Israel has launched three large-scale military offensives in the Gaza Strip
since the Gaza Disengagement
; December 2008, November 2012, and July 2014 (as well as many smaller ones.) Israel’s stated purpose for all three offensives was to stop rocket attacks emanating from Gaza onto Israeli towns, and maintains its right to self-defense. Many analysts have pointed to other motivations for the operations, such as weakening Hamas
, collective punishment, undermining Palestinians seeking state status in the U.N. (2012 war), and trying to sabotage the Unity Government newly agreed upon by Hamas and Fatah
(2014 war, also known as "Operation Protective Edge"). Israel points to the increased rocket fire since Hamas’s control of Gaza Stripas a constant, intolerable threat to Israeli civilians. Palestinians point to Israel’s Gaza blockade
, ongoing occupation
of Gaza, the West Bank
and East Jerusalem
, and multiple ceasefire violations as escalating/exacerbating rocket fire, which Hamas says is in resistance and in self-defense.
Israel called the first Gaza War "Operation Cast Lead." It began on December 27, 2008 and lasted for three weeks. The first week consisted of air attacks, whereas the next two weeks saw a massive ground invasion. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, 1,391 Palestinians were killed during the operation, over half of them civilians and 344 of them children. Israel claims that the number of civilians killed, (versus militants) has been inflated. According to Amnesty International, more than 3,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed and 20,000 more were damaged. Hundreds of schools, clinics, mosques, factories, farms, orchards, government buildings, police stations and prisons were destroyed or damaged as well. According to Israeli authorities, 571 rockets and 205 mortar shells landed in Israel during the duration of the operation. 13 Israelis were killed, three of them civilians. Following the offensive, the United Nations sent a Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict to investigate violations of international law. The resulting Goldstone Report
accused both Israel and Hamas (as well as other Palestinian militant groups) of war crimes and recommended both sides conduct investigations on the allegations.
The second Gaza War, which Israel called "Operation Pillar of Defense," began on November 14, 2012 and lasted eight days. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,168 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli airstrikes, 101 of them civilians, including 33 children. Israel was criticized by Human Rights Watch and others for targeting Palestinian media workers during the operation. Rockets fired by Hamas reached previously out of range Israeli population centers, such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Six Israelis were killed, four of them civilians. Ceasefire terms included Israel stopping hostilities in Gaza, including targeting of individuals, Palestinian factions agreeing to stop rocket attacks and border attacks, and to open border crossings, thus easing Israel’s blockade on Gaza.
The third Gaza War, which Israel called "Operation Protective Edge," had the greatest number of fatalities, the most physical destruction, and was the most protracted of the wars, lasting from July 8 until August 26, 2014, including both attacks from the air and a ground invasion. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, 69% of whom were civilians and over 500 of whom were children. Over 18,000 homes in Gaza were demolished or severely damaged. 71 Israelis (5 of them civilians, one of those a child) and one Thai national in Israel were killed. Israel initially stated that its goal was to stop rocket fire, but after the start of the operation, tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel were discovered, and the Israel military goal became to detect and destroy the tunnels. Hamas was criticized for shooting rockets from populated areas, for killing suspected collaborators, and for storing weapons and (in two cases) firing from U.N. schools that were empty. Israel was sharply condemned for attacking (among other civilian locations) seven United Nations schools, killing at least 44 Palestinians who were seeking shelter inside the schools. Ceasefire terms were similar to those in 2012, and included the opening of Gaza’s border crossings, Israel permitting humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza, and an extension of Gaza’s fishing zone. Other demands, such as Hamas’s demand for an air and seaport in Gaza, the releasing of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and the ending of the siege, and Israel’s demand for the disarming of Hamas and other militant groups were held for later negotiations.
For over-all context on the Gaza Wars, see interview with former NYT correspondent to Gaza, Taghreed El-Khodary, "Ending the siege is not a Hamas demand—it is a Palestinian one," Moriel Rothman-Zecher, 972mag, August 17, 2014. See also "No Exit in Gaza
," Jen Marlowe, TomDispatch.com, Dec 7, 2014.
For more on the 2009 war, see "Fatalities during Operation Cast Lead
," B’tselem; and "Israel/Gaza Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 22 Days of Death and Destruction
," Amnesty International, July 2, 2009.
For more on the 2012 war, see "Q&A: Israel-Gaza violence
," BBC, Nov 22, 2012; see also "TEXT: Ceasefire agreement between Israel and Gaza's Palestinians
," Reuters, Nov 21, 2012; and "Israel/Gaza: Unlawful [no-lexicon]Israeli[/no-lexicon] Attacks on Palestinian Media
," Human Rights Watch, Dec 20, 2012.
For more on the 2014 war, see the OCHA Situation Report
, OCHA, September 4, 2014. See also "Israel: In-Depth Look at Gaza School Attacks
," Human Rights Watch, September 11, 2014; and "Hamas acknowledges its forces fired rockets from civilian areas
," Haaretz & Associated Press, September 12, 2014. See also "UN: [no-lexicon]Israeli[/no-lexicon] actions killed 44 Palestinians at UN shelters
," Al Jazeera America & Associated Press, April 27, 2015.