Home > Great Britain > BICOM BRIEFING: GAZA SITUATION UPDATE 31 DECEMBER 2008

BICOM BRIEFING: GAZA SITUATION UPDATE 31 DECEMBER 2008


STATEMENT FROM BICOM, reprinted with thanks.

01/01/2009 05:20 BICOM – News – News Archive – BICOM Briefing: Gaza situation update 31 december 2008

http://www.bicom.org.uk/news/news-archive/bicom-briefing–gaza-situation-update-31-december-2008

News Archive
31/12/2008
BICOM Briefing: Gaza situation update 31 December 2008

o Hamas extend range of attacks with strike on Beersheva, 40km from the Gaza Strip
o 70 rockets hit Tuesday, 30 by midday Wednesday
o PM Spokesman: Israel opposed to solution that simply, ‘kicks the can further down the road’.

Situation on the ground

A wave of rockets struck Israel again on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Hamas escalated the threat still further by hitting Beersheva, a city of close to 200,000 people for the first time. Its Grad-Katyusha missile struck a kindergarten. Ofakim and Rahat, 25km from the Gaza Strip, also joined the list of communities hit. 500,000 Israeli civilians are now living subject to the early warning system and are being advised to stay close to shelters. All schools in the region are closed.

Israel continued its operations through Tuesday night and into Wednesday, hitting the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and other Hamas government buildings in pursuit of its aim to permanently downgrade Hamas’s ability to attack Israel. The cabinet approved a call up of a further 2500 reserves, stressing its readiness for a ground operation if necessary.

Mark Regev told British journalists on a BICOM conference call yesterday that Israel is
opposed to an ‘instant fix’, which will simply ‘kick the can further down the road’. Instead Israel is looking for a ‘sustained solution’.

Whilst a number of ceasefire proposals are being presented, forefront in Israeli minds is the extent to which Hamas, with its Iranian backers, has used the last six months to worsen the threat it poses to Israel and the peace process. Israel continues to seek a sustainable ceasefire that does not simply set the stage for the next round of violence.

Hamas’s rearmament in the last six months The expansion in the range of Hamas rocket attacks illustrated the extent to which, as feared, they have used the ceasefire to upgrade their capabilities in preparation for a new round of conflict. Hamas have in particular, taken advantage of the ceasefire to smuggle in advanced weapons under the Gaza-Egypt border. Hamas’s upgraded military capabilities include: An arsenal of military grade Grad-Katyusha rockets from Iranian supplies which are being used to strike at Israeli population centres within a 40km radius from Gaza. This affects 500,000 out of Israel’s 7 million population.

The core Hamas armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which is estimated to
have more than 10,000 operatives, has benefited from increased access to arms and
funds, and has been able to improve its military fortifications unhindered during the
ceasefire.

It has established a network of subterranean fortifications and tunnels as well as
underground rocket launching sites, which have been only partially destroyed in
Israel’s current operation. They are now believed to have advanced wire-guided anti-
tank weapons systems, as well as large numbers of RPG-29 grenade launchers. Their
commanders have overseen the creation of a military force modelled on Hezbollah –
including territorial commands, organized brigade and battalion formations and
specialized units. This force is supplemented by the ‘Executive Force’, formed by the Hamas run Interior Ministry after Hamas came to power in 2006. It consists of mainly Hamas members and sympathisers and swells Hamas’s ranks to around 15000 men.
Other armed groups, such as the Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Resistance
Committees, have also benefited from the ceasefire, and are believed to have 3000-
4000 men to contribute in a battle against Israel.

Daily tally of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza since Hamas unilaterally renounced
ceasefire.
December 31 —30 (approximate figure as of 2pm)
December 30— 70 rockets
December 29 — 80 rockets (approximate figure)
December 28 — 40 rockets and mortar rounds, including two long-range Grad missiles.
December 27 — 110 rockets and mortar rounds, including one Grad-Katyusha missile.
December 26 — 25 mortar rounds
December 25 —7 Qassam rockets, one Grad missile and 9 mortar rounds.
December 23 & 24 — 33 rockets (Grad-Katyushas and Qassams), 37 mortar shells
December 22 — 2 Qassams, 1 mortar
December 21 — 19 Qassams, 3 mortars
December 19 & December 20 — 10 Qassams, 24 mortars
For a daily tally of rockets and mortars fired into Israel, see: BICOM Statistics: Total number of identified rocket and mortar shell hits since 2001 and daily tally for 2008.
Humanitarian aid to Gaza Israel is facilitating the transfer of 106 trucks of humanitarian aid today (Wednesday), following around 100 yesterday and 63 on Monday.

Israel has also announced that it intends to open up its borders to Palestinian patients. The transfer of aid through the crossings is being delayed by the high risk of terrorist attacks on the crossings themselves. There is a long history of such attacks, including: 22 May 2008: a Palestinian bomber blew up an explosives-laden truck on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing, causing substantial damage.
20 April 2008: Hamas gunmen wounded 13 Israeli soldiers in an assault with mortar shells, explosives-laden vehicles and gunfire against the Kerem Shalom crossing.
9 April 2008: Two Israeli civilian fuel truck drivers working at the Nahal Oz fuel depot – which supplies fuel to Gaza – were killed in an attack by Gaza militants.

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Source: BICOM acknowledged with thanks.

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