March 15, 2012

Another Round of Escalation in Southern Israel

March 11, 2012
Update No. 1 (As of noon, March 12, 2012)

Children run to take cover in a shelter as the sirens sound in Beersheba
(Photo by Yehuda Lahiani, courtesy of NRG, March 12, 2012).
1. The current round of escalation in Israel's south, which began on March 9, has entered its fourth day. So far more than 200 rockets have been fired at Israel, about half of which fell inside Israeli territory (the others fell in the Gaza Strip or were intercepted and destroyed by the Iron Dome aerial defense system). Some of the rockets penetrated deep into Israel's south (Beersheba, Ashdod, Gedera). The hits wounded two civilians and caused extensive property damage.
2. The IDF continues attacking rocket launching sites, Palestinian terrorist squads and terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the current escalation 18 Palestinian terrorist operatives have been killed, 13 belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and five to the Popular Resistance Committees. Several Palestinian bystanders were killed
Rocket Hits in Israeli Territory during the Escalations of the Past Year
Note: To date the statistics for March 2012 are estimations.
Rocket Fire
3. Throughout the day on March 11 massive numbers of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at population centers in Israel's south. A total of 33 rockets fell in Israeli territory during a period of 24 hours. One of them, fired during the daylight hours, hit a school in Beersheba. Another, fired at night, landed in the yard of a kindergarten in a western Negev village. About seven mortar shells were also fired. The Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted and destroyed 13 rockets during the 24-hour period. On March 11 no casualties resulted from the rocket and mortar shell fire but there was extensive property damage.
4. The rocket and mortar shell fire continued on March 12. During the early afternoon hours a rocket hit the center of a residential neighborhood in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. Two civilians were wounded by shrapnel. Two rockets also hit the Gedera region, the northernmost location hit by rockets during the current escalation.
Left: Rocket damage to a kindergarten in the western Negev (Photo by Yehuda Lahiani, courtesy of NRG, March 12, 2012). Right: Rocket damage to a chicken coop in the western Negev
(IDF Spokesman, March 12, 2012).
Firefighters and police examine the rocket which hit Beersheba
(Photo by Yehuda Lahiani, courtesy of NRG, March 12, 2012).
5. There has been more rocket fire in the current, ongoing escalation than in previous rounds. So far, more than 200 rockets have been fired at Israel, more than 100 of them falling in Israeli territory. Several dozen were intercepted and destroyed by the Iron Dome. Most of the long-range (40 kilometers, or 24.8 miles) rockets were 122mm improved Grad rockets
Daily Distribution Rocket Fire Hits in Israeli Territory1
Claiming Responsibility for the Rocket Fire
6. Many organizations continued claiming responsibility for the rocket fire, but most of them were launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Israeli Air Force Attacks
7. Israeli aircraft continued pinpointing a large number of terrorist targets, operatives and squads launching or about to launch rockets and mortar shells.
8. Some of the Israeli Air Force attacks were the following, as reported by the IDF Spokesman:
1) On the night of March 11 six attacks were carried out. Among the targets were a site for the manufacture of weapons, four rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip and another in the southern Gaza Strip, and a terrorist operative in the southern Gaza Strip who was about to launch rockets into Israeli territory.
2) In the afternoon hours of March 11 Israeli aircraft struck a terrorist operative in the northern Gaza Strip who was preparing to launch a rocket. Several hours previously he had launched rockets targeting the southern Israeli city of Ashdod.
3) During the morning of March 11 Israeli aircraft stuck a terrorist squad in the northern Gaza Strip which was in the last stages of preparing to fire rockets into Israeli territory. Two rocket launching pits in the northern Gaza Strip were also hit, from which rockets with a range of 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) had been fired.
Palestinian Casualties
9. During the past 24 hours the Palestinian media reported information about a number of Palestinian casualties resulting from the Israeli Air Force attacks. Among those killed were a Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) terrorist operative. So far, 18 Palestinian terrorist operatives have been killed in the escalation, 13 belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and five belonging to the PRC (including Zuhir al-Qaisi and his top aide, Mahmoud Hanani). Several Palestinian bystanders were also killed and several dozen civilians were wounded.
Iron Dome Aerial Defense System Rocket Interceptions
10. The Iron Dome aerial defense system has shown itself to be exceptionally effective in the current escalation, intercepting and destroying a large number of rockets. The Iron Dome, which was first deployed last year, only intercepts rockets expected to hit populated areas and strategic locations. Since the beginning of the current escalation, its success rate has exceeded 90% (IDF Spokesman, March 11, 2012).
