Oct 24, 2012

#Israel and #Gaza: Context Behind Projectile Fire

As projectiles continue to fly in both directions between Israel and Gaza, heightening tensions and inflicting casualties, it is important to understand the genesis of this situation and get some basic facts straight. Earlier this year in "Half the story: What @IDFSpokesperson leaves out about #Gaza," I posted about the dynamics of cross-border fire in 2011 and demonstrated two important facts:

1) Israeli continues to inflict exponentially greater casualities against Palestinians than the reverse
2) Palestinian projectiles are largely generated as a response to Israeli strikes

This most recent escalation began, unsurprisingly, when Israel launched an unprovoked strike on 7 October. 11 Palestinians were injured, nearly half of which were children. It was from this point forward that the situation escalated. As projectiles from Gaza were returned, in response renewed Israeli strikes caused increased Palestinian casualties.

In doing the analysis on the 2011 numbers, I took data on Palestinian projectile launches and Palestinian casualties from Israeli projectile launches and analyzed them to understand the relationship between the two. Here, let’s look at the same for the first nine months of 2012. In the chart the red line signifies Palestinian casualties, which are injuries or deaths, as a result of Israeli fire in the Gaza strip. The blue line represents the projectile launches from the Gaza strip. I’ve marked certain peaks on the chart which are discussed below to help you understand what you are looking at.

[Click to enlarge]

As you can see there are three noticeable moments where projectile launches from Gaza to Israel dramatically spiked. These are represented at points 2, 3 and 7. Further, there are also four moments where Palestinian casualties from Israeli fire spike that are not followed by an immediate increase in Palestinian projectile fire. These are represented at points 1, 4, 5, and 6. Below I will briefly recap what occurred at each of the peaks.

1. An Israeli airstrike on 16 February ultimately left 11 injured. The Israeli military “said in a statement that it targeted two sites in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire.” Note that there was no noticeable retaliation with projectile fire from Gaza in the immediate aftermath of this Israeli strike.

2. After Israeli strikes which caused casualties on 19 February and another on 24 February, Palestinians in Gaza responded with projectile fire in the first significant uptick during this period.

3. Between peaks 2 and 3 there is almost no activity until Israel launched an unprovoked air strike on Gaza killing two and injuring others. This triggered a response from Gaza.  This peak was the highest of the year at the point and in the ensuing days tens of rockets were launched and Israeli strikes inflicted many more Palestinian casualties.

4, 5, and 6. On 30 March one man was killed and some 30 others were injured as Israel suppressed protests in Gaza near the Erez crossing. There was no remarkable projectile response. On 15 May and then again within 48 hours on 17 May, Israeli projectiles created numerous Palestinians casualties. The first was with tear gas canisters and the second with tank fire. Again, there was no remarkable projectile response. Then, a series of Israeli strikes from 1 to 3 June  resulted in further Palestinian casualties in Gaza. This too was not followed by a remarkable response of Palestinian projectiles.

7. On 17 and 18 June Israeli projectile fire into Gaza once again led to several casualties this time setting off a significant response of rocket fire and further Israelis strikes.

The picture that emerges from all of this can be summed up as follows:

1) the bulk of projectile fire from Gaza occurs as part of peaks or periodic spikes.
2) These spikes are invariably preceded by significant Palestinian causalities caused by Israeli fire.
3) Not all dramatic spikes in Palestinian casualties result in increased projectile fire from Gaza.

This tells us that, largely, the various factions in Gaza are restraining themselves and are not responding to every Israeli escalation. However, when members of militant factions outside of Hamas like the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) and Islamic Jihad are targeted and killed, the factions then respond as was the case in moments 3 and 7.

Projectile fire from Gaza could have been easily cut in half, if not more so, in the first nine months of 2012 had it not been for the Israeli strikes that provoked them. Israeli policies of extrajudicial assassination which ultimately create high Palestinian casualties and provoke projectiles from Gaza are self-defeating if the goal is to minimize projectile fire.

As the exchange of projectile between factions in Gaza and the Israeli military it is important to remember this context and understand the dynamics of violence, the sequence of events, and the overall impact of Israeli policies which serve the interests of no one except for officials in the Israeli government who might want voters to have security on their minds when they come to the polls.

***Update: In our earlier post we enumerated 2011 numbers for Palestinian casualties and the types of Israeli weaponry used to inflict those casualties:

In 2011, the projectiles fired by the Israeli military into Gaza have been responsible for the death of 108 Palestinians, of which 15 where women or children and the injury of 468 Palestinians of which 143 where women or children. The methods by which these causalities were inflicted by Israeli projectiles breaks down as follows: 57 percent or 310, were caused by Israeli Aircraft Missile fire, 28 percent or 150 where from Israeli live ammunition, 11 percent or 59 were from Israeli tank shells while another 3 percent or 18 were from Israeli mortar fire.

Through September 2012, Israeli weaponry has resulted in  55 Palestinian deaths and 257 injuries. Among these 312 casualties 61, or roughly 20 percent were children and 28 were female. 209 of these casualties came as a result of Israeli Air Force Missiles, 69 from live ammunition fire and 18 from tank shells. It is important to note that these figures do not represent a totality of Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza but rather only Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza which cause casualties. The total number of Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza is bound to be significant larger. All numbers for casualties here come from UN OCHA.

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