Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Key messages

These are the top messages you should push at every opportunity:
• Israel has done everything it can to resolve the ongoing Gaza rocket threat through
non-military means. Eventually Israel had no option left but to act to defend its
citizens. No government, Israeli, British or otherwise, can stand by while their citizens
continue to be attacked. Ultimately Israel wants peace and quiet.

• Israel has endured eight years of attacks on innocent civilians. Since 2001, over
8,500 rockets have been fired at Israel, deliberately targeting, killing and injuring
ordinary Israelis, including children and the elderly.

• With the increase in range and intensity of Hamas’s arsenal, 12.5% of Israel’s
population – over 900,000 people – are now at risk of missile, rocket and mortar shell
attacks. Given the difference in population size, in the UK the equivalent would be about
7,500,000 people – the equivalent of the population of Greater London. If London were
attacked by missiles, rockets and mortar shells on a daily basis, the British government
would have no choice but to take action to prevent it.

• The only reason there is military action now is because Hamas refused to continue the
ceasefire. Israel tried to sustain the ceasefire which lasted from June until November 2008.
Even under intense rocket fire, Israel still tried to renegotiate the ceasefire.

• During the last week of the ceasefire, 190 rockets landed in Israel; the following week
over 500 rockets were fired at Israel. Yet Israel still resisted responding even after such
intense provocation. Israel tried to maintain the ceasefire despite the knowledge that
Hamas used this and all ceasefires to rearm and regroup, meaning that the range of their
missiles and rockets is now much greater.

• Israel is pursuing both military and diplomatic approaches – with its allies, particularly
Egypt – to reach a resolution to the situation in Gaza and southern Israel. The diplomatic
level must deal effectively with the smuggling of weaponry into Gaza and Egypt’s key
role in this effort. Q & A The following are points to use to respond to the following

Why is Israel acting against Hamas?

• Israel is acting to defend its citizens in the southern half of the country from ongoing
daily rocket attacks by Hamas and other militants in the Gaza Strip, which make life for
ordinary civilians untenable.

• In the first four months of 2008, a rocket or mortar was fired at Israel every three
hours on average.

• A ceasefire was declared in June, but was breached by Hamas throughout November
and December. Since 4 November, over 700 missiles, rockets and mortar shells have
been fired into Israel by Palestinian terror groups in Gaza.

• Hamas then unilaterally declared the ceasefire over on 19 December, even though
Israel was willing to continue the arrangement. From 19 December onwards, over 600
missiles, rockets and mortar shells have been fired into Israel.

• Hamas used the recent ceasefire to upgrade its military threat, by smuggling in more
dangerous weapons and longer range rockets. The new scale of Hamas’s threat has been
demonstrated by Hamas firing rockets into Ashdod and Beersheva, two large cities
between 30 and 40 km from the Gaza Strip. 900,000 Israeli civilians now live under the
constant threat of rocket attack.

• Israel’s Operation ‘Cast Lead’ began on 27 December with aerial attacks on key
militant weapons stockpiles, launch sites, smuggling tunnels, militant leaders and launch
personnel, and other infrastructure. It entered its second phase on 3 January, with the
movement of large numbers of infantry, tanks, engineering forces, artillery and
intelligence into Gaza. The operation’s aim is to alter the current situation of constant
rocket bombardment of Israel, by severely decreasing the ability of Gaza militants to
smuggle, build and launch weapons which terrorise Israeli civilians on a daily basis.
Israel does not want to reoccupy Gaza.

Isn’t Israel’s action disproportionate?

• Israel is acting after showing months of restraint. Hamas has ignored Egyptian and
moderate Palestinian calls to maintain a ceasefire that was agreed in June.

• Israel’s operation is designed to seriously downgrade Hamas’s ability to strike at Israel.

• Israel is targeting Hamas activists, weapons, infrastructure and tunnels. UN figures
confirm that the great majority of those killed have been Hamas men in uniform. Official
Israeli sources report that an estimated 88% of those killed in Gaza have been militants.
This is much lower than any similar past event, including NATO’s operations in Kosovo
and Afghanistan, despite the more difficult conditions in Gaza such as the hiding of
terror infrastructure in civilian areas. Israel has taken precautions to protect civilian life,
with warnings to civilians to stay away from Hamas targets.

• Israel accepts its moral responsibility to minimise the risk to civilian life, but the
behaviour of Hamas, who hide weapons and bases within the civilian population, make
it impossible to guarantee no harm will come to innocent people. This does not negate
Israel’s right to act to defend its civilian population, when so many Israelis are under
constant threat.
What about the humanitarian impact of Israel’s actions?

• Israel is committed to not allowing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In the period of
the ceasefire from July to October, on average of 4,000 trucks of aid per month passed
into Gaza from Israel. Throughout this campaign Israel has allowed aid in. A major
impediment to the transfer of aid is the security threat to the crossings themselves.
Three major terror attacks have been launched at Gaza-Israel crossing points by Gaza-
based militants in 2008 alone, one of which killed two Israeli civilian fuel truck drivers
working at the Nahal Oz fuel depot, which supplies fuel to Gaza.

• Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, 335 truckloads of humanitarian aid,
amounting to 7,800 tons of food and supplies, have been transferred to Gaza.
Preparations are underway for further shipments in the coming days.

• Israel allows hundreds of medical patients into Israel from Gaza each month.
On 31 December, for example, Israel allowed 22 patients into Israel for treatment and
sent in 1,000 units of blood. For additional examples of Palestinians receiving medical
treatment in Gaza, see Ryan Parry’s recent piece in the Daily Mirror: BICOM News Archive:
Press coverage on the Gaza situation - 1 and 2 January.

• Khaled Abdel Shaafi, director the United Nations Development Programme in Gaza,
has denied claims that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In December, he told
Canada's largest national daily, the Globe and Mail, that whilst the situation in Gaza
is not pleasant, "This is not a humanitarian crisis... It's an economic crisis, a political
crisis, but it's not a humanitarian crisis. People aren't starving.” Abdel Shaafi is the son
of the late prominent Palestinian Gaza leader Dr Haidar Abdel Shaafi. He has been
critical of both Fatah and Hamas and has been associated with the Third Way
movement of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Why has Gaza been under siege? Why doesn’t Israel negotiate with Hamas?

• Israel has no interest in inhibiting access into and out of Gaza. Israel withdrew all
settlers and military forces from Gaza over three years ago and signed an agreement
with the Palestinian Authority to allow movement and access of goods and people
into and out of Gaza. This had the potential to be the first stage of the establishment
of an independent Palestinian state. But when Hamas forcibly took over in Gaza, it
became impossible to move forward. Hamas does not recognise agreements with
Israel and is committed to Israel’s destruction.

• Gaza also has a border with Egypt, but Egypt has also kept its border mostly closed
because of concern about the threat Hamas pose to the secular Arab regime in Egypt.

• Israel has been working with the moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank
to negotiate the terms of a two-state solution and to improve movement and access
in the West Bank. If Hamas were to accept the conditions of the Quartet - to recognise
Israel, accept previous Israel- PA agreements and renounce violence - they could be
part of this process. Hamas have shown no interest in reaching any agreements with

• Egypt, Saudi Arabia and many other moderate Arab states have been angered by
Hamas’s refusal to negotiate a joint position with Palestinian moderates.

Does Israel want peace?

• Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza three years ago was supported by most Israelis, who
recognise the need to leave most of the occupied territories and help in the creation of
an independent Palestinian state. Most Israelis understand this is in their interests, as
the only real option for peace.

• But Israel cannot make peace alone, nor can it solve the Palestinians’ political divisions
for them. Hamas must accept a path to permanent coexistence with Israel, or the people
of Gaza must reject Hamas - otherwise a two-state solution cannot be implemented.

• Israel was left with no other choice but to undertake this operation, after years of
trying to end this situation by other means. Israel has unhappily implemented this
operation, which inevitably would result in both Israeli and Palestinian casualties.

What does Hamas want?

• Hamas is an Islamic extremist movement which believes it is a religious duty to
destroy the State of Israel and replace it with an Islamic state. The movement has a
fiercely antisemitic ideology, as expressed in its founding charter and the statements
of its leaders. It is backed by Iran, which shares its agenda of destroying Israel.

• Hamas rejects the consensus that exists between the Israeli government, moderate
Palestinians led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and the Quartet (the EU, UN, US and
Russian Federation), that a two-state solution is the only way to solve the Israeli-
Palestinian dispute.

What is the wider significance of what is happening?

• Hamas is part of a regional alliance of Islamist forces, led by Iran, which holds a deep
hatred of the West and is opposed to Israel’s existence. Iran trains, arms and funds groups
such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to perpetuate the conflict with
Israel, prevent progress towards a peaceful solution and foment destabilisation in the wider

• Similarly, Iran supports extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan in their insurgencies against
British and other Western forces, who are working to secure democracy and freedom in
those countries.

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