successor, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi was killed by IDF helicopter gunship strike.

The fighting in Gaza Strip escalated severely in May 2004 after several failed attempts to attack Israeli checkpoints such as Erez crossing and Karni crossing. However, on May 11 and May 12, Palestinian militants destroyed two IDF M-113 APCs, killing 13 soldiers and mutilating their bodies. The IDF launched two raids to recover the bodies in which about 20-40 Palestinians were killed and great damage was caused to structures in the Zaitoun neighbourhood in Gaza and in south-west Rafah.

Subsequently, on May 18 the IDF launched Operation Rainbow with a stated aim of striking the terror infrastructure of Rafah, destroying smuggling tunnels, and stopping a shipment of SA-7 missiles and improved anti-tank weapons. The operation ended after the IDF killed 40 Palestinian militants and 12 civilians and demolished about 45-56 structures. The great destruction and killing of 10 protesters led to a worldwide outcry against the operation.

On September 29, after a Qassam rocket hit the Israeli town of Sderot and killed two Israeli children, the IDF launched Operation Days of Penitence in the north of the Gaza Strip. The operation's stated aim was to remove the threat of Qassam rockets from Sderot and kill the Hamas militants launching them. The operation ended on October 16, leaving widespread destruction and more than 100 Palestinians dead, at least 20 of whom were under the age of 16. [cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1328916,00.html|title=Army pulls back from Gaza leaving 100 Palestinians dead|publisher=The Guardian|date=2004-10-16] Thirteen-year-old Iman Darweesh Al Hams was killed by the IDF; some reports claimed a commander had deliberately fired his automatic weapon at her dead body, but the soldier was cleared of all charges. [cite news|url=http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=10201|date=2004-12-03|publisher=The Jewish Week|title=Moral Quagmire] [cite news|url=http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1126/p07s01-wome.html|date=2004-11-26|publisher=Christian Science Monitor|title=Israeli army under fire after killing girl] According to Palestinian medics, Israeli forces killed at least 62 militants and 42 other Palestinians believed to be civilians. [cite news|url=http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L16687192.htm|publisher=Reuters|title=Palestinians sift rubble after Israel's Gaza assault|date=2004-10-16] According to a count performed by Haaretz, 87 combatants and 42 non-combatants were killed. Palestinian refugee camps were heavily damaged by the Israeli assault. The IDF announced that at least 12 Qassam launchings had been thwarted and many terrorists hit during the operation. Three Israelis also were killed, including one civilian.

On October 21, the Israeli Air Force killed Adnan al-Ghoul, a senior Hamas bomb maker and the inventor of the Qassam rocket.

Escalation in Gaza began amid the visit of Mahmoud Abbas to Syria in order to achieve a Hudna between Palestinian factions and convince Hamas leadership to halt attacks against Israelis. Hamas vowed to continue the armed struggle, while numerous Qassam rockets hit open fields near "Nahal Oz" and an anti-tank missile hit a kindergarten in Kfar Darom.

On December 9 five weapon smugglers were killed and two were arrested in the border between Rafah and Egypt. Later that day, Jamal Abu Samhadana and two of his bodyguards were injured by a missile strike. In the first Israeli airstrike against militants in weeks, an unmanned Israeli drone plane launched one missile at Abu Samahdna's car as it traveled between Rafah and Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. It was the fourth attempt on Samhadana's life by Israel. Samhadana is one of two leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees and one of the main forces behind the smuggling tunnels. Samhadana is believed to be responsible for the blast against an American diplomatic convoy in Gaza that killed three Americans.

On December 10, in response to Hamas firing mortar rounds into the Neveh Dekalim settlement in the Gaza Strip and wounding four Israelis (including an 8 year old boy), Israeli soldiers fired at the Khan Younis refugee camp (the origin of the mortars) killing a 7-year-old girl. An IDF source confirmed troops opened fire at Khan Younis, but said they aimed at Hamas mortar crews. The IDF insisted that it does its utmost to avoid civilian casualties.

The largest attack since the death of Yasser Arafat claimed the lives of five Israeli soldiers on December 12, wounding ten others. Approximately 1.5 tons of explosives were detonated in a tunnel under an Israeli military-controlled border crossing on the Egyptian border with Gaza near Rafah, collapsing several structures and damaging others. The explosion destroyed part of the outpost and killed three soldiers. Two Palestinian militants then penetrated the outpost and killed two other Israeli soldiers with gunfire. It is believed that Hamas and a new Fatah faction, the "Fatah Hawks," conducted the highly organized and coordinated attack. A spokesman, "Abu Majad," claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of the Fatah Hawks claiming it was in retaliation for "the assassination" of Yasser Arafat, charging he was poisoned by Israel.

ee also

*Timeline up to 2006 Gaza crisis
*2006 Israel-Gaza conflict
*2006 Israel-Gaza conflict casualties timeline
*2007–2008 Israel-Gaza conflict
*2008 Israel-Gaza conflict
*List of Qassam rocket attacks

Notes


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