Arab-Israeli Wars

Gaza War 2008-2009

Smoke over Gaza City on Jan. 11, 2009 as Israeli Troops battled their way into Gaza City 
Smoke over Gaza City on Jan. 11, 2009 as Israeli Troops battled their way into Gaza City 

 The Gaza War (2008-2009)

For the latest Gaza Warfare (2012) click here...

Menu: Background |2006 Gaza Conflict | 2007 Palestinian Civil War | 20072008 Gaza Conflict | 2008 Gaza War | 2011 Gaza Conflict: Hamas Rockets and Israeli Responses | Gaza War 2012: Operation Pillar of Defense |Gaza War Casualties | Pictures of Hamas-Israel Gaza War | Links and Resources


Background to the Gaza Conflict:

The small strip of land between Egypt and Israel known as the Gaza Strip, has been a battleground in the ongoing Arab-Israeli Conflict since the 1940s. After the 1st Arab-Israeli War ended in 1949, Egypt annexed Gaza. In the 1956 and 1967 wars between Israel and Egypt, Israeli forces conquered the crowded urban Gaza area, returning it to Egyptian control after the 1956 war,  but keeping it after the 1967 war. The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel effectively ceded control of Gaza to Israel, but Gaza became a battleground in the Palestinian uprising against Israel known as The Intifada in the late 1980s. This uprising led to the peace agreement known as the Oslo Accords. Under this treaty, the Palestinian Authority (Palestinian government dominated by the Fatah movement), took over the administrative authority of the Gaza Strip (other than the established Israeli settlements and military areas) in 1994.

2006 Gaza Conflict

In the summer of 2005, Israel unilaterally evacuated its last military outposts in the Gaza Strip, hoping that would ease ongoing tensions with the Palestinian forces in Gaza. On June 25, 2006, Palestinian militants crossed from Gaza into Israel, kidnapping an Israeli soldier. Israel responded on June 29 with an invasion of the Gaza Strip. This campaign continued until Nov. 26, 2006, with a cease-fire. Despite the cease-fire, Palestinian rockets have been launched with some regularity into Israel, with Israel often responding with air and missile attacks on Gazan targets.

2007 Palestininian Civil War in Gaza

In June of 2007, a short civil war between the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, resulted in the expulsion of Fatah forces from Gaza. Hamas is considered the more militant of the two groups, and Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist and seeks to reclaim all Palestinian lands from Israel.

20072008 Gaza Conflict

This stage of the ongoing warfare in Gaza consisted of a series of battles between Palestinian militants and the Israel Defense Forces beginning in mid-May of 2007. Palestinian forces fired more than 220 home-made Qassam rockets at the Israel town of Sderot and the western Negev region over the span of a week. The Israeli warplanes responded with air-to-ground missiles and bomb, targeting Hamas military and political infrastructure targets. On February 29, Israeli ground forces entered Gaza, killing nearly 100 Hamas militants. Israel also halted the transfer of electricity, fuel, and other supplies into Gaza in an attempt to weaken Hamas. Despite all attempts at contolling the violence, Hamas forces continued to launch missile attacks at Israel. It must be noted that Hamas, like the Hezbollah army in Lebanon, is allied with, and supplied by, Iran, which is a declared enemy of Israel. In June of 2008, Egypt, acting as the go-between, managed to arrange a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. This cease-fire was broken several times by both sides, but largely brought a measure of peace to the Israel-Gaza border. Israel maintained closed borders with Gaza, hoping to pressure the Hamas regime economically. While Israel indicated a willingness to extend the cease-fire, Hamas began increasing its Qassem rocket attacks on Israel, forcing the Israeli government to make a decision on how to respond.

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2008 Gaza War: Airstrikes and Ground Invasion

On December 27, 2008, Israeli forces launched a major air attack on Hamas political and military targets in Gaza. Early reports indicate that between 200 and 255 Palestinians died on the first day of the attacks. News reports also indicated that Israeli ground forces were moving toward the Gaza border. Hamas forces responded with more Qassem rocket attacks, with some newer, longer-range rockets reaching the Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.

