Gaza – Operation Cast Lead – 2008


Israel commenced its operation against the terrorist forces in Gaza primarily in response to thousands of rocket attacks fired at Israel from Gaza over a period of 8 years. 

  • Over 5,000 rockets and mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip, striking southwestern Israel – Sderot, Ashkelon, Netivot, and many rural communities in the area; as reported by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
  • Repeated attacks against the crossing points between Israel and Gaza, crossings where fuel, food, medicines and other humanitarian aid is transferred from Israel into the Gaza.
  • Continuing buildup of military weaponry to be used for attacks against Israel.

The Gaza situation deteriorated after June 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, neutralized Fatah and the Palestinian security services, and established a radical Islamic entity in the Gaza Strip separate from the Palestinian Authority. A report posted by the Israeli Foreign Ministry a year later – June 2008 – described the overall deteriorating situation within Gaza, as well as Hamas’s continuing aggression against Israel. A separate Foreign Ministry report listed at length the terror attacks coming from Gaza during the 12 months after Hamas had taken over the Strip.

As a result of the continuing aggression against Israel, the Israeli Security Cabinet in September 2007 designated the Gaza Strip as a “hostile territory”.

An Egyptian-brokered lull arrangement took effect on June 19, 2008.  The six-month lull required Hamas to end rocket and mortar attacks against Israel, to halt its military buildup in Gaza, and to release Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit,  whom it was holding hostage. In exchange, Israel agreed to ease the blockade of Gaza and to halt military raids into Gaza. As part of the deal Egypt promised to stop the smuggling of arms and weapons from its territory into Gaza.

However, during the six months of the lull, the Gaza terrorist organizations still fired hundreds of rockets and mortar shells, most of them during the six weeks between November 4 and December 19, after Israeli forces briefly entered Gaza to destroy a tunnel built for offensive military purposes.  The lull expired on December 19, when Hamas and the other terrorist organizations formally announced its end. After it was over, the terrorist organizations again attacked Israel with rocket and mortar shell fire, the attacks peaking on December 24, when at least 60 rockets and mortar shells were fired.  Three days later Israel commenced its operation. [About Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad]

27 Dec 2008

Israel Begins Military Operation

Updates on the course of the conflict – Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center  – 28 Dec 2008 to 20 Jan 2009

3 Jan 2009

Israel Enters Gaza on the Ground

On January 3, after eight days of air strikes, the ground phase of Operation Cast Lead began. It included large infantry, armored, engineering artillery and intelligence forces supported by the Israeli Air Force and the Israel Security Agency and other security factors.

The objective of the ground phase was to seriously damage Hamas’s land networks and to take control of the areas from which rockets and mortar shells were being fired into Israeli territory. That was intended to serve the overall goals of the operation, which were to strike at Hamas’s military infrastructure and to reinforce Israel’s deterrent capabilities.

12 Jan 2009

Action by the UN Human Rights Council

  • The UN Human Rights Council adopts resolution calling for a “fact-finding mission to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law” by Israel.  No mention is made in the resolution concerning violations by Hamas – 12 Jan 2009
  • Human Rights Council, update on the mission – 15 Jun 2009
18 Jan 2009


02:00 – Israel announces it will hold fire after 22 days of fighting.  It unilaterally withdraws all Israeli forces from Gaza.

14:00 – Hamas announces ceasefire.

July 2009

Report Issued by the Government of Israel

The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects

From the Executive Summary:

    1. This detailed Paper discusses a range of factual and international legal issues relating to the military operation undertaken by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza in December 2008–January 2009.
    2. The Paper has been prepared at this time in order to place the Gaza Operation in its proper factual and legal context. On a number of issues the Paper offers only a provisional analysis as the IDF is still conducting comprehensive field and criminal investigations into allegations regarding the conduct of its forces during the Operation. Such investigations will be reviewed by the Military Advocate General and are subject to further review by the Attorney General. In addition, petitions may be filed for judicial review by the Supreme Court of Israel (sitting as the High Court of Justice).
    3. The Paper addresses the context of the Gaza Operation and notes that Israel had both a right and an obligation to take military action against Hamas in Gaza to stop Hamas‘ almost incessant rocket and mortar attacks upon thousands of Israeli civilians and its other acts of terrorism. Israel was bombarded by some 12,000 rockets and mortar shells between 2000 and 2008, including nearly 3,000 rockets and mortar shells in 2008 alone. Hamas specifically timed many of its attacks to terrorise schoolchildren in the mornings and the afternoons. These deliberate attacks caused deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage; forced businesses to close; and terrorised tens of thousands of residents into abandoning their homes.

Gaza Operations Investigations: An Update – January 2010

Gaza Operations Investigations: Second Update – July 2010

15 Sep 2009

Report Issued by the UNHRC “Fact Finding Mission”

The Report of the Fact Finding Mission –  September 2009

UN Human Rights Council Web Page on the Fact Finding Mission

Retraction of the Report by Richard Goldstone – 1 Apr 2011

Additional Resources