Gaza War (2008–09)
White phosphorous shells explode over Gaza City
|Date||December 27, 2008 - January 18, 2009|
|Interest of||Anthony Cordesman|
|Description||Three weeks of assault launched against Gaza by Israel, including the use of white phosphorus, leaving over 1000 people dead and over 5000 injured.|
The operation began with surprise air-strikes on the police and other security assets on 27 December 2008, followed by destruction of government buildings and other targets in the densely populated cities of Gaza, Khan Younis and Rafah.
On January 3, 2009 Israeli ground forces invaded but met little formal resistance. On 18 January Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire and completed its withdrawal on January 21 2009. Over 1400 Gazan Palestinians and 13 Israelis had been killed and a great deal of damage done to Palestinian and UN property.
- 1 Background
- 2 Operation Cast Lead
- 3 Outcome/casualties
- 4 UN Reports
- 4.1 Observers report, "Goldstone"
- 4.2 Goldstone on Police deaths
- 4.3 Goldstone on the strikes against infrastructure
- 4.4 Goldstone "retraction"
- 4.5 2nd UN report, assessment of investigations
- 4.6 Conclusions
- 4.7 UN Board of Inquiry
- 5 Issues
- 6 Amnesty International Report
- 7 War Crimes alleged against Israel
- 8 War Crimes alleged against Gazans/Hamas
- 9 Unexploded Ordnance
- 10 BBC rejects humanitarian appeal
- 11 The Hasbara Manual explains "Cast Lead"
- 12 Wikipedia article on this topic
- 13 Related Documents
- 14 References
On 19th June 2008 an Egyptian-brokered truce came into effect between Gaza and Israel, though with no mutually agreed text. Israel warned that even a single rocket firing would be considered a violation and they would hold Hamas responsible. There must also be movement towards the release of Gilad Shalit before the Rafah crossing could be opened. Another Palestinian was killed by Israel (allegedly preparing to fire a rocket) just minutes before the cease-fire came into effect.
Gazans understood that, after two weeks of success, Israel would open the crossings and allow normal transfer of goods. Hamas agreed that for its part it would stop rocket attacks from its own armed groups and from others based in Gaza, including Islamic Jihad and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
Hamas imposed its will and imprisoned some of those firing rockets/mortars for short periods. While there is minor disagreement about the figures (eg of 38 fired in 4.5 months, only 30 reached Israel), all observers agree that the number of firings plummeted from an average of around 380/month in early 2008 to single figures in September & October, a success rate of some 99%.
Goods shipments increased by 25% or so but remained at less than 1/5th of what Gazans considered normal.
On 4 November 2008 Israel entered Gaza and killed 6 Palestinians and there was retaliatory firing of 190 rockets in that month. However, on the expiry of the formal cease-fire on 19th Dec 2008, despite Israel having previously warned that only total peace would be acceptable, most published sources expected that the cease-fire would probably be renewed.
Published position of Israel (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs) On December 27, 2008, after enduring an 8-year-long barrage of 12,000 rockets and having exhausted all other options, Israel launched a military operation against Hamas in Gaza. 'Operation Cast Lead' was limited to two objectives:
1. To stop the bombardment of Israeli civilians by destroying Hamas' mortar and rocket launching apparatus and infrastructure.
2. To reduce the ability of Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza to perpetrate future attacks against the civilian population in Israel.
The "Hasbara Manual" from The Israel Project (TIP) re-issued in 2009: "Israel should not be bombing Gaza. I will repeat that. Israel should not be forced into a situation where they have to bomb Gaza. Likewise, Hamas should not be deliberately firing rockets into civilian areas of Israel. If the rockets stop, we can achieve that peace where Palestinian and Israeli children live in safety. p.47 in a section "WORDS THAT WORK".
2005 to 2008, Hamas control of Gaza
In 2006 an election held in both parts of Palestine (ie Gaza and the West Bank) was won by Hamas, the electoral wing of an Islamist party once noted for suicide bombings (though these had ceased in 2005 and the tactic eventually repudiated). With Israeli supplied arms (including armoured cars) a putsch was attempted against this new government by Arafat's old party, Fatah. All elected and many other members of Hamas were rounded up in the West Bank but Hamas members fought off the coup in Gaza and remained in a form of control. Hamas was declared a terrorist organisation by most of the Western world.
Gaza, from which all settlers had been withdrawn in 2005, became a hub of militancy from which considerable numbers of home-made rockets were launched into Israel causing occasional casualties. Sporadic control was sometimes exerted by the new (but largely unfunded) government of Hamas while at other times launches were made in its name.
Operation Cast Lead
With no news on the renewal status of the expired ceasefire, Israel's air-attack on 27 December came as a complete surprise and first targeted four police facilities (including a passing out parade of newly qualified policemen) resulting in the death of 99 policemen and nine members of the public. Further attacks concentrated on degrading the security provisions of the population and some 250 or 255 policemen were killed in total.
The circumstances of the attacks and Israeli governments report of July 2009 report confirm that the policemen were deliberately targeted and killed on the ground that, in the eyes of Israel, the police were part of the Palestinian military forces in Gaza.
Further attacks were made against buildings and persons of the Gaza authorities on the grounds that political and administrative institutions in Gaza are part of the "Hamas terrorist infrastructure".
The Israeli ground invasion began after 7 days on January 3, 2009 and encountered almost no formal resistance.
No attempt is known to have been made to find and rescue Gilad Shalit though some Israeli reports suggested that he, along with Hamas leaders, were hidden under the main hospital.
