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What To Know About Operation Pillar of Defense

A primer for the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza

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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]

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Assassinating Jarabi was an unnecessary provocation. Now the conflict is bound to escalate.

    What was an unnecessary provokation was sending in over 200 missiles and mortars into Israel proper in the last year aimed at civilians, shutting down schools and cities or an announcement by Hamas that any lull in missiles fired would simply be a lull but not a cessation of any kind, or firing an anti tank missile at an Israeli jeep in Israel injuring three, or continuing to advocate by Hamas the destruction of all jews everywhere and loading up on stock piles of missiles to threaten all of Israel—now that is the definition of provacation.
    In the four days from Saturday, Islamic terrorists under the Hamas umbrella fired more than 200 rockets from Gaza at Israeli civilians, along with a number of mortar shells. Some hit civilian homes and factories; some civilians were lightly wounded and others treated for shock. Some million or so inhabitants of southern Israel have been under siege from such attacks for years, with air raid sirens giving people just a few seconds to find shelter. If there weren’t so many shelters, there would be more casualties.
    If Britain had sustained a rocket barrage of 120 rockets in four days, let alone nearly 800 in a year or more than 5000 in six years, it would not have been at war long ago? Jews cannot be allowed to kill their attackers in order to defend their own people; the proper ‘proportionate’ response, it would appear, is to run and hide. We did that throughout our history and what did that get us—some simpathy after the fact. If you want to be a good little ghetto Jew or a capo running the lodz ghetto for the nazis then the answer would be Yes, Israel provoked the attack. If you want to be someone who stands up against the Nazis, like Morchechai Analevic in the warsaw ghetto uprising then you side with Israel. Its a choice be a Capo or be a Mensch.

      There was a cease fire. Israel could have taken a wait and see attitude. Or it could have bombed Gaza without targeting a Hamas leader. Instead it poured fuel on the fire.
      This is about Netanyahu’s bid to win the upcoming elections.

      Your Nazi analogies are uncalled for. What is called for a more seykhel from the Israeli government.

        This is about choosing when to fight. The fight was inevitable. We could have continued to sit on our hands and wait till Hamas decides when it will launch the attack. Of course it will choose when it is strategically and tactically right for them—that is to say when they have enough rockets and enough fighters at a time when it could be very difficult for Israel. Or Israel can choose the time when it is right for it and take the upper hand. What is absolute is they want war and they want to murder and they celebrate it. We must take it to them on our terms. How long are the residents of southern Israel to stay in shelters and live at the behest of Hamas. The nazi analogy is exactly correct. The judenrats like the Lodz Ghetto committee continued to hope if they cooperated there might be Jews that would survive the mass extermination and they gave a false sense of hope and simply capitulated to the Nazi extermination system. Are we to hope that Hamas will turn the other cheek and hope for the best. No, we have to fight them on our terms. They understand a strong fist. They view prevarication as weakness and will exploit it. Sometimes one needs not just walk softly and carry a big stick but the stick must be used so as to give credibility to its use in order to deter. A wait and see approach, what in heavens are you talking about—we have been waiting and seeing for years and years, from the fedayeen days of the 50s and 60s, to the withdrawal from Gaza of 2005. Wear a star in david in Gaza and see what it will get you. Wear a kaffiyeh in Netanyah and you can eat your humous in peace. Wat and see indeed.

        Dinnah says:

        Yeah Israel stopped while morsi was in Egypt, but that did not stop the rockets raining down did it?? that’s your cease fire for you. Why in hell wouldn’t we bomb terrorist Hamas leaders…..oh gee we made them mad, we shouldn’t do that.

          So the answer is to kill more Palestinians. And what do you mean “we.? Are you an Israeli citizen?

        jacob_arnon says:

        You need to learn the basic facts, Number 41953.

        HOw can anyone take the word of a number?

emunadate says:

G-d willing there will not be a ground operation and in the name of G-d, may there not be any more Israeli’s die on account of Muslim terrorism…

Israel is unfortunately only shooting themselves in the foot – and undermining any international support. How much longer will the US be a supporter to your violations of international and humaniterian law?
You might have been a resource for the region – and had a useful relationship with palestinians and your neighbours – but instead you act with an apartheid policy and agressive defense policy.
An eye for an eye – is a policy written for people living in caves, not to be applied on century diplomacy

With so many conflicting stories being written by both American Jews, Israelite journalist and everybody else, I just have to wonder who’s got the real facts without being so biased.

Michael Oren knows much better than to say this is ’67, or ’48, he wrote a great history of the ’67 war. Are Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq’s armies on the battlefield against Israel today? No. So stop lying Oren and represent the situation as it is: a stupid terrorist group controlling Gaza is raining primitive rockets down on Israel and terrorizing its people in the south.

fred capio says:

CNN: “Egypt and Turkey put the onus on Israel to end the fighting around Gaza as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Cairo a day after Washington urged the two governments to pressure the Palestinians.”

No one is listening to “Washington” Israel is on its own.

You statement that Pillars of Defense is a response to a baragge of rockets that have been fired in the last few days is false. This particular round of rocket attacks began a month ago. For days on end over the last several weeks schools in southern Israel have been closed and the citizens have been told to stay close to a safe room. A year ago. at this time, Israel’s amabassador was asking the UN to put an end to rocket attacks from Gaza. And the same was true in 2010. If you are going to hold yourself out as an expert on this subject, it would be beneficial to your readers if you would include all of the facts. And while we are talking about facts lets remember that in the midst of Pillars of Defense, Red Cross supplies are crossing the border from Israel into Gaza. Patients from Gaza are being treated in Israeli hospitals. And the Israelis continue to supply electricity to those who are busy trying to kill them.

I am sorry for my lack of knowledge on the matter Levin, and not understanding your argumentation. Israellis have always had a marvellous ability to hold up themselves as the greater victims, regardless the palestinians situation.

Since you are arguing on facts – it would be nice to hear your opinion on what your plans should be for the future land for the Palestinians, (see link:

Will it in in 2020 for Palestinians, only be space reserved 6 foot under, or in Israelli prisons? From there they will not be able to fire up anything but a fart ;) Given Isrealli track record on breaches on international law – I am sure you will argue that this is ok -too, because you have to defend yourselves, right?

Gen. krug says:

I am not an Israeli! !!However, it does not require to be an Israeli to come to this personal conclusion. —The Jewish people respect and embrace life and knowledge. They are
constructive not destructive. The muslims are absolute opposites. They
even kill their own kind. Egypt is the newest example of the way muslims
think and act. The Jewish deserve the land they battled for because they
are united for the betterment for humanity in that region of the world.
The muslims are jealous because they do not understand the spirit of
civilization that the Jewish people of Israel possess. Even the ancient
Romans did not try to commit genocide. At least the Romans gave
conquered lands the chance to become part of the Empire. Muslims simply
want to kill any body that do not embrace Mohammad and his barbaric way
of existence.


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What To Know About Operation Pillar of Defense

A primer for the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza

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