Rocket attacks on Israelis

Rocket attacks began in the Gaza Strip in 2001, with the advent of Qassam rockets (crude projectiles lacking any guidance system that take their name from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.) Initially, the rockets (and also mortars) were launched primarily at Israeli settlements and military installations by Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and other militant groups. Rockets and mortars targeting communities inside Israel grew over time, especially in and around the town of Sderot, located near the border with Gaza. Rocket fire increased sharply after Israel’s unilateral Gaza Disengagement. (Between 2002-2005, 702 rockets were launched into Israel, killing 14 and injuring 221. In 2006, 1,247 rockets were fired into Israel, killing four and wounding 18.) Some analysts point to this being evidence that Palestinians don’t want peace, as the withdrawal was greeted with increased rocket fire and the election of Hamas. Other analysts have argued that, had the settlement withdrawal been negotiated with the Palestinian Authority, this may have increased support for negotiations; instead, the unilateral disengagement created the impression that armed resistance had driven the Israelis out of Gaza, a perception which may have contributed to the increased rocket fire and Hamas’s victory. In 2007, Katyusha rockets began to be fired from Gaza, which had formerly been formerly fired only from Lebanon by Hezbollah. Rockets primarily have landed in towns and cities in southern Israel, but in recent years, rockets began to expand their reach, and during the 2012 and 2014 Gaza Wars, rockets landed near Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, at the Ben Gurion airport, and as far north as Hadera, though they had very small payloads. Israel frequently responds to rocket fire with bombing in the Gaza Strip, which has led to numerous casualties and fatalities. Stopping rocket fire has been the reason Israel gave for all three Gaza Wars, though many analysts maintain that stopping rocket fire was a pretext for the wars rather than the reason. Rocket fire has often increased after Israeli violations of ceasefire agreements or other transgressions. Though the rockets are crude and the number of Israeli casualties and fatalities are relatively low given the number of projectiles fired, human rights organizations condemn rocket attacks as an indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians and label such attacks as war crimes. See "Rocket and mortar fire into Israel," B’Tselem, July 24, 2014.

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