Left: The Iron Dome aerial defense system (IDF Spokesman, March 12, 2012). Right: The Israeli Air Force commander meets soldiers who operate the Iron Dome (IDF Spokesman, March 11, 2012).
The Iron Dome in action in the skies of Israel's south
(IDF Spokesman, March 11, 2012).
Egyptian-Brokered Contacts to Halt the Escalation
11. Senior Palestinian and Egyptian figures reported that the Egyptian preventive security apparatus has been making strong efforts to restore the "lull" in the Gaza Strip. However, they also stated that the contacts had not yet led to an Israeli-Palestinian understanding which would result in halting the escalation and that attempts were still being made to convince both sides to give the lull a chance. The Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority said that Egypt had the right to intervene because the lull was achieved under Egyptian aegis (Al-Jazeera TV, March 11, 2011).
12. Ibrahim al-Dirawi, director of the Palestinian studies center in Cairo, said the Egyptians had begun mediations with all the Palestinian organizations on March 10. He said simultaneous contacts were being held with Israel but so far nothing had been achieved (Radio Al-Aqsa, March 11, 2012).
Additional Reactions
Reactions from Important Figures in Israel
13. On a visit to Israel's south, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that " [m]y directive is to strike at whoever is planning to attack us...The combination of offensive capability, defensive capability and civilian fortitude is a winning combination..."2
14. Chief of Staff General Benny Gantz said, referring to the current escalation, that the IDF would respond and continue responding with force and determination to all rocket and mortar shell fire targeting the sovereign territory of the State of Israel. He accused Hamas of responsibility for everything that happened in the Gaza Strip. He said that the IDF did not want escalation but was deployed to exact a steep price for any attempt to disrupt the daily life of the population (IDF Spokesman, March 11, 2012).
Palestinian Reactions
15. So far Hamas has not participated in the rocket fire, while politically it has acted to halt the escalation. Senior Hamas figures have tried to negotiate with the Palestinian terrorist organizations firing the rockets and mortar shells to calm the situation on the ground. Musheir al-Masri, spokesman for the Hamas faction in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that Hamas was in constant contact with the other organizations in order to formulate a unified plan of action. However, he added, everyone agreed that the "Israeli aggression" had to be stopped.
16. Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration, said that Egypt was trying to end the escalation and that Hamas and Egypt were engaged in a dialogue about the issue. He described the position of the Palestinian organizations as positive and responsible (Safa News Agency, March 11, 2012). In addition, a Hamas delegation went to Egypt. It was headed by Musa Abu Marzouk , deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, and one of its members was Mahmoud al-Zahar. The delegation is supposed to meet with senior Egyptian figures (German News Agency, March 11, 2012).
The Popular Resistance Committees
17. Abu Mujahed, PRC spokesman, said that the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip and other mediators had appealed to his organization to calm the situation on the ground. He said his organization had rejected all the suggestions because it did not want Israel to force its position on the Palestinians and in order to make Israel pay a high price for its "aggression" (Al-Jazeera TV, March 11, 2011).
PRC terrorist operatives (PRC website, March 12, 2012)
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad
18. Senior figures in the PIJ, the terrorist organization which has carried out most of the rocket fire into Israeli territory in the current round of escalation, said they intended to continue firing rockets and would reject all Egyptian efforts at mediation:
1) Ziad Nakhleh, deputy PIJ secretary general, said that there had never been a genuine lull with Israel and that his organization would continue to respond to every Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. He said that to date the PIJ was not discussing a lull, halting the rocket fire or mediation. He also said that his organization had updated the Egyptians, informing them that they would continue their attacks (Al-Alam TV, March 11; Al-Hayat, March 12, 2012).
2) Khaled al-Batash, a senior PIJ figure, said that as far as a lull was concerned there was nothing to talk about. Regarding Egypt's efforts at mediation, he said that they were welcome but could not succeed as long as Israel continued attacking the Gaza Strip (The PIJ's Paltoday website, March 11, 2012).
The Palestinian Authority
19. At noon on March 11, several dozen Palestinians gathered in Al-Manara Square in Ramallah in a show of solidarity with the residents of the Gaza Strip. The demonstrators protested the silence of the international community and expressed a desire to stop the so-called "Israeli aggression." Mustafa Barghouti, secretary general of the National Initiative Movement was present at the demonstration (Ma'an News Agency, March 11, 2012).

1 The number of rockets which actually fell in Israeli territory, excluding excluding those intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system and those which fell in the Gaza Strip. The number of rockets fired on March 11 are not final.
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