Over several months, Israel gathered intelligence on the Iranian-funded and trained Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror organization. On August 1, 2022, Israel arrested Bassam al-Saadi, the PIJ commander in Judea and Samaria. The phone of Ziyad Nakhalah, PIJ’s operator in Lebanon, was hacked, and Israel learned the PIJ wanted Iran to provide millions of dollars to support a revenge attack. Iran agreed, and PIJ planned sniper attacks, the launch of Kornet anti-tank missiles at Israeli vehicles near the Gaza border, and an assault on a civilian bus.
Israel launched a preemptive attack – Operation Breaking Dawn – on August 5. Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets used a Spice missile that prevents a building from collapsing after being hit to kill PIJ commander Tayseer al-Jabiri. An attack drone took out Abdallah Kadum on his way to order the Kornet strike, and the rest of his unit was later killed by IDF forces. A third top commander (Khaled Mansour) responsible for constructing attack tunnels was dead in another IAF strike.
As in other operations, Israel took precautions to avoid civilian casualties. According to the IDF, “during the elimination of Khaled Mansour, children were identified on site of the attack and hence it was postponed several times. Later, when the children were not in the area, the attack was carried out successfully.
In footage released by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, voices of soldiers can be heard saying: “I saw kids in the trees running around, cancel the attack.”
This recurred twice afterward: “There are still kids in the garden that is in front of the house and several kids close to the house.” The IDF conducted the strike on the fourth attempt after ensuring no children were in the area.
The IDF hit 170 targets during the fighting, destroying 45 long-range rocket launchers and 17 observation points along the Gaza border. Israeli forces also apprehended suspected members of PIJ in the West Bank.
Palestinian officials claimed that 49 Gazans were killed (including those from terrorist rockets), 27 in airstrikes. Israel says the total number of casualties was 35. PIJ admitted that 12 of its fighters were killed. At least 11 civilians died from errant rockets. The first hit a group of civilians in the Jabalia refugee camp, killing seven, including four children. The second killed a Hamas policeman and his three children.
As in the past, Israel was immediately blamed for attacks that resulted in civilian casualties. This was the case following the reported death of children in Jabalia. Israeli officials, however, presented evidence that no IDF action had been conducted in the vicinity and released a video showing a PIJ rocket had landed there.
One Gazan admitted weeks later he went to Jabalia and that “everyone knows the missile...was a local missile, but no one dares talk about it, especially to the media and the press.”
A Gaza journalist confirmed the account: “I saw with my own eyes a local missile strike. We only want the truth and a clear investigation into the matter. They want us not to talk about this matter, because if we talk, they describe us as collaborators with the occupation.”
Palestinians said 360 civilians in Gaza were wounded. No Israelis were killed; 47 civilians were taken to hospitals, including three injured from shrapnel, 31 hurt while seeking shelter from rockets, and 13 suffered anxiety attacks. The daily routine of thousands in the area surrounding Gaza was disrupted as many left their homes and others were forced to spend time in bomb shelters.
Hamas, which stayed out of the fighting, initially prohibited journalists operating out of Gaza from attributing these deaths to the misfires and ordered that they be blamed on Israel. Following an international media uproar, the policy was revoked.
Following the killing of the Hamas police officer, Hamas pressured PIJ to accept a ceasefire. On August 7, both sides accepted an Egyptian-mediated truce.
Israel said it killed “the entire senior security echelon of Islamic Jihad’s military wing in Gaza.” Nevertheless, Nakhalah called the results of the fighting “a historic achievement.” One Gaza-based analyst, however, said it occurred “for no reason, with no justification, and bringing no benefit.”
Most analysts attributed the decision by Hamas to hold their fire to the desire to see PIJ weakened. The group also did not want to suffer more casualties and destruction after rebuilding after Operation Guardian of the Walls. Hamas also wanted to take credit for improving living conditions created by Israel’s decision to provide more work permits to Gazans, which it could claim were obtained without making any concessions.
“I want to speak directly to the residents of the Gaza Strip and tell them: There is another way,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid proclaimed. “We know how to protect ourselves from anyone who threatens us, but we also know how to provide employment, a livelihood, and a life of dignity to those who wish to live by our side in peace.”
In an indication of the impact of the Abraham Accords, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates expressed concern about the violence but avoided criticism of Israel. Only Bahrain condemned Israel’s strikes.
President Biden welcomed the ceasefire and reiterated his support “for Israel’s security is long-standing and unwavering—including its right to defend itself against attacks.” He said, “the United States is proud of our support for Israel’s Iron-Dome, which intercepted hundreds of rockets and saved countless lives” and commended “Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his government’s steady leadership throughout the crisis.”
Sources: “Statement by President Biden on the Ceasefire in Gaza,” The White House, (August 7, 2022).
Patrick Kingsley, “Another Gaza Conflict, but With a Difference: Hamas Sat It Out,” New York Times, (August 8, 2022).
Isabel Kershner, “A Cease-Fire Holds After a 3-Day Gaza Conflict: Key Takeaways,” New York Times, (August 8, 2022).
“As Military Operation in Gaza Ends, the Dispute Over Casualties Begins,” Haaretz, (August 8, 2022).
Dov Lieber and Aaron Boxerman, “Israel Reopens Gaza Crossing as Cease-Fire Holds,” Wall Street Journal, (August 8, 2022).
Yoav Zitun, “IDF releases footage of Gaza strike being called off over civilians,” Ynet, (August 8, 2022).
Avi Issacharoff, “How Gaza’s Hamas wants to fight Israel through the West Bank,” Ynet, (August 11, 2022).
Yochanan Visser, “Behind the Scenes: Why Gaza War was a Quick Win for Israel,” Israel Today, (August 12, 2022).
Mark DubowitzBehnam and Ben Taleblu, “Why Palestinian Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill So Many Palestinians,” Haaretz, (August 14, 2022).
Yaniv Kubovich, “Israeli Strike Killed 5 Gaza Children, Officials Admit, After Initially Blaming Islamic Jihad,” Haaretz, (August 16, 2022).
“Gazans call for probe into Islamic Jihad missiles that killed civilians,” Al-Monitor, (August 24, 2022).
Photo: OCHA (UN), Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.