The July 23 article “Hamas Gambled on War as Its Woes Grew in Gaza” by New York Times reporter Anne Barnard wrongly states, “When Hamas sent a barrage of rockets into Israel, simmering hostilities, and back and forth strikes, erupted into war.” That statement about the war’s origin is pro-war propaganda. It has no basis in fact.
The statement contradicts the report issued by the authoritative “Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center” (ITIC), a private Israeli think tank that “has close ties with the country’s military leadership,” according to The Washington Post.
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The ITIC July 8, 2014, report, “News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (July 2 – 8, 2014),” states: “For the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense [November 2012], Hamas participated in and claimed responsibility for rocket fire [on July 7, 2014].”
Thus, Hamas rocket fire only restarted on July 7 after a 19-month cease-fire. As we will see, this was nearly a month after Israeli forces launched massive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza starting on June 12. But those Israeli military operations were not the only provocation.
First, about the ceasefire that was in place: Operation Pillar of Defense was an eight-day aerial assault on Gaza in November 2012 that ended with a ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt. Graphs presented on the ITIC website show that the ceasefire was effective. In the weeks and months following that agreement, the ITIC consistently reported the absence of Hamas rocket fire. In addition, a May 2013 article in The Jerusalem Post, “IDF source: Hamas working to stop Gaza rockets,” reported that Hamas was policing other groups to prevent rocket fire.
The July 8 ITIC report also divulged why Hamas launched its first rocket at Israel in more than 19 months on July 7: On that night Israeli forces had bombed and killed six Hamas members in Gaza. The ITIC report includes a picture of the six Hamas members. Thus, a report from an authoritative Israeli source described the provocation for the resumption of rocket fire: Hamas rocket fire began only after Israeli forces had engaged in nearly a month of military operations in violation of the ceasefire agreement and had killed six Hamas members in Gaza.
The Palestine Center for Human Rights (PCHR) also issues weekly reports, these reports focusing on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied territories, including the West Bank and Gaza. In its July 10 weekly report, PCHR gave further details of the events that immediately preceded the July 7 Hamas rocket launchings. PCHR reports:
Between 01:00 and 16:00, the bodies of 5 members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas) were recovered from a tunnel dug near Gaza International Airport in the southeast of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. They were identified as: Ibrahim Dawod al-Bal’awi, 24; ‘Abdul Rahman Kamal al-Zamli, 22; Jum’a ‘Atiya Shallouf, 26; and Khaled ‘Abdul Hadi Abu Mur, 21, and his twin brother, Mustafa. Another three members were recovered alive, but one was in a serious condition. It should be noted that the tunnel was repeatedly bombarded by Israeli warplanes and tanks. According to medical sources, the deceased inhaled toxic gases. The ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades declared in an online statement that 5 of its members were killed as a result of airstrikes that targeted places of resistance activities.
The facts show that Israeli forces had to work quite hard to get Hamas to end its ceasefire. The killing of the six Hamas members was not an isolated event. Israeli forces and settlers had gone wild on the West Bank starting on June 12 after the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers. Israeli forces had also attacked 60 targets in Gaza during those three weeks of June. Then, on the night of July 7, 2014, the Israeli Air Force had attacked approximately 50 more “terrorist targets” in the Gaza Strip, as described in the ITIC report.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on July 3:
Israel’s military operations in the West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers have amounted to collective punishment. The military operations included unlawful use of force, arbitrary arrests, and illegal home demolitions.
The HRW report also states:
Israeli forces have arrested about 700 Palestinians since June 12, 2014, and are currently detaining at least 450, some during the large-scale military incursions and others who are known supporters or leaders of the Hamas Reform and Change Party, which won Palestinian elections in 2006, according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner’s rights group.
Giving more details, several of the weekly reports from PCHR indicate that Israeli forces and settlers killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 51 during 369 incursions into the West Bank between June 12 and July 2 and that Israeli forces raided hundreds of houses on the West Bank each week. Israeli forces also launched the 60 bombing attacks on Gaza and one ground incursion, wounding 27 people in Gaza during those three weeks.
While all these attacks in the West Bank and Gaza did produce rocket fire from other groups in Gaza during June – which the ITIC reports had been almost zero during the previous month – the attacks did not provoke Hamas itself to fire rockets. To predictably accomplish that feat, Israeli forces had to go further and kill the six Hamas members on July 7.
The New York Times omits mention of how this assault on Gaza began and purveys factually incorrect pro-war propaganda. An investigation is needed as to how the Times got this so wrong.