The six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza ended on Dec. 19, 2009. Israel had carried out a major raid on Gaza on Nov. 4, 2008, killing five armed Palestinians and one civilian.
Hamas announced that the raid put the ceasefire in jeopardy, but most international attention was focused on the US elections held that same day. Rocket fire at Israeli cities by Palestinian groups in Gaza increased. Negotiations were underway through Cairo to extend the ceasefire, but later reports indicated that Israel had been planning for months to carry out a major Gaza offensive rather than renew the mutual pact.
Israel launched an aerial offensive on the Gaza Strip on Dec. 27, 2009, which was then expanded into a ground offensive. Following is a timeline of the offensive, which ended with a unilateral troop withdrawal on Jan. 18, 2009:
GAZA WAR TIMELINE
WEEK 1 (Dec. 27, 2008 – Jan. 2, 2009)
Dec. 27 – More than 50 Israeli war planes fire missiles at numerous areas of the Gaza Strip. Targets include police headquarters of Hamas leadership in Gaza. Top Hamas leader Sheikh Nizar Rayyan is assassinated.
During the week, white phosphorus bombs are used by Israeli military for first time during attempts to occupy Jabbal al-Rais, east of Gaza city.
WEEK 2 (Jan. 3 – Jan. 7, 2009)
Second phase of war starts with deployment of ground forces. Israeli troops undertake intensive shelling of northern Gaza. Residential buildings come under fire. Palestinian death toll at this stage is estimated at 700, with 3,000 wounded.
Rockets attacks against Israel continue. Approximately 100 rockets are launched to target Israel during this week.
Israeli forces enter Beit Lahia, while residents evacuate. Fierce battles take place between the army and Palestinian fighters. Three Israeli soldiers are killed.
Jan. 7 – Israeli shelling of an UNRWA school sheltering civilians kills 45 Palestinians. An additional 55 injuries are reported. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council fails to adopt a ceasefire resolution.
WEEK 3 (Jan. 8 – Jan. 13, 2009)
Jan. 8 – UN Security Council adopts resolution 1,860. Meanwhile intense fighting continues between Palestinian factions and Israeli forces.
Death toll reachs 1,033 Palestinians with 4,850 wounded.Casualties includes 330 children and 80 women.
As many as 560 rockets are launched on Israel, including 90 grad missiles.
FINAL WEEK (Jan. 15 – Jan. 18, 2009)
Jan. 15 – Israeli army assassinates Hamