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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Operation "Pillar of Defense" Briefing

Source: The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

After months of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza-based terrorists, the IDF has launched a widespread campaign to disrupt terrorist infrastructure and operations in the Hamas controlled territory – Operation Pillar of Defense. The operation began with a precision air strike targeting Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas military commander directly linked to numerous terrorist operations including the kidnap of Gilad Shalit. The IDF has also targeted a significant number of long range rocket sites controlled by Hamas to deplete their cache and reduce their launch capability.

So far this year, more than 800 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel from Gaza, targeting more than one million Israeli civilians. This most recent round of fighting began on November 10th, with an anti-tank missile attack on an IDF jeep travelling on the Israeli side of the Gaza border, followed by a barrage of more than 120 rockets and mortars fired into Southern Israel. These attacks have marked a sharp escalation not only in terms of volume but also sophistication and range, including advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.

The intervals between rocket attacks have been shortening, with three separate and intensifying waves of attack occurring in the last month. On November 11th, Hamas spokesman Musheir al-Masri declared that “an occasional lull in the fighting was nothing more than a time-out devoted to preparing the fighters of the various organizations by increasing their might and weapons.” Israel has demonstrated patience and restraint but, in light of these dangerous and escalating conditions, was duty-bound to respond in an effort to protect its citizens. No other state would accept a similar reality.

Israel had a number of military options to consider in formulating its response, choosing the most precise and strategic option available that best serves to limit collateral damage and is least likely to exacerbate the situation. The objective of specifically targeting terrorist leadership and infrastructure in this way is to force Gaza-based terrorist groups to cease their attacks. Israel is acting in self-defence out of a responsibility to protect its citizens.

The intensification of this conflict is the result of a concerted decision and efforts by Hamas leadership to do so. This cannot be blamed on a cycle of violence for which both sides are responsible but is, rather, the result of a chronology of events beginning with attacks against Israel. Hamas must be held accountable for its aggression and escalation.

In the short term, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs expects that hostilities will continue to escalate with the potential for more sophisticated and longer reaching weapons deployed by Hamas. There are also reports of Israeli troops mobilizing to the south of the country, which could signal a potential ground operation. As always, there is the potential for events in the region to have implications here in Canada. The Centre is closely monitoring the situation and will advise if any increased security preparedness or heightened alert level becomes necessary.