‘Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza:
Palestinian, Egyptian, European and American voices blame Hamas

Published: 2 January 2009
Briefing Number 228

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Summary:: Influential Palestinian, Arab, European and American politicians and commentators have blamed Hamas, often with great anger, for causing Israel to strike against Hamas in Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, which began on 27 December 2008 . This Briefing compiles some of the most forceful statements, made during the first days of the conflict. Their common theme is that Hamas is responsible for triggering the escalation of the conflict, and for the tragic loss of life and suffering of innocent Palestinian civilians.

Israel strikes Hamas

On 27 December 2008 , Israel launched a large-scale military attack on Hamas in Gaza , targetting Hamas command and control centres, weapons storage facilities, rocket launching sites, arms smuggling tunnels and the homes of Hamas leaders, with fearsome precision. In the first five days of the assault, over 400 Palestinians were killed. Around 80%-85% were reported to be Hamas personnel, while the other fatalities were civilian, including many women and children. The precise number of civilian casualties is unclear.

Thousands of Palestinians were injured and traumatised, and as a side-effect of the intensified conflict, power supplies, and the supply of basic necessities, were each severely disrupted. Israel made attempts to maintain humanitarian supplies into Gaza .

These events are a tragedy for the Palestinian civilian population of Gaza .

Meanwhile, Hamas fired hundreds more rockets indiscriminately into Israel , killing four Israeli civilians and hitting the city of Beer Sheva for the first time: Ashdod and Ashkelon had previously been attacked, as well as Sderot itself.

The immediate trigger for the Israeli attacks was the Hamas decision not to extend a six month ceasefire between itself and Israel , and instead to launch an intensive missile assault as soon as the ceasefire ended on 19 December 2008 .

Israel also had longer-term objectives in launching its attacks:-

•  to curtail the long-term Hamas military build-up

•  to indicate that after seven years of indiscriminate rocket attacks on southern Israel's civilian population by Hamas or with its approval, the Israeli Government was no longer willing to tolerate such attacks but would exercise its full right of self-defence, and

•  to demonstrate to the Palestinians and to Israel 's neighbours (including Hizbullah) that Israel has overwhelming military power, and that Arab dreams of victory by terror and violence are self-defeating fantasies

Below we set out a range of reactions from Palestinian politicians and commentators, and Egyptian, European and American politicians, each placing the blame for the conflict and for civilian Palestinian suffering squarely on the shoulders of Hamas.

Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority President

“We called the leaders of Hamas, and told them both directly and indirectly, through Arab parties and non-Arab parties. We talked with them on the phone. We told them, please do not end the tahdiah (‘pause')…”

- from Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 29 December 2008

Ahmed Abu Gheit, Egyptian Foreign Minister

“ Egypt warned for a long time, and someone who ignores warnings is responsible for the outcome….. We suspected that this would happen. Hamas did not stop shooting rockets at Israel ….”

- from Ynet News, 28 December 2008

Nimr Hammad, Palestinian adviser to Mahmoud Abbas

“Hamas needs to stop treating the blood of Palestinians lightly. They should not give the Israelis a pretext….Hamas should stop carrying out operations which reflect recklessness, such as firing of missiles…”

- from Al-Ahkbar, Lebanon , 28 December 2008

Bassem abu-Summayah, director of the Palestinian TV and Radio Authority, and Palestinian newspaper columnist

“Hamas blocked its ears… They should have had even a little bit of political and security sense, and not left the people wandering, and losing their way, getting killed and injured…. It is clear that Hamas was struck by megalomania since they took over Gaza , which blinded them so that they would not listen to any advice….”

- from al-Hayat al-Jadida (PA newspaper), 29 December 2008

Hafez al-Barghouti, Palestinian editor of PLO daily al-Hayat al-Jadida

How many times have we written and Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has declared that these missiles being fired from Gaza are ineffective and contrary to the supreme national interest?”

- from al-Hayat al-Jadida, 28 December 2008

Muwaffaq Matar, Palestinian newspaper columnist

“This bloodshed and horrible destruction of our national institutions could have been prevented. It only needed political courage, moral wisdom and adherence to the aspirations of the Palestinian people to live securely and in freedom and independence…”

- from Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 28 December 2008

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that blame for the renewed violence can be pinned on Hamas. Speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert by phone, she said responsibility for the Israeli air offensive against Hamas in Gaza lies ‘clearly and exclusively' with Hamas….”

- reported in Der Spiegel, 30 December 2008

Karel Schwartzenberg, Czech Foreign Minister (the Czech Republic takes over the EU Presidency on 1 January 2009 )

“Let us realise one thing: Hamas increased steeply the number of rockets fired at Israel since the ceasefire ended on December 19. This is not acceptable any more…. Why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel ? I am enjoying the luxury of telling the truth….”

- reported on Reuters, 30 December 2008

Harry Reid, democrat US Senator, and Senate Majority Leader

“As President-elect Obama made clear time and again, no country should be forced to tolerate attacks on its people….”

•  Associated Press, 30 December 2008

Frank Lautenberg, democrat US senator, New Jersey

“Hamas is abusing the people of Gaza by using their homes as a base for terror operations….”

- Associated Press, 30 December 2008

Barack Obama, US democratic President-elect

During a visit to the Southern Israeli town of Sderot in July 2008, which has been the target of thousands of Palestinian rockets and missiles fired from Gaza , Senator Barack Obama stated (as freshly quoted in the New York Times, 28 December 2008 ):

“If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that…. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing…..”

Some related Beyond Images Briefings

(and see also www.theisraelproject.org )

17 February 2005 , Briefing 130 - Qassam rocket attacks against Israel

10 April 2006 , Briefing 171 – Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza : the threat to Israeli energy facilities

31 December 2006 , Briefing 188 – Twenty seconds to take cover: Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli schoolchildren

18 March 2007 , Briefing 191 – The Palestinian military build-up

21 May 2007, Briefing 195 – The Hamas rocket offensive against Sderot

15 July 2007 , Briefing 198 – The Hamas takeover of Gaza : quickly forgotten facts