Completion and withdrawal
On 18 January Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire and completed its withdrawal on January 21.
The captured (maybe "kidnapped") Israel soldier Gilad Shalit was not rescued by the Israeli forces in this operation.
Gilad Shalit (freed in a prisoner exchange in Oct 2011) may or may not have been a legitimate POW, the portion of the Wikipedia article on International Law related to him quotes nothing that called his detention illegal. In some ways, Israel inclined to a position that a state of war exists between themselves and Gaza (though they do not express it that way, claiming their quarrel is with Hamas). If there was a state of war, then Shalit would have been a prisoner of war and legally entitled to a visit from the Red Cross. Hamas were holding him ransom to a non-pecunary ransom, the release of one thousand prisoners held by Israel. Bodies known to have called his detention illegal (in a statement marking his 5th anniversary in Gaza) were Amnesty International, B'Tselem, Bimkom, Gisha, Human Rights Watch, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Yesh Din though other sources noted that the statement did not actually call for his release.
There may have been reason to refuse access by the Red Cross to Shalit, perhaps his exact location was a closely guarded secret, or perhaps Israel refused access to an ICRC representative acceptable to Hamas. It should be noted that Palestinian prisoners of Israel (including elected law-makers, doctors, teachers, women and children) never get such visits either - and considerable numbers are thought to be tortured, as is legal under Israeli law. It is not known whether anyone is advising Hamas on their exact legal position and what it would take to bring themselves into compliance with International Law, anyone doing so might fear prosecution for providing services to terrorists.
A video of Shalit was released in 2009 (holding a recent copy of an Israeli newspaper) in which he looked thin but otherwise healthy and not obviously unhappy. He addressed his parents and Israel in a clear and steady voice. Sadly, western publications often used a single frame from this video, making him appear fearful and gaunt.
The invasion left at least 1,417 (PCHR) Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead (4 by 'friendly fire'). Tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed as were 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals and 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities, 800 water wells, 186 greenhouses, and 10,000 family farms. About half a million people were left without running water and one million without electricity.
Israel paid $10.5 million to the UN for the damage it had caused to seven UN buildings. UN officials said they believed this was the first time Israel had paid them for damage done by their military.
Observers report, "Goldstone"
In September 2009, a UN special mission, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, produced a report accusing both Palestinian militants and Israeli Defense Forces of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, and recommended bringing those responsible to justice. Israel rejected the report out of hand. The UN Human Rights Council endorsed the report with heavy criticism of Israel. The US Congress overwhelmingly rejected the report.
Membership of Mission
On 3 April 2009, the UN Human Rights Council established a Mission with the mandate “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.” (The mandate had to be modified when it was pointed out that it made no reference to possible violations committed by parties other than Israel).
The President of the UNHRC appointed Justice Richard Goldstone, former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to head the Mission. The other three appointed members were: Professor Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, who was a member of the high-level fact-finding mission to Beit Hanoun (2008); Ms. Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, who was a member of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (2004); and Colonel Desmond Travers, a former Officer in Ireland’s Defence Forces and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations. Objections were raised to some members of this Commission.
Goldstone on Police deaths
The Goldstone Mission report (para 34) found that, while a great number of the Gaza policemen were recruited among Hamas supporters or members of Palestinian armed groups, the Gaza police were a civilian law-enforcement agency. The Mission concluded that the policemen killed on 27 December 2008 cannot be said to have been taking a direct part in hostilities and had not lost their civilian immunity from direct attack.
The Mission accepted that there may be individual members of the Gaza police that were at the same time members of Palestinian armed groups and thus combatants. It concludes, however, that the attacks against the police facilities on the first day of the armed operations failed to strike an acceptable balance between the direct military advantage anticipated (i.e. the killing of those policemen who may have been members of Palestinian armed groups) and the loss of civilian life (i.e. the other policemen killed and members of the public who would inevitably have been present or in the vicinity), and therefore violated international humanitarian law. Further attacks on the police killed around 255 of them.
Goldstone on the strikes against infrastructure
The Mission examined (para 32) the strikes on the Palestinian Legislative Council building and the Gaza main prison (chap. VII), both of which were destroyed. The Mission rejected the stated position of the Israeli Government and armed forces representatives that justified the attacks on the basis that political and administrative institutions in Gaza are part of the "Hamas terrorist infrastructure". The Mission finds that there is no evidence that the Legislative Council building and the Gaza main prison made an effective contribution to military action. On the information available to it, the Mission finds that the attacks on these buildings constituted deliberate attacks on civilian objects in violation of the rule of customary international humanitarian law whereby attacks must be strictly limited to military objectives.
Seven months after the publication of the "Goldstone Report", the chairman of the Mission, Judge Richard Goldstone (under intense personal pressure) wrote an article hailed by supporters of Israel as a retraction of the report to which he'd put his name. This change of view was repudiated by the other members of the committee.
In detail, Goldstone was changing one important allegation in the report, the view that Israel, as policy, had deliberately targetted civilians. Left without comment were all other allegations in the report - in particular the six broad findings of war-crimes viz (1) Siege on Gaza (2) Attack on political institutions and buildings of Gaza (3) taking insufficient measures to protect civilians (4) "indiscriminate" attacks (as distinct from "deliberate" attacks) (5) illegal weapons, such as white phosphorous and flechette missiles and (6) deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure. Goldstone stated "if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document". 