Mid East analysts view the massive Israeli response as a means of showing its enemies that Israel is still a military force to be reckoned with. After losing the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Israel felt that Hezbollah, Hamas, and their Iranian patrons no longer feared Israel. Ever since independence in 1948, Israel has existed surrounded by enemies and literally has fought nearly continuous wars along its borders ever since. To many Israelis, appearing weak, or acting weak in front of its mortal foes only invites further attacks. Thus, while the Qassem rocket attacks are a real danger to the quarter-million or so Israelis within range of the Gaza border, these Hamas rockets pose no immenent threat to Israel's existence. By responding so forcefully, Israel hopes to ward off other enemies whose attacks could be more deadly, in particular, Iran, who its developing nuclear ambitions.

The timing of Israel's attacks is rather interesting, but actually somewhat predictable. It is no secret that President George W. Bush is a fervent ally of Israel, and the Dec. 27 attacks began as President Bush had only 24 more days as President of the United States. Both in the media and in the United Nations, the United States under the Bush Administration has been an unwavering ally and supporter of Israel, blocking key votes in the UN, which called for a cease-fire. Unsure of how the incoming Obama Administration may perceive an attack on Hamas, Israel likely decided to act to secure its southern border while their good friend George W. Bush was still in office and able to provide moral and diplomatic assistance.

As of January 5, United Nations officials, as well as media outlets estimate that the Gaza War has seen 524 Palestinians killed and 2,600 wounded since the Israel began "Operation Cast Lead" on December 27, the majority of these casualties among members of Hamas security forces, but at least 200 of the dead were civilians. Israel reports one soldier and three civilians killed since December 27, with 30 civilians wounded by Hamas rocket attacks. Israeli artillery joined in the attacks on January 3, 2009. Despite the massive air attacks, Hamas was still able to launch over 400 rockets and missiles into southern Israel. It became apparent that air power alone would not achieve the stated Israeli goal of halting the cross-border attacks by Hamas upon Israel's civilian population.

On January 3, thousands of Israeli troops, in three brigade-size formations, backed by tanks and attack helicopters, launched the expected ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in what Israel calls the "second stage of Operation Cast Lead." The Israeli military reported 30 soldiers received wounds in the opening hours of the offensive, and also reported "dozens" of cas ualties among the defending Hamas forces. It was also reported that Israeli naval vessels assisted with the invasion, providing fire into the Gaza Strip in support of ground troops.

Go here to see Ehud Barak Announcement about the start of the Israeli ground offensive.

By the end of the first day of the ground offensive, Israel announced that its forces had bisected the Gaza Strip and surrounded the city of Gaza. Heavy combat war also reported near the northern Gaza towns of Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanun and Jabaliya.

On January 6, Israeli forces fired mortar rounds at what they say was a launching area for Hamas rockets. The Israeli mortar shells struck a United Nations-run school at which hundreds of Palestinian civilians had taken shelter. The UN reported approximately 40 dead civilians in this attack. The bombing of the school brought a large amount of criticism on Israel from around the world. Though Israel justified the attack by claiming Hamas launched rockets from that area, Israel took a hit in terms of world public opinion.

On January 8, Hezbollah forces launched rockets into Israel from Lebanon, raising the possibility of a second front in the new war.

Israeli troops pushed into a heavily populated area of Gaza City from the south on January 11 in hard fighting, in which Israeli and Hamas forces engaged in vicious unconventional asymmetrical warfare house to house, and street by street.

On January 17, Israeli announced a unilateral ceasefire, deciding to halt operations without first securing an agreement with Hamas.

The next day, January 18, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian militia groups declared they would halt the launching of rockets into Israel for one week, while demanding that Israel withdraw from Gaza within the week.


2011 Gaza Conflict: Hamas Rockets and Israeli Responses

In 2011, the more-or-less quiet Gaza front exploded into action as Israel responded to a resumption of Hamas rocket attacks into Israel.

On August 18, 2011, squads of heavily-armed Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) guerrillas from Gaza travelled about 120 miles through Egyptian Sinai to attack Israeli citizens near the southern Israeli city of Eilat, killing eight Israelis. Israel retaliated with airstrikes on targets inside Gaza. The PRC is a relatively small Palestinian resistance group that has at times served as an ally of Hamas. See also

A Mideast Game of Thrones Threatens to Provoke a New Israel-Gaza War--Time Magazine, Aug. 18, 2011

Israeli Casualties

Israeli Casualties from the August 18, 2011 bus attack


Israeli bombs falling in Gaza Israeli bombs falling in Gaza

Israeli woman wounded by a Hamas Qassem rocket attack Israeli woman wounded by a Hamas Qassem rocket attack

Israeli town of Sderot hit by  Hamas Qassem rocket attack Israeli town of Sderot hit by Hamas Qassem rocket attack




This map from Unosat presents a preliminary situation of the reported attacks by Israeli and Hamas forces from 25-30 December 2008, within and surrounding the Gaza Strip. Damage locations have been taken exclusively from open media sources. Many recorded damage sites shown are approximate and may not represent all known incident locations.

Map scale for A3: 1:115,000 ;Projection: UTM Zone 36 North ; Image Copyright : Digital Globe 2008 ; Incident Data : AP, Reuters, BBC, AFP, YNet, NYT, Al-Jazeera, Haaretz, Jerusalem Post ; Map Production : UNOSAT (31 December 2008)

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Links and Resources on the Gaza Strip Conflict/Gaza War:

Israeli Sources:

-From the Israeli Defense Forces Website:

Operation Cast Lead-Official website of the Israeli Defense Forces, with news from the Gaza Front

Second Stage of Operation Cast Lead Continues--Israeli Defense Force Website, Jan. 4, 2009

Second Stage of Operation Cast Lead Begins--Israeli Defense Force Website, Jan. 4, 2009


Palestinian and Arab Sources:

Gaza War Diary; Israel's Phase Two--From al Jazeera, Saturday, January 03, 2009 , 22:56 Mecca time, 19:56 GMT

Gazans: 'We are living a nightmare' --al Jazeera, December 31, 2008 11:16 Mecca time, 08:16 GMT


International Media Sources:


Gaza boat explodes near Israel Navy vessel in attempted terror attack --Haaretz.com, April 13, 2009


A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery--NYTimes, January 11, 2009

Israeli forces advance deep into Gaza urban areas--Associated Press, Jan.11,2009

Analysis: Lebanese rockets raise fear of 2nd front--Associated Press, Jan. 8, 2009

Israel and Hamas: Conflict in Gaza--NY Times, Jan. 7, 2009--Interactive map of the Gaza Conflict

Urban combat raises the stakes in Gaza--Financial Times, January 6, 2009

For Israel, Lessons From 2006, but Old Pitfalls --NYTimes, January 6, 2009

Is the Real Target Hamas Rule? --NYTimes, Jan. 4, 2009

Israel Strikes Before an Ally Departs--NYTimes, Jan. 4, 2009

Israeli troops battle Hamas as Gaza war toll mounts--AFP, Jan. 4, 2009

Israeli Troops Launch Attack on Gaza --NYTimes, Jan. 4, 2009

Israeli guns bombard Gaza in escalation of Hamas war--AFP, Jan. 3, 2009

IAF unleashes massive strike on Hamas tunnel network near Rafah--Haaretz, Dec. 31, 2008

Israel and Gaza--Boston Globe, Dec. 31, 2008

Israel Reminds Foes That It Has Teeth--NYTimes, Dec. 28, 2008

List of Qassam rocket attacks in Israel in 2008--Wikipedia article

Operation Summer Rains--Wikipedia article on 2006 Gaza War

Israeli assault on Hamas kills more than 200--Associated Press, Dec. 27, 2008

UN debates urging Israel to halt Gaza bombings--International Herald Tribune, Dec. 28, 2008