December 27, 2008
Nearly 12,000 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli civilian areas over eight years. On December 27, 2008, Israel responded with Operation Cast Lead. Hamas had come into power in Gaza in 2007 and although rocket fire predated Hamas’s government, the quantity of rockets fired increased dramatically after Hamas assumed office. In 2008 alone, there were approximately 3,000 rockets and mortar bombs launched at Israel’s southern cities.
The area of Israel that was hardest hit by the Hamas rocket attacks was the southern city of Sderot. Already one of Israel’s poorest cities, Sderot was founded in 1951 as a ma’abara (transit camp) for immigrants mostly from Iran. When a warning siren rang out the approach of a rocket, Israeli civilians had only fifteen seconds to find shelter. The strain from the rocket attacks caused widespread flight from the city in 2007 and 2008, and many people simply abandoned their homes.
Hamas ended a six-month Egyptian-brokered ceasefire forcing Israel to initiate Operation Cast Lead on December 27. The twenty-two day operation had three goals: to stop Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians; to stop Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel; and to stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated, “Our purpose is to hit Hamas in such a way that it will force it to halt any firing and other hostile activities against Israel.” Although the operation decreased rocket attacks for more than a year, Hamas eventually resumed its attacks, leading to smaller–scale military action by Israel in fall 2012 and a much larger one in July 2014. The international community was highly critical of Israel’s actions as highlighted in the September 2009 UN sponsored Report on the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone (see: https://israeled.org/richard-goldstone-un-report/). Despite the conclusions of the report, Hamas continued its indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians, and efforts to kidnap Israelis, including Galid Shalit in June 2006.
Photo Credit: This picture was drawn by a young student in Sderot in November 2008. It depicts the artist and her friends as targets of Hamas’ Kassam rockets.