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What To Know About Operation Pillar of Defense

A primer for the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza

The Editors
November 15, 2012
A still from video footage of the IDF strike on Ahmed Jabari.(YouTube)
A still from video footage of the IDF strike on Ahmed Jabari.(YouTube)

On Nov. 14, the Israel Defense Forces targeted and killed Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas strongman and military chief in Gaza, in the opening salvo of Operation Pillar of Defense. The operation comes in response to an intense barrage of rockets fired by Hamas in Gaza at the communities of southern Israel over the past few days. Operation Pillar of Defense is the most aggressive action taken against Hamas in Gaza since Operation Cast Lead, which ended in the winter of 2009.

On the second day of the operation, three Israeli civilians were killed in Kiryat Malachi when a Hamas rocket hit a residential building. Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups continued to fire rockets from Gaza, reportedly hitting central Israel cities like Rishon Lezion and Jaffa. Air raid sirens were set off in Tel Aviv for the first time since the Gulf War in 1991. And the IDF received the green light to call up as many as 30,000 reservists, which has led many to suspect that Israel is going to embark on a ground operation in Gaza.

Day Three: Air raid sirens went off in Jerusalem, and reports say rockets landed 18 miles from Jerusalem near the Ma’ale Amos settlement—creating a clearer picture of Hamas’ missile range capabilities. Earlier in the day, rockets fired from Gaza hit a residential area in Ashkelon in southern Israel, lightly injuring one woman. Sirens sounded in Tel Aviv for the second day in a row, though no impact or damage was reported. The Tel Aviv municipality opened the city’s public bomb shelters. Meanwhile, Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil visited Gaza and expressed support for the Palestians, as some highlight the role Egypt may play in brokering some kind of peace arrangement. The number of IDF reserve troops reportedly being called upon continues to increase.

Rocket fire continued over the weekend, putting Tel Aviv on alert for four straight days. Iron Dome continued to prove its worth, knocking down roughly a third of the rockets, but not enough to keep small towns like Ashkelon and Ashdod from absorbing heavy damage. On Monday, news of an increasing Palestinian death toll boosted international pressure on Israel to reach a ceasefire agreement with Hamas through Egyptian intermediaries. The alternative remains a ground invasion of Gaza.

Included below are Tablet stories relating to Operation Pillar of Defense, along with some other takes that we found engaging. Check back here for updates on Operation Pillar of Defense and analysis from our writers as the situation unfolds.

Tablet Stories:

• A disturbing report about how Syrian charities fund terrorists and their families—including Hamas’ late military chief Ahmed Jabari.

New York Times columnist David Carr very mistakenly calls the terrorists targeted by IDF forces in Gaza journalists.

• With Operation Pillar of Defense occurring just weeks after Obama’s re-election, the president maintained firm support for Israel, passing the ‘Israel Test.’

• Lee Smith argues that while a ceasefire may be imminent, fallout in the region is inevitable. He takes a look at what’s next for Iran, Egypt, and the United States.

• A look at the troubling double standard when it comes to body counts and Israel.

• A moving reflection from one woman anxiously waiting for her partner, an IDF reservist who got called up for duty, to return home.

• Video footage of an anti-war protest in Jerusalem that got interrupted by air raid sirens.

• Rehearsal for Israel’s Saturday Night Live, Eretz Nehederet, was interrupted by air raid sirens—while the actors were rehearsing for a war satire skit.

• IDF solder Yosef Fartuk, 18, was killed during a mortar attack from Gaza near the Eshkol Regional Council.

• Monday night set the stage for the fulcrum pivot of the conflict: whether a ceasefire would end the battle or whether a ground invasion of Gaza would expand it.

• Some unsuspecting Israelis were sent threatening, yet hilariously misworded e-mails by the al-Quds brigade.

• The Israeli branch of Groupon, the flash sale website, was hacked by anti-Israel computer nerds.

• Hamas’ use of Iranian long-range weaponry brought incidents earlier this year in Dubai and Sudan back into focus.

• Tablet published a letter detailing life under unexpected threat in Tel Aviv.

• Laura Bialis writes about her decision to move to Sderot, where she’s become neighbors with Hamas.

• The Times and the Guardian made some very questionable editorial decisions.

• Israelis were warned about the security hazards of using social media to post where rockets were landing.

• As Shabbat arrived, we looked back on a difficult week and nervously ahead.

• With Jerusalem and Tel Aviv now within missile range, the number of Israelis imperiled by Hamas rose to 3.5 million.

• Israeli journalist Amir Mizroch, who blogged Operation Cast Lead in 2008, now worries about a life of uncertainty for his young son.

• A video, filmed at a wedding, shows Iron Dome intercepting rockets above Beersheva.

• On closer look, footage aired by the BBC purporting to show injured Palestinians actually shows Palestinians faking injuries.

• The hacker collective known as Anonymous has taken responsibility for hacking into websites belonging to the Israel Defense Forces, replacing site content with messages condemning the IDF operation in Gaza.

• On the social media front, it appears that Hamas has been recycling images of children killed in Syria and passing them off as recent Gaza casualties.

• Bari Weiss talks to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who likens the current situation in Israel to May 1967—or worse, May 1948.

• Liel Leibovitz highlights the anger felt by residents of Israel’s bombarded South at what they see as an “apathetic” Tel Aviv, as seen in the Israeli media.

• Here’s our interview with Gaza expert Nathan Thrall, who discusses the likely escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas—and the relationship between the operation and the upcoming Likud primaries.

• Responding to Gawker, Yair Rosenberg breaks down what Operation Pillar of Defense really means.

Relevant Links:

• Israeli journalist Amir Mizroch, now editor of the English edition of Israel Hayom, blogged the 2008 Cast Lead operation. [Amir Mizroch]

• Following the November 2011 release of Gilad Shalit, political and military analyst Ronen Bergman considered the calculations behind a ground invasion in a cover story for the New York Times Magazine. [NYT]

• An prescient discussion from last week about what President Obama can do to break the U.S.-Mideast Impasse. [CFR]

• A 1999 piece by New York Times Opinion Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal discusses the relationship between Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu. [NYT]

• Watch Israeli military spokeperson Avital Leibovich discuss the Nov. 14 air strikes in Gaza. [Al Jazeera]

From the editors of Tablet Magazine.