Air Raids Terrorize
Gaza Residents, Target Key Infrastructure
By Jon Elmer
05 October, 2005
The New Standard
Gaza City, Oct
3 - Israeli pilots carried out a series of air strikes accompanied
by artillery barrages throughout the Gaza Strip, targeting civilian
infrastructure, assassinating militants and striking fear into the population
with deafening noise as low-flying F-16 fighter jets shatter the sound
barrier overhead day and night.
Coming only weeks
after the completion of Prime Minister Ariel Sharons Gaza "disengagement,"
the offensive by the Israeli Air Force is officially ongoing, though
strikes have been suspended for some days following a unilateral ceasefire
observed by Hamas militants.
First Rain," the offensive is ostensibly designed to target terrorists
responsible for firing improvised rockets into the southern Israeli
town of Sderot, injuring several people. A spokesperson for the Israel
Defense Forces (IDF) told The NewStandard that militants fired a total
of 37 rockets and three mortar shells from Gaza between Friday, September
23 and Tuesday, September 27, when the leaders of Hamas and Islamic
Jihad declared an end to the rocket attacks.
Minister Shaul Mofaz said publicly that Israel would respond to the
attacks with an "iron fist," and Israeli retaliation continued
for days after Hamass missiles fell silent.
"If the sleep
of Sderots children is disturbed and theres a feeling of
insecurity among some Sderot residents, the same will be true for Hamas
and [Islamic] Jihad leaders," he told reporters on the GazaIsrael
The insecurity in
Gaza, however, is felt far beyond the Palestinian militias. In addition
to political offices, metal shops and warehouses, Israeli warplanes
and helicopters have fired missiles at civilian infrastructure including
a roadway, school, bridge, residential homes, and two power generators
that were struck early Wednesday morning, cutting off electricity to
Gaza Citys 500,000 residents for hours.
The sonic booms
that erupt when F-16 fighter jets break the sound barrier over the tiny
coastal strip often knock pictures from the walls of Palestinian homes.
Residents are compelled to keep their windows open lest the pressure
blow them out. The sporadic, thunderous claps rattle the nerves of adults
and children alike.
Sajida Srour, the director of a kindergarten and nursery school in Gaza
City, said the children long accustomed to F-16s scream
whenever the sonic booms rip through the air, and it is not uncommon
for the children to wet themselves.
If insecurity is
the goal, the air raids have been effective, added Fadi Srour, who is
among the staff at his mothers nursery. "It works. People
Gaza residents told
TNS that deafening booms from low-flying supersonic aircraft constitute
a tactic that was not used by the Israeli Air Force when Jewish settlers
lived in Gaza.
Israel also resumed
its policy of assassination this week, killing senior Islamic Jihad
leader Mohammad Sheikh Khalil on Sunday with a targeted strike at his
car on a busy Gaza City street. The Israeli military killed four others
it said were suspected militants in two separate attacks in Gaza.
to widen the targeted killings. "If Hamas [leaders] Mahmoud Al-Zahar,
Ismail Haniyeh and others continue to shoot Qassam [rockets], we will
send them to where Yassin and Rantisi are now," the minister said,
referring to the assassinations of Hamas co-founders Sheikh Ahmad Yassin
and Abdel Aziz Rantissi, killed by Israeli air strikes in early 2004.
Israel has assassinated
more than 150 Palestinian military and political leaders during the
According to a Palestine
Red Crescent Society report, the Israeli air strikes injured at least
32 civilians throughout the week, including an infant who was among
the 22 wounded when Israel bombed the Dar Al-Arqam school in Gaza City
Abu Yassin, who
lives across the street from the school, said the two missiles that
struck the school sounded similar to the sonic booms, "except this
time we saw a huge flash of light, followed by screaming and crying
and then the sound of sirens as ambulances came to evacuate the wounded."
Large sections of
the school were destroyed as floors collapsed on top of one another.
Crushed and mangled desks and chairs were left covered in a thick concrete
dust. Several nearby houses were sprayed with large pieces of shrapnel,
and a large chunk of the schools floor tiling lay in Abu Yassins
Dar Al-Arqam is an Islamic boys school in the Tufah district of Gaza
City. The school is part of Hamas's expansive social infrastructure
throughout Gaza, which includes daycares, hospitals and economic welfare
than 1,000 students are predominately in the elementary grades; enrollment
is open to all Palestinians, and the school operates under a Palestinian
makes no distinction between the civilian and military infrastructure
of Hamas. Israeli Captain Yael Hartmann told TNS that the school was
targeted because "it was bringing up the next generation of Hamas
The day after the
attack, hundreds of school children took to the streets in protest of
rocket fire began early on the morning of Friday, September 23 in response
to an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Tul Karm during which Israel
killed three Islamic Jihad militants. The rockets increased following
an explosion at a Hamas rally in the Gaza refugee camp of Jabalya on
Friday afternoon, which killed 21 Palestinians and injured more than
60, including many children. Hamas blamed Israel, but most other sources
claim the explosion was an accident involving Hamas weaponry. Hamas
has since formally discontinued all armed rallies.
On Wednesday, Israel
fired artillery into the Gaza Strip, hitting a field outside Beit Hanoun
from where many of the rockets were fired.
The chief of Operation
First Rain, Major General Yisrael Zvi, told reporters that Israel may
use artillery against civilian homes in the densely populated area of
northern Gaza. "We will warn residents, make sure they leave, and
then fire artillery into the area," he said without elaborating
on how they would ensure the population some 100,000 people
Defense Forces will turn this town into a demilitarized zone,"
Zvi added in reference to Beit Hanoun.
armor and artillery are currently amassed on the Gaza border, threatening
a ground invasion.
On Sunday, Captain
Hartmann characterized Operation First Rain as a "success"
and told TNS that the offensive would continue despite Hamas's public
statements and adherence to a ceasefire since Tuesday.
marked the end of the fifth year of the Palestinian uprising that began
on September 28, 2000. In the fifth year, the least deadly thus far,
425 Palestinians and 56 Israelis died in violence, according to data
collected from the IDF, Israeli Foreign Ministry and human rights group
BTselem, Haaretz reported.
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