I. Rocket Fire at Civilian Targets in Israel*
After Hamas completed its takeover of the Gaza Strip in mid-June 2007, terrorist groups there have carried out rocket and mortar fire toward Israel’s western Negev settlements. During the last two weeks in June, 61 rocket hits were identified. A number of Israeli civilians were lightly wounded in the attacks, and several more were found to be suffering from shock; property was also damaged.
During July, rockets continued to be fired at western Negev communities from the Gaza Strip. There were 55 identified rocket hits in Israeli territory. Noteworthy are the following rocket attacks:
July 22: A rocket hit the Sapir College near Sderot, slightly wounding an Israeli woman.
July 23: There was a direct rocket hit on a house in Kibbutz Carmia. An eight-month-old baby girl was slightly wounded and her mother and grandmother had to be treated for shock; considerable damage was done to the building.
July 26: A rocket hit a house in Sderot, slightly wounding a woman and causing considerable property damage.
July 27: A rocket was fired and struck a community in the western Negev, Palestinians fired two mortar shells which hit close to security fence in central Gaza, and two additional mortar shells hit in a community in the western Negev . Following the incident a fire erupted at the site.
There was also a marked increase in the number of mortar shells fired at IDF forces – during the first half of July, 42 mortar shells were fired, compared with 37 in June. The mortar shells were fired at IDF forces operating in the Gaza Strip, at the crossings and at Israeli towns and farms close to the border fence.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Fatah elements (which continue operating under Hamas aegis) claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, yet on July 7, Hamas itself began claiming responsibility for rocket fire, the first time since the beginning of June.
During August, rocket fire aimed at the western Negev settlements continued at an even higher rate. During the first two weeks of August, 34 rockets were fired, compared with 23 during the first half of July. One of the rockets hit a kindergarten in Sderot, which was empty at the time due to the summer vacation.
Since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in mid-June, there has been an average of 13 rockets a week (see graph below).
II. Terrorist Attacks and Israeli Counter-Terrorist Operations
While Hamas has mostly refrained from claiming direct responsibility for attacking Israel with rockets, it has taken credit for mortar attacks, sniper fire and launching anti-tank rockets at the IDF forces operating around the Gaza Strip or near the security fence.
The following are prominent terrorist attacks carried out from the Hamas controlled Gaza strip since the mid-June takeover, and the Israeli defensive reaction to these attacks:
June 18: Terrorists tossed hand grenades and fired light arms at an IDF force near the Erez Crossing, killing one Palestinian civilian in the crossing area and wounding 12 others. The IDF soldiers returned fire at the terrorists.
June 19: Shots were fired at IDF forces searching the area around Kissufim, across from the central Gaza Strip. During the exchange of fire an IDF soldier was wounded and an armed Palestinian was killed.
June 24: After terrorists launched rockets at Negev settlements, the IDF carried out an air-strike against the terrorists’ vehicle in the area of Sheikh Radwan. One terrorist was killed and two wounded in the strike. The killed terrorist was Husam Harb, an operative of the Islamic Jihad’s rocket launching unit, responsible for the rocket attacks carried out on the morning of the same day.
June 27: A firefight broke out between an IDF force engaged in counter-terrorist operations and Hamas terrorist operatives, who shot at the Israeli soldiers with light arms and anti -tank missiles. According to Palestinian reports, at least 12 Palestinians were killed. Two IDF soldiers were slightly wounded.
July 5: An IDF force operating deep in the Gaza Strip encountered armed Hamas terrorists. In the exchange of fire that followed, a number of terrorists were killed, including three Hamas operatives.
July 12: 21-year-old Staff Sergeant Arbel Raich, from Yuvalim in the Galilee , was killed when his unit, the Givati Brigade Reconnaissance Battalion, was attacked near the al-Bureij refugee camp during a counter-terrorist operation in the central Gaza Strip. Two additional soldiers were wounded. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack on the IDF force. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum praised the killing (Al-Aqsa TV, July 12).
July 22: Two terrorist operatives threw a hand grenade at an IDF force near the Erez crossing. The soldiers returned fire and killed the terrorists. Both belonged to Hamas' terrorist operative wing and had been planning to ambush the security forces operating in the area (Hamas/Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades Website, July 22, 2007).
July 26: Two terrorists threw hand grenades at an IDF force near the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip. The force returned fire and killed them. Both terrorists belonged to a Fatah cell, and were involved in laying charges in the area.
August 4: The Israeli Air Force struck two vehicles carrying several PIJ operatives near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. One of the terrorists and a civilian in a passing car were killed. Five other people were injured.
August 8: Two armed Palestinians, Hamas operatives, were killed in an exchange of fire with IDF soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip.
August 14-15: The IDF carried out counter-terrorist operations in the Gaza Strip in the north (near Beit Lahiya) and the south (near Abasan).
In the course of IDF operations in the north, a tunnel was exposed in a tomato hothouse, about 700 meters (4/10 of a mile) from the northern Gaza Strip security fence. The tunnel was intended to facilitate an infiltration of operatives into Israel , for a large scale terrorist attack. The IDF demolished the tunnel. According to Palestinian reports, five Hamas operatives were killed in the Abasan area. During the operation weapons were seized, including an explosive belt and a roadside charge, both ready for use.III. Statistical Data
Rocket fire since the Hamas takeover - Weekly Distribution
Monthly distribution of attacks over past year
Monthly distribution of identified rocket hits over past year
Monthly distribution of israeli casualties over past year
*Informação gentilmente cedida pela Embaixada de Israel em Portugal.