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‘More civilians in Gaza were killed by Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets than by Israeli strikes’




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"Close to one-third of the Palestinians who died in the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Gaza militants may have been killed by errant rockets fired by the Palestinian side, according to an Israeli military assessment that appears consistent with independent reporting by The Associated Press," AP wrote in a tweet last Monday (8 August) one day after a ceasefire was agreed in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Jihad Islamic (PIJà with the mediation of Egypt, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

"This Associated Press tweet is not meant to justify, minimize or to relativize actions or suffering in the ongoing Gaza conflict," the news agency added. "We are sharing this since “backfire” casualties caused by Islamic Jihad was either omitted or underrated. We encourage you to watch the video of our yesterday’s briefing, with the hope of adding perspective about Islamic Jihad."

The Israeli army said 47 Palestinians were killed in the three days of fighting — at least 14 of them by Islamic Jihad-fired rockets that fell short. No one in Gaza with direct knowledge of the explosions in question was willing to speak about them publicly, the Associated Press said. "But live TV footage showed rockets falling short in densely packed residential neighborhoods. And AP visits to the sites of two explosions that killed a total of 12 people lent support to suspicions they were caused by rockets that went off course."

During a live broadcast on 7 August, Lebanon’s Mayadeen TV caught a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket misfiring and coming down in a Gaza neighborhood. The correspondent can be heard telling the cameraman to avert the camera. According to the Associated Press, Hamas issued and then withdrew sweeping restrictions on foreign journalists working in the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the conflict. The restrictions included a ban on coverage about PIJ rockets falling short in Gaza and causing injuries and deaths, as well as a general rule requiring that Jerusalem be blamed for the latest escalation, according to the report. The violence began Friday (5 August), when Israel launched a wave of preemptive airstrikes against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in the Gaza Strip, because of what the IDF described as an imminent threat to Israeli civilians living near the Gaza border. A senior commander of the PIJ was killed as well as several of their operatives who were planning the attack.

"From our intelligence, whe knew that they had concrete plans to carry out an attack against Israeli civilians close to the border with Gaza. We saw that this threat was imminent. This is why on Friday afternoon (5 August) we carried out preemptive strikes against these specific people that planned this attack against our civilians," an Israeli official said.

"The operation had two main goals: defensive, to protect the citizens of Israel from the barrage of rockets and offensive: to damage the PIJ military capabilities by strikes with precise guided weapons targeting weapon storages, rocket launchers and production facilities."

"It’s the basic duty of a country to prevent such attacks and protect its citizens." By the time a cease-fire took effect Sunday night, the PIJ, a terrorist group supported and funded by Iran, had fired 1,170 rockets and mortars into the south and the center of Israel from Gaza, and Israeli aircraft had struck dozens of suspected terrorist targets. "Of the total number of rockets fired, 20% of them or 180 to be precise, landed in the Gaza Strip, causing casualties among the population," said the Israeli official.


According to him more civilians in Gaza were killed by PIJ rockets than by Israeli strikes. Israel claimed victory in part because it killed two senior PIJ commanders and because no Israelis were killed or seriously wounded. The Iron Dome system intercepted 97% of the rockets launched by the terrorist group. The air strikes also damaged the PIJ’s capabilities, destroying rocket launchers launchers and their production facilities.

"We have damaged the PIJ military capabilities with minimal collateral damages and limited civilian casualties. Every civilian casualty is a tragedy and it’s been investigated, We’ve done everything we could to avoid them, but there have been rocket launchings from school yards or apartments and it’s almost impossible not causing some harm,” the official said.

He noted that, as shown in a video posted on social media, several air strikes against PIJ commanders have been delayed when the IDF discovered the presence of a single civilian in the vicinity of the target (see video below). The Palestinian Islamic Jihad is an older organization than the other terrorist group, Hamas, that governs the Gaza Strip. "It’s a very radical and dangerous organization that doesn’t have any aspiration to become the ruler of any Palestinian territory, contrary to Hamas," explained Kobi Michael, senior research fellow at the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, during an online briefing for journalists organized by Europe Israel Press Association on Monday.

"Their only agenda, their ‘raison d’être’, is to lead the armed resistance against Israel.’’ Since the last decade, it became a pure proxy of Iran. The PIJ leader, Ziyad Nakhalah, was (and is still) in Tehran during the three days of Israel’s operation against the group. Although it is a Sunni group, the Iranian Shiite theocracy uses them (and the other Sunni group in Gaza, Hamas) as tools to destabilise the Middle East and attack Israel. Despite these similarities, it’s important to highlight the differences between the two groups : Hamas, who has been ruling Gaza since it took power fifteen years ago after a military takeover in which dozens of Palestinians from Fatah were killed, is also a terrorist organization but also a political, social and religious movement.

Its immediate objective is to defeat Fatah and take over the Palestinian Authority which rules the West Bank. The PIJ has no such aspirations and corresponds more to the traditional scheme of a terrorist organisation. It was founded in the early eighties while Hamas was created later. Over the last few years, in the wake of the Palestinian Authoirity’s weakness, PIJ has become stronger in the West bank – especially in the northern part- and has been responsible for a wave of terror attacks against Israelis. According to Kobi Michael, the reason for the high percentage of failure in launching rockets is that the technical capacity of the PIJ is much lower that that of Hamas or Hezbollah.

"The rockets they produce are of low quality," he said. "Those that have reached distances of 80 to 100 kilometers into the Israeli territory have not been manufactured by the PIJ but are Iranian-made and have been introduced into Gaza through the Sinai and maritime routes," he added.

Hamas, which is the main organization controlling Gaza, has remained on the sidelines of the conflict and didn’t participate actively. "It is a strong sign to how much they understood that it was a result of PIJ decisions that were bad for the Palestinian people in Gaza. Thats why we expect Hamas to be in control of Gaza and to have much tighter control of Islamic Jihad. We expect Hamas, as much as they want to continue enjoying the prosperity they had in the last year, with over 40,000 Palestinian workers going into Israel daily, to make sure that the situation in Gaza remain quiet and stable and that there are no threats to Israeli civilians from the other side of the border," the Israeli official stressed.

One day after the cease-fire came into effect, Israel reopened the Keren Shalom commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza to allow trucks carrying fuel and other vital goods to enter the Strip. "We went to improve the life of the 2 million of people living in Gaza in many ways, water, electricity, sewage, but also allowing an increasing number of Palestinians from Gaza entering Israel for work,” said the Israeli official.

"I want to stress how complicated it is since Hamas, which controls Gaza, is continously calling for Palestinians to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel. But at the same time, people are going into Israel working in a variety of jobs. While each of them is security screened there is a potential risk of them having malign intentions."

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