Have you ever heard of “Operation Cast Lead”? If you’re wondering if it has anything to do with lead – and if you think it’s associated with terms such as reloading lead, lead keels, cast bullet, shooting lead, lead weight, cast brass, roundballs and like terms – you may be in for a surprise. And no, it’s not even the name of a rock band or a wildly eclectic pop singer.
Operation Cast Lead actually refers to a military conflict that happened in Gaza, which started in December 27, 2008, and which lasted throughout the winter of 2008 to 2009 (it finally ended in January 17, 2009). It is known by different names, such as The War in the South, the Gaza War, and the Gaza massacre. Operation Cast Lead was initiated by the Israel government (led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert) as a reaction to the long-standing conflicts between Israel and the Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza strip. It is also rooted in political and cultural conflicts within Gaza itself.
The Gaza strip is located between Egypt and Israel, and has a population of more than 1.5 million people. It is predominantly Islamic, and its experienced political conflicts are mostly due to the power struggles between its two major ruling parties: Fatah, a secular nationalist political organization, and Hamas, a radical Islamic political organization that has been categorized by the United States, Canada, Japan and the European Union as a Muslim terrorist group. There were many violent conflicts between members of the Fatah and of Hamas, and between Hamas and Israel.
In February 2006, after Hamas gained a majority of the seats in the Palestinian legislative elections, it called for a truce with Israel, with the condition that Israel will withdraw from its occupied Palestinian territories. There were also repeated attempts for a truce between Fatah and Hamas, although there were still numerous incidents of conflict between the two factions; it escalated in 2007 with a civil war, wherein Hamas declared control over the Gaza strip while Fatah controlled the West Bank. Moves to organize peace were initiated, particularly with the March 2008 Sanaa Declaration. With this temporary ceasefire, Israel declared an economic blockade on Gaza, in an attempt to control the Hamas government there. Hamas militant groups reacted by firing rocket weapons on Israel. Eventually, Hamas and Israel declared a ceasefire, although this agreement was sporadically broken by both sides, through suicide bombers, militants and even military groups.
Another informal six-month truce between Hamas and Israel was declared, with the help of Egyptian mediators, on June 17, 2008. This was seriously broken in November when Israel raided the Gaza strip, to which Hamas retaliated by firing homemade rockets into Israel. Very soon after the expiration of the six-month truce, Hamas began to incessantly fire homemade weapons on Southern Israel. The Israeli government tried to negotiate with Hamas for another armistice, but negotiations ended in failure. This was the backdrop for putting Operation Cast Lead (December 27, 2008 at 11:30 am) underway.
Tactics employed by the Israeli government for the operation included using the press to mislead Hamas into thinking that the attack was still days away (which led to the Hamas leaders ordering their members to go out of hiding). It was a wide-scale military attack, with Israel using dozens of fighter jets and warplanes to drop more than 100 bombs across Gaza. Since the Hamas members were out of hiding, figures show that hundreds of them were killed in the Israeli offensive. However, figures show that almost a thousand Gaza civilians were also killed in the operations.
Israel’s primary objectives in launching the attacks were to put an end to Gaza’s rocket attacks against Israel, and to deal with Hamas forcefully.
Operation Cast Lead ended in January 17, 2009, with Israel officially declaring a unilateral ceasefire.