BICOM Briefing: Gaza situation update – 27 December 2008

Latest on rockets against Israel and humanitarian supplies to Gaza

– In the past week over 190 rockets, missiles and mortar rounds were fired from Gaza by Iranian backed Hamas and other militants at Israel. More than 563 were fired since Hamas escalated rocket firing on 4 November. Israel maintained restraint until now hoping for a return to calm.

– The recent escalation is the result of Hamas’s decision to renew attacks after the end of the Gaza ceasefire. Since then, Israel refrained from military actions and continued talks with Egypt to broker understandings. Hamas rejected diplomacy and chose to deliberately escalate the situation.

– 250,000 Israelis in the south of the country are in range of rockets from Gaza.

– On Friday, Israel allowed approximately 90 trucks of medicine, fuel, cooking gas and other vital goods into Gaza. The shipment included more than 500,000 litres of fuel and 200 tons of natural gas.

– On Saturday, 27 December, over 50 rockets were fired at the cities of Ashkelon, Netivot, Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and additional communities through the south. Hamas has ordered its operatives to attack Israel with missiles, rockets and mortar rounds. Israeli residents throughout the south of the country have been ordered to remain in bomb shelters.

– An Israeli man was killed on Saturday and four others were seriously wounded when a missile hit a house in Netivot. Another man was seriously wounded when a rocket struck at the community of Mivtahim later in the afternoon.

Leading Quotes 

– Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 27 December: “I call on Gazan militants to cease all rocket attacks on Israel immediately. These attacks are designed to cause random destruction and to undermine the prospects of peace talks led by president Abbas. I understand the Israeli government’s sense of obligation to its population.”

– Bill Rammell, Foreign Office Minister, in Sderot on 21 December: “I have come here to see for myself the impact the situation on the ground. I can see very clearly the traumatic effect that the repeated rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel are having. People are traumatised. The rocket attacks are simply unacceptable”

– Prime Minister Ehud Olmert following Israeli operations on 27 December: “I promise you on behalf of the government of Israel that we will make every possible effort to avoid any humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The people in Gaza do not deserve to suffer because of the killers and murderers of the terrorist organisation.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert address to cabinet, 21 December: “The State of Israel has always hoped for and wanted quiet for the residents of the south and that they should enjoy genuine calm and be free of the threat of unceasing Qassam and mortar attacks… The calm could exist only as long as it was administered by both sides and not with one side relentlessly launching Qassams and mortars.”

– President Shimon Peres in Sderot, 24 December: “To the Palestinians I say – we do not want to see you suffering on account of Hamas’s guilt. The moment that you stop firing rockets at us, there will be quiet in Gaza and the crossings will be open.”

– Mark Regev, Israeli Prime Minister’s Spokesman, 27 December: “Hamas has deliberately been targeting our civilians in towns and cities all across the south… no one would sit by idly and continue to see its civilian population like ducks in a shooting gallery.”

– Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, 27 December: “Until now we have shown restraint. But today there is no other option than a military operation. We need to protect our citizens from attack.”

Background: The Hamas threat to Israel

– Israel withdrew all military and civilian presence from Gaza in August 2005. Since then, more than 5000 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza at Israeli civilian neighbourhoods.  In the first four months of 2008, the rate of rocket attacks was one every three hours.

– Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza have used the ceasefire declared in June to rearm with Iranian weapons and training. They can call on 15,000-20,000 men.

– Since 2004, 92% of Sderot residents (a town of 20,000 inhabitants) have experienced a Qassam rocket falling on their or an adjacent street. 17 Israelis have been killed by Qassam rockets and hundreds have been injured and maimed.

– Israeli civilians have 15 seconds of warning period before the rocket strikes.

– Hamas are opposed to the peace process being conducted between Israel and the Palestinian moderates under Mahmoud Abbas and are committed to the destruction of Israel.

– Hamas have held Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit hostage since June 2006.

Month-by-month tally of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza into Israel in 2008









June (ceasefire declared 19 June)










November (Israeli operation to prevent kidnap attempt on soldiers – Nov 4)


December (latest available figures up to December 27)


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 situation in Gaza

– Prior to Hamas’s escalation of rocket fire in November, Israel was providing close to 4000 trucks of aid a month to Gaza, along with fuel and electricity despite the ongoing attacks on Israel.

– Close to 9,000 Gazans received permits to enter Israel for medical treatment in the first half of 2008, a considerable increase on previous years.

– Khaled Abdel Shaafi, director the United Nations Development Programme in Gaza, has denied that there is a humanitarian crisis. In December, he told Canada’s Globe and Mail, that, “This is not a humanitarian crisis… It’s an economic crisis, a political crisis, but it’s not a humanitarian crisis. People aren’t starving.”

Further Information

– For a fuller background briefing on issues of humanitarian access and terrorism in Gaza, click here.
– For links to the latest BICOM’s Analysis, click here.

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