Another part of the revised views of Richard Goldstone were that, despite the length (15 months) of Israel’s military investigations, which was "frustrating", nevertheless Israel had "appropriate processes" in place to produce a credible investigation on the charges. Goldstone's three colleagues disagreed, citing the same final UN report on the Gaza war (ie the one led by Judge Mary McGowan Davies, see below) published a month earlier (March 2010) which criticised Israel for the slow pace with which it conducted its investigations and for its refusal to address, or even answer questions on, some of the most serious allegations.
Richard Goldstone published another statement in Nov 2011 stating that "One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies" wherein he defended Israel from the charge of apartheid. Popular blogger Mondoweiss was scathing in response.
2nd UN report, assessment of investigations
In March 2011 the UN published a second report to "assess investigations for compliance with international standards of independence, impartiality, effectiveness, thoroughness and promptness." Led by Judge Mary McGowan Davies the Committee was refused access to Israel and refused access to Gaza by Israel.
On the 9th and 14th of March 2011 the Committee was able to hold video-teleconferences with Israeli victims and witnesses, who provided information on the human and material damage suffered as a direct consequence of rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip. They described their injuries and the continuing physical and psychological effects of living near the border and noted their complete inability to gain redress for these crimes. On the 25th March held a conference with the father of Gilad Shalit who expressed concern about the psychological and physical well-being of his son after five years in detention and appealed for his immediate release.
On 15 March 2011, the Committee held video-teleconferences with Palestinians who recounted their first-hand experience with Israeli criminal investigations and detailed their frustration with the Israeli investigating authorities. They gave "articulate voice" to their perception that Israeli justice mechanisms were completely ineffective and non-existent. These victims and witnesses had suffered serious injuries during Operation Cast Lead and had cooperated fully with investigators, but after two years have heard absolutely nothing with respect to the status of their cases - apart from one family who had had learned from an official report that the criminal investigation into the death of their young children had been closed.
The Committee criticised Israel for the slow pace with which it conducted its investigations and for its refusal to address some of the most serious allegations about its conduct, and noted that it did not seem to have reviewed its rules of engagement after Cast Lead. Their earlier report (Sept 2010) had expressed strong reservations as to whether Israel’s investigations into allegations of misconduct were sufficiently prompt, with concerns that such investigations may have resulted in evidence being lost or compromised. There was no indication that Israel opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead.
Palestinian Authority in West Bank, Fatah
The Committee had earlier reported (Sept 2010) that the investigation carried out by the Palestinian Independent Investigation Commission (PIIC) conformed to international standards and could be considered credible and genuine. However, the PIIC had not been granted access either to Israel or, via Israel, to Gaza. 
With access to Gaza refused by Israel, the McGowan Committee understood that two investigations had been launched there by the "de facto authority" (ie Hamas) one into allegations directed at Israel and the other "on measures to redress alleged violations". Although even this information could not be substantiated, the Committee acknowledged that the de facto authorities (Hamas) had made efforts to collect information on alleged human rights violations committed by their own security forces. The defacto authorities (Hamas) had not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks. The Committee considered that Hamas should make serious efforts to conduct criminal inquiries into all the allegations of grave violations of international law implicated by these attacks.
UN Board of Inquiry
Ban Ki-Moon ordered a UN Headquarters Board of Inquiry to independently investigate the nine most serious attacks on UN personnel and property. Israel was faulted in seven of the nine cases, and Hamas was found guilty in one of the nine. One of those included an attack near a UNRWA school in Jabalia that the UN says killed between 30 and 40 people, while the IDF says 12 - most of them militants - died.
The report accused Israel of "gross negligence" and also stated that allegations that militants had fired from within U.N. premises "were untrue, continued to be made after it ought to have been known that they were untrue, and were not adequately withdrawn and publicly regretted."
Israel paid $10.5 million to the UN for the damage it had caused to seven UN buildings. UN officials said they believed this was the first time Israel had paid them for damage done by their military.
Human Rights Watch Report: Rain of Fire
Late in the operation, several obviously humanitarian facilities were hit by White Phosphorus munitions including: "... on January 15 ... white phosphorus shells struck the al-Quds Hospital and its administration building run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society ... Also on January 15, at least three white phosphorus shells struck the main UNRWA compound in the Rimal neighborhood of central Gaza City ... At another well-marked UN facility – a school in Beit Lahiya sheltering roughly 1,600 displaced persons – the IDF air-burst at least three white phosphorus shells on January 17". (From the Summary of the Human Rights Watch report, p.3, entitled Rain of Fire - Israel's unlawful use of white phosphorous in Gaza).
UN protests over shelling, including White Phosphorus
Amongst the seven UN building complexes attacked and damaged were the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the neighbourhood of Rimal, in the centre of Gaza City, repeatedly struck on the morning of the 15th January 2009. One of the destroyed warehouses contained hundreds of tons of food and medicine.
"Three high explosive shells hit the compound. Two landed on the Gaza Training Centre and one landed in the car park. Complete or substantial parts of seven white phosphorous container shells landed in the compound. The wedges in these container shells were either discharged totally or very substantially in the compound" p.133 of the Goldstone Report.
UN officials said they made dozens of increasingly frantic phone calls to IDF officers as the shelling threatened to ignite tankers containing 49,000 litres of fuel at the depot and underground tanks containing 120,000 litres. Around 600 or 700 civilians were present, having sought shelter in response to the Israeli warnings of 3 January 2009. "The swift and courageous actions" and bravery of two staff members in particular "at huge personal risk may have prevented a disaster of gigantic proportions."
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon that Palestinian fighters had entered the compound and fired from it at IDF soldiers. UNRWA’s Gaza director John Ging adamantly denied the IDF claim. "They should tell us if there are militants operating in our compound or in our area" Ging said. "The fact that they don’t, we take that as indicative of the fact that there wasn’t." 
In May 2009, the Secretary-General of the UN called the way that White Phosphorus and high-explosive had been used on its headquarters "grossly negligent":
The Board found that any precautions that were taken by the IDF were clearly inadequate ... concluded that, given all the circumstances, the firing by the IDF of artillery with high explosives and projectiles containing white phosphorous into, over or in such close proximity to UNRWA headquarters as to cause injuries to persons and very substantial damage to property was grossly negligent and amounted to recklessness.
The UN Mission "addressed questions to the Government of Israel regarding the use of white phosphorous munitions against al-Quds hospital and the direct military advantage pursued by their use under the circumstances, but received no reply" (para 597).
Denial of White Phosphorus use
Israel repeatedly denied the use of White Phosphorus during the operation, even going so far as to claim that shells prepared for firing were dummies. They claimed that "The IDF acts only in accordance with what is permitted by international law and does not use white phosphorus." Later, however, after they'd withdrawn they admitted using it but claimed that their use had been legal.
Amnesty mentions White Phosphorus
The Amnesty report "Foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza" concerns weapons generally. Amnesty argues that rockets and artillery (including White Phosphorus) are all indiscriminate and illegal when used, as in this case, in civilian areas.
Of White Phosphorus it says that "characteristics of a phosphorus wound are: chemical burns accompanied by extreme pain, damage to tissue ... the phosphorus may seep into the body and damage internal organs. In the long run, kidney failure and the spread of infection are characteristic ... In conclusion: a wound by an ordnance containing explosive phosphorus is inherently dangerous and has the potential to cause serious damage to tissue."
Police and Security assets destruction
Israel maintains that the police in Gaza are members of Hamas and thus constitute a legitimate target (255 were killed) "there is evidence that an overwhelming majority of the police forces were also members of the Hamas military wing or activists of Hamas or other terrorist organizations." Most commentators dispute this, and say they are a necessary part of the structure of civilian society and protected by International Law (eg the Goldstone Report para 34 "The Mission finds that, while a great number of the Gaza policemen were recruited among Hamas supporters or members of Palestinian armed groups, the Gaza police were a civilian law-enforcement agency. The Mission also concludes that the policemen killed on 27 December 2008 cannot be said to have been taking a direct part in hostilities and thus did not lose their civilian immunity from direct attack as civilians on this basis.")
The main prison in Gaza was struck and rendered unusable. The Mission rejected the position that this building (and others) were part of the "Hamas terrorist infrastructure", finding that "there is no evidence that the Legislative Council building and the Gaza main prison made an effective contribution to military action" (para 32). The Mission found "that the attacks on these buildings constituted deliberate attacks on civilian objects in violation of the rule of customary international humanitarian law whereby attacks must be strictly limited to military objectives. These facts further indicate the commission of the grave breach of extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."
Amnesty International Report
In February 2009, Amnesty International visited Gaza and published a report that calls for the UN (ie the Security Council) to impose an immediate, comprehensive arms embargo on all parties to the conflict until there is "no longer a substantial risk that such arms could be used to commit serious violations of international law"..
The report details the arming of both sides but notes the disparity between the quantity, quality, technical sophistication and destructive power of the weapons available to the two parties. It notes that a delivery of arms from North Carolina to Ashdod was made just before the operation and amounted to the equivalent of 989 standard (20ft) shipping containers of cargo, requiring a ship to carry at least 5.8 million lbs (around 2600 metric tons) of 'net explosive weight' that was required to have up to 12 US armed forces personnel on board. 4 days after the start of Israel's attacks on targets in Gaza, a second request was issued two shipments of 157 and 168 standard shipping containers of ammunition with a net explosive weight of nearly 1 million lbs. The 'Hazard Codes' of the cargo indicated that it included white phosphorus.
Amnesty takes the view that the use of indiscriminate weapons is itself a war-crime, though it classes both artillery and rocket fire as indiscriminate. Noting that there is a ban on incendiary weapons "deemed to be excessively Injurious or to have indiscriminate effects", they say that the repeated use of white phosphorus munitions in densely-populated civilian areas constitute a form of indiscriminate attack, and amount to a war crime.
Amnesty describe the use of flechettes (while not being prohibited weapons) in densely-populated civilian areas in Gaza as amounting to unlawful killing, while DIME and cube weapons are also mentioned.
Amnesty considers that the remit of the Goldstone Report was inadequate and calls for an independent investigation into all allegations of war-crimes.
Amnesty International said that Hamas had apparently executed at least two dozen Palestinian men in score-settling or for alleged collaboration while Operation Cast Lead was in progress. Such allegations should be investigated.
War Crimes alleged against Israel
Medical staff and ambulance drivers who attempted to assist casualties reported that they were attacked by Israeli forces while trying to carry out their job. 16 medics were killed, almost all of them killed by Israeli fire while trying to save lives (many more were wounded in the same way). According to the World Health Organisation, more than half of Gaza's 27 hospitals were damaged by Israeli bombs. Two clinics were completely destroyed and 44 others received damage. The IDF stated that they did "not target medics or other medical staff. As a part of their training, IDF soldiers receive instructions on identifying and avoiding injury to medical staff in the battlefield. However, in light of the difficult reality of warfare in the Gaza Strip carried out in urban and densely populated areas, medics who operate in the area take the risk upon themselves."
On 4 January four medics were killed in two separate incidents. Paramedics Khaled Abu Saada and Arafa Abdel Daym were hit by an Israeli flechette shell (8,000 dart-like nails) as they moved one of three wounded civilians into their ambulance. Saada received three flechettes in the back of his head, though he survived. "I picked myself up and found Arafa kneeling ... his body was riddled with darts," he said. "The patient was in pieces, his head was missing. I was hysterical." In another incident the same day, two ambulances called out to rescue injured men from a field in the Tel al Hawa district of Gaza City were hit by Israeli helicopter fire. Three medics and a 12-year-old boy were killed.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society compiled a report by "five senior health experts from across the world" showing that Israel's military committed serious violations of international humanitarian law. In 92 pages, based on interviews with 44 witnesses, they documented several specific attacks. They said there was "certainty" that Israel had violated international humanitarian law, with attacks on medics, damage to medical buildings, indiscriminate attacks on civilians and delays in medical treatment for the injured. Chairman of PHR-I said that "We have noticed a stark decline in IDF morals concerning the Palestinian population of Gaza, which in reality amounts to a contempt for Palestinian lives".
A video of the Guardian war crimes investigations asks why 16 medical workers were killed and more than half of Gaza's hospitals hit during Israel's invasion of Gaza.
War Crimes alleged against Gazans/Hamas
Various allegations, including the use of human shields and the rocketing of civilian areas (particularly the town of Sderot), have been made against Hamas/Gaza. The allegations are covered in more detail at the Wikipedia article. All the international reports make some mention of these allegations and condemn them eg Amnesty above.
As a result of Operation Cast Lead considerable quantities of bomb-making material were left in Gaza. The United Nations Mine Action Service and the Mines Advisory Group (the Nobel Peace Prize winner from the UK) were able to enter Gaza and began collecting the UXOs (unexploded ordnance) that Israel's operation had left behind.
However, it took 14 months before Israel allowed the UN bomb experts and their equipment into Gaza to neutralize the stockpile, by which time the Hamas police (badly depleted by the attacks on them) had been unable to stop Palestinian militant groups arming themselves with the raw materials for IED (improvised explosive devices, a technology developed in Iraq and Afghanistan) and protect children from endangerment.
Initially, the bomb experts were able to make safe some white phosphorus shells by submerging them in water and covering them with sand. However, none of the UXO could be destroyed while Israel blocked the UN from bringing in equipment.
So the UXOs remained stockpiled, a danger to the nearby densely populated areas, and a temptation to militant groups. The munitions were guarded - by the same Gazan police force that Israel had targeted and tried to kill during the first days of Cast Lead, claiming that they were not a civilian force, but Hamas’ police.
In February 2009 the first ordnance is known to have got into the hands of Israel’s adversaries when Hamas publically displayed weapons it had collected, including unexploded one-ton bombs, half-ton bombs, 250 kilogram bombs, 30 mm bombs, several types of anti-tank missiles, illumination rounds, and the mines that Israel uses to blow up houses. Israel continued to block the UN from destroying these stockpiled UXOs.
In mid-February 2009, Israel issued a statement in response to the relief workers’ increasingly urgent protests:
"The conclusion that the IDF is not permitting the [UXO disposal] force’s entry lacks all factual basis, since no response has been issued. The issue is being considered with a favorable eye and the IDF’s answer will be given within a few days."
Haaretz reported on 17th Feb 2009 that the UN team’s "work is being held up because Israel has not approved the entry of its equipment nor an area for storing and neutralizing ordnance." On the same day, 17th Feb 2009, the BBC said that "the UN staff had been waiting for the Israeli army to allow them to bring specialist equipment and were also waiting for permission from the Israeli military to use two safe areas to dispose of the munitions." The New York Times on 18th Feb 2009 reported that the ordnance had been "awaiting safe disposal by a team working with the United Nations" but with no explanation of what had happened. Before "a few days" were up, five tons of Cast Lead UXOs had disappeared from the stockpile the UN was waiting to destroy. Israel blamed Hamas and announced that the incident was a blow to its security.
Despite five tons of stockpiled bombs having ended up in the hands of its sworn enemies, Israel still refused to allow the UN to deactivate the remaining UXOs. In late May 2009 - three months after the IDF’s "no response has been issued" statement, and under continuing pressure from the UN - Israel consented (but only "in principle") to stop blocking the UN.
By mid-September 2010 Israel realised that some of the white phosphorous shells it had left behind were being fired into southern Israel from Gaza but without acknowledging the fact they'd left the munitions available to the militants.
A UN Mine Action Service expert who was involved with the situation in the Gaza Strip at the time told Philip Weiss (respected blogger of Mondoweiss) with "an air of bewilderment", that Israel continually presented its obstruction of their work as "bureaucratic ... needing permission from senior rank etc." The "chances of getting a reply" the officer told him, "are about as likely as the election of Khaled Meshal as Israeli prime minister" - precisely zero.
Ten further months passed until on March 10 2010 Israel (technically not meant to have legal jurisdiction in Gaza, and claiming not to be occupying Gaza) finally allowed the bomb experts to bring their equipment into the Gaza Strip and begin the destruction of the remaining Cast Lead ordnance.
BBC rejects humanitarian appeal
The Disasters Emergency Committee launched a public appeal to support its humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza.  The BBC, alone among the UK MSM refused to broadcast it on grounds of "Upholding the BBC's hard won reputation for impartiality" and stood firm in its decision despite widespread criticism. The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, accused the broadcaster of taking sides, "This is not a row about impartiality but rather about humanity". Communities secretary Hazel Blears said: "I sincerely hope the BBC will urgently review its decision."
The Hasbara Manual explains "Cast Lead"
In 2009 "The Information Project" (TIP) published a 116 page "2009 GLOBAL LANGUAGE DICTIONARY" on how best to defend Israel. Particularly emphasis is laid on "WORDS THAT WORK" and "WORDS THAT DONT WORK", as identified from the "Luntz National Survey, January 2009". The contents of this document were soon leaked and widely published. However, perhaps for reason of copyright, it is no longer available anywhere on the web and can only be accessed at the "Wayback Machine".
This Manual was first released in 2002, this is a substantial overhaul that came out soon after "Operation Cast Lead". Operation Cast Lead is mentioned in Appendix III p.108 with a "conflict by the numbers" demonstrating both the humanity and generosity of the Israeli people to the suffering Palestinians and the very serious threats facing Israel.
The Manual is meant to be more than the means to win arguments along the lines of "Myths and Facts", it explains in detail how to do Public Relations for Israel and win the hearts and minds of Americans and Europeans. Some sections are written with particular reference to Gaza:
"Clearly differentiate between the Palestinian people and Hamas. ... Hamas is a terrorist organization - Americans get that already. But if it sounds like you are attacking the Palestinian people (even though they elected Hamas) rather than their leadership, you will lose public support. Right now, many Americans sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians, and that sympathy will increase if you fail to differentiate the people from their leaders." p.5
"Use humility. "I know that in trying to defend its children and citizens from terrorists that Israel has accidentally hurt innocent people. I know it, and I’m sorry for it. But what can Israel do to defend itself? If America had given up land for peace - and that land had been used for launching rockets at America, what would America do? Israel was attacked with thousands of rockets from Iran-backed Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. What should Israel have done to protect her children?" p.7
"To [all Americans and many Europeans] Hamas is evil and hostile. But the Palestinian people are poor, unrepresented, and therefore without hope of peace. For now, your rhetorical quarrel needs to be with Hamas, not the people of Palestine. We have dedicated a whole chapter to language regarding the Palestinian people specifically. This chapter is about how to talk about Iran-backed Hamas, but we must stress again that they are two very different sides of the same Gaza coin to the public - so you need to keep both language approaches in mind, and know when to use each." p.33
"Israel should not be bombing Gaza. I will repeat that. Israel should not be forced into a situation where they have to bomb Gaza. Likewise, Hamas should not be deliberately firing rockets into civilian areas of Israel. If the rockets stop, we can achieve that peace where Palestinian and Israeli children live in safety." p.47
"... here is the five-step approach to talking about civilian casualties in Gaza:
-- STEP 1 - Empathy: "All human life is precious. We understand that the loss of one innocent Palestinian life is every bit as tragic as the loss of an Israeli life."
-- STEP 2 - Admission: "We admit that Israel isn’t always successful at preventing civilian casualties..."
-- STEP 3 - Effort: "We remain committed to doing everything in our power to preventing civilian casualties."
-- STEP 4 - Examples: "Let me tell you how our armed forces are trained, tasked, and operate to ensure that Palestinian civilians remain safe."
-- STEP 5 - Turn Tables: "It is a great tragedy that Iran-backed Hamas shoots rockets at our civilians while hiding in their own. This causes tragic deaths on BOTH sides. What would you do if you were in this situation?"
We need to call specific attention to Step 2. Don’t pretend that Israel is without mistakes or fault. It’s not true and no one believes it. It will only make your listeners question the veracity of everything else you say. People do not expect Israel to be 100 percent successful in all their efforts to stop "terrorism". Admitting that Israel has and continues to make mistakes does not undermine the overall justice of Israel’s goals: peace and security and a better quality of life for everyone. Because Israel is seen as the more powerful party, you must use humility." p.50
"... 3 mosques in Gaza used as weapons, ammunitions and explosives depots that were struck by the Israel Defense Forces during the operation in Gaza. The strikes occurred only at night and never during prayer times, to avoid civilian casualties." Appendix III p.109
Wikipedia article on this topic
This article will read very differently from the Wikipedia version. That's because the Wikispooks article is predominantly written around information published by semi-independent observers (such as the UN and human rights organisations). Only limited notice has been taken of the claims made by the protagonists, in line with the intended practice of Wikipedia articles, see their guidelines at Wikipedia:Reliable Sources.
The Wikipedia article is entitled the "Gaza War" and has an enormous number of references (435 at Oct 2011). However, examining the writing of the Wikipedia article could make it appear that, perhaps even more than usual in articles on the Israel/Palestine topic, only incompetent editors have had any input. It has had a huge amount of work done to it (well over 10,000 changes) but is tagged "neutrality disputed" (since June 2011) for reasons the editors don't seem to understand.
References used in the Wikipedia article shows a strong bias towards sources that are either pro-Israel or, in some cases, are actual mouth-pieces of the government that carried out this operation. Easy to check is the balance or imbalance of the references cited. For instance, the "Goldstone Mission" report has the most material and is amongst the most credible (at least as regards actual observations, even if the reader chooses to reject the relatively few opinions expressed). At Wikipedia, the Goldstone Report is barely referenced. "Challenges" to the Goldstone report (and Judge Richard Goldstone's supposed "retraction") get 12 mentions, while "Goldstone" (but under 3 different titles) is cited just 6 times. For comparison, "New Tactics Yield Solid Victory in Gaza" gets 7 citations, "Hamas seeks new doctrine after Gaza War failures" gets 9, and "Military Dimensions: The Israeli Arsenal Deployed against Gaza" gets 13 citations.
Past experience suggests that this Wikipedia article will continue to be so heavily biased towards an Israeli narrative that it will never even reflect what the Western media reported about the event.
Omissions from Wikipedia article
There are at least four major omissions from the Wikipedia article.
The 2nd UN report (above) which examined the "investigations" carried out by different parties is not mentioned. The committee, led by Judge Mary McGowan Davies reported in March 2011 and was controversially refered to in Goldstone's widely reported "retraction".
The UN "Board of Inquiry" into the damage to their premises, which led to Israel paying compensation to the UN ($10.5 million - said to be the first time ever) is not mentioned.
Thirdly, Wikipedia fails to mention the affair of the unexploded ordnance left behind in Gaza, despite it being quite widely reported.
The fourth (partial) omission/distortion is a proper mention of the 6 month ceasefire preceding Operation Cast Lead. It is described throughout the main article as a "lull" (or "Egyptian-mediated truce") and the details are in a separate article. There are numerous references to "ceasefire", but all refer to events occuring during the war, brief humanitarian breaks or the messy end of the operation, not the almost completely peaceful period beforehand.
|Document:Gaza Under Fire||article||8 January 2009||John Pilger|
|Document:Monsanto Exposed as Source for White Phosphorus Used in Gaza Massacre||article||6 February 2016||Justin Gardner||Evidence that the White phosphorous munitions used by Israel during their 'Operation Cast-Lead' action against Gaza in 2008-9 and in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, were supplied by Monsanto|
|File:Rainoffire.pdf||report||A report on Israeli use of white phosphorous munitions during Operation Cast Lead against the Gaza Strip December 2008 - Jan 2009. It documents extensive use of illegal munitions and is notable for some startling pictures of white phosphorous trails raining down on fleeing civilians.|
- Gaza: Morality, Law & Politics Raimond Gaita 2010
- Just war on terror?: A Christian and Muslim response David Wicker Fisher 2010
- Bombs and ballots: governance by Islamist terrorist and guerrilla groups Krista Wiegand 2010
- "Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict" (PDF). London: United Nations Human Rights Council. Retrieved 15 September 2009.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "Scribunto").
- TIMELINE – Israeli-Hamas violence since truce ended, Reuters 05-01-2009
- Bright, Arthur. Israel set to launch ‘limited operation’ in Gaza, Christian Science Monitor, December 26, 2008.
- Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem (2009-09-16). "Israel rejects war crimes findings of UN Gaza inquiry | World news | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2010-05-08.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "Scribunto").
- Kershner, Isabel (2008-06-18). "Israel Agrees to Truce with Hamas on Gaza". NY Times. Retrieved 2010-04-02.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "Scribunto").
- Top Defense Ministry official: If Shalit is not released, Rafah stays closed, YNET, June 16, 2008
- Israel confirms Hamas ceasefire deal Independent, June 18, 2008.
- Isabel Kershner (2008-06-25). "Rockets hit Israel, breaking Hamas truce". International Herald Tribune.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "Scribunto").
- "Between June 19 and November 4, 20 rockets (three of which fell inside the Gaza Strip) and 18 mortar shells (five of which fell inside the Gaza Strip) were fired at Israel." Right-side News, 31st Dec 2008.
- Summary of Rocket Fire and Mortar Shelling in 2008. (pdf) Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. Retrieved January 14, 2009. pp. 5–7. Drop in rocket fire calculated from data provided in report.
- Gaza truce broken as Israeli raid kills six Hamas gunmen, Guardian, Rory McCarthy, 5 November 2008
- Gaza Truce May Be Revived by Necessity New York Times 2008-12-19.
- Israeli leaders 'to topple Hamas' BBC News. 2008-12-22. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gaza Facts. Operation Cast Lead was to stop the bombardment of Israeli civilians by destroying Hamas' mortar and rocket launching apparatus and infrastructure and to reduce the ability of Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza to perpetrate future attacks against the civilian population in Israel.
- 2009 Global Language Dictionary The updated "Hasbara Manual" from "The Information Project" (TIP).
- Israeli offensive seeks 'new security reality' in Gaza Jane's Defense Weekly, January 9, 2009
- The "Goldstone Report" of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict Judge Richard Goldstone, Professor Christine Chinkin, Ms. Hina Jilani and Colonel Desmond Travers. 25 September 2009.
- Efforts intensify for release of Gilad Shalit on fifth anniversary of his capture "Twelve Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations issued a joint statement Friday calling on Hamas to end its "illegal" and "inhumane" treatment of Shalit" Jta.org, 26 June 2011.
- “Human Rights Community” Agrees: Gilad Shalit Should Remain in Captivity "Remarkably, it doesn’t even demand the release of Gilad Shalit. The most that this allegedly courageous and principled human rights community could bring itself to say to the terrorists of Hamas is that they should improve the conditions of Shalit’s imprisonment" Commentarymagazine.com 24 June 2011.
- "1,417 dead, including 926 civilians, 255 police officers, and 236 fighters." Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. 19 March 2009.
- Israel pays U.N. $10.5 million over Gaza damage Reuters. Jan 22, 2010.
- "Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes" 1st Apr 2011.
- Gaza Report Authors Rebuke Goldstone Sydney Morning Herald. 16th April 2011.
- What the Goldstone op-ed doesn’t say Mondoweiss blog, April 2, 2011.
- UN Committee to assess investigations for compliance with international standards of independence, impartiality, effectiveness, thoroughness and promptness. Judge Mary McGowan Davies. 18 March 2011.
- Israel and the Apartheid Slander "One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies" New York Times October 31, 2011.
- Goldstone sugarcoats persecution to try to save Israel Mondoweiss, Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Nov 01, 2011.
- Gaza Report Authors Rebuke Goldstone Sydney Morning Herald. 16th April 2011.
- TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at UN headquarters. "Israel was faulted in seven of the nine cases, and Hamas was found guilty in one of the nine", 5 MAY 2009.
- UN report condemns Israel over Gaza war "These allegations were untrue, continued to be made after it ought to have been known that they were untrue, and were not adequately withdrawn and publicly regretted" Times, May 6, 2009.
- Israel pays U.N. $10.5 million over Gaza damage "UN officials said they believed this was the first time Israel had paid them for damage done by their military" Reuters. Jan 22, 2010.
- The HRW report, "Rain of Fire" Israel's unlawful use of white phosphorous in Gaza. March 2009.
- "Goldstone Report" p.133: Late in the conflict, 7 White Phosporus and 3 HE shells strike UNRWA compound where over 600 civilians shelter. "Fuel tankers parked above ground had around 49,000 litres of fuel in them. In addition to the obvious and immediate risk of fire in these circumstances, the compound also stored large quantities of medical supplies, food, clothing and blankets in the warehouses." 25 September 2009.
- "Israel Shells U.N. Site in Gaza, Drawing Fresh Condemnation" New York Times, January 16, 2009.
- "Attacks Against the UN in Gaza Must Be Investigated" UNRWA statement, January 24, 2009.
- Letter of 4 May 2009 from the Secretary-General to the Security Council White Phosphorus (and high-explosive) in "such close proximity to UNRWA headquarters as to cause injuries to persons and very substantial damage to property was grossly negligent and amounted to recklessness". UN 4th May 2009.
- File:Amnesty-Gaza 19194.pdf - Fuelling conflict: Foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza
- Israel Gaza FAQ: International law (7) Did the IDF target the civilian police force in Gaza? There is evidence that an overwhelming majority of the police forces were also members of the Hamas military wing or activists of Hamas or other terrorist organizations. Israeli Ministry of Foreign Afffairs. copyright date 2008.
- <Guardian investigation uncovers evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza Palestinians claim children were used as human shields and hospitals targeted during 23-day conflict. Guardian 24 March 2009.
- Under attack: how medics died trying to help Gaza's casualties Israeli military says medical staff 'take the risk upon themselves' Guardian 23rd Mar 2009.
- Israel created 'terror without mercy' in Gaza Human rights groups have accused Israel's military, as well as Palestinian militants in Gaza, of war crimes. Guardian 7 April 2009.
- Gaza war crimes investigation: attacks on medics Video asks why 16 medical workers were killed and more than half of Gaza's hospitals hit during Israel's invasion of Gaza. Guardian 23rd March 2009.
- Gaza mine-clearing teams waiting for Israeli okay Bomb experts were able to make safe some white phosphorus shells by submerging them in water and covering them with sand. Haaretz, 17 February, 2009.
- Landmine Monitor Report 2009 Gazans set up make-shift exhibit of Israeli weapons used in Cast Lead. Haaretz, 4 February, 2009.
- Gaza mine-clearing teams waiting for Israeli okay the UN team’s "work is being held up because Israel has not approved the entry of its equipment nor an area for storing and neutralizing ordnance." Haaretz, 17 February, 2009.
- Explosives haul missing in Gaza BBC News, 17 February, 2009.
- American Lawmakers Visit Gaza NY Times, 18 February, 2009.
- U.N. Mine Action Service "The Rapid Response to Operation Cast Lead," in The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Winter, 2009.
- Terrorists fired 2 phosphorus shells into Israel Jerusalem Post, 15 September, 2010.
- Email correspondence between a United Nations Mine Action Service Officer and Philip Weiss March, 2010. The "chances of getting a reply" the officer told him, "are about as likely as the election of Khaled Meshal as Israeli prime minister" Mondoweiss. Mar 2010.
- Disaster Emergency Committee Appeal for Gaza The Disasters Emergency Committee launched a public appeal to support its humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza. Jan 2009.
- BBC refusal to broadcast DEC appeal The BBC, alone among the UK MSM refused to broadcast it on grounds of "Upholding the BBC's hard won reputation for impartiality" and stood firm in its decision despite widespread criticism. The Guardian 24 Jan 2009.
- Media Lens of the BBC refusal to broadcast the DEC appeal for Gaza
- BBC crisis over refusal to broadcast Gaza appeal Communities secretary Hazel Blears said: "I sincerely hope the BBC will urgently review its decision." 24 January 2009.
- Wikipedia article on "Gaza War" - marked "neutrality disputed" as of Sept 2011. Easily recognisable hasbara.
- 2008 Israeli Hamas ceasefire, Wikipedia Relative success of ceasefire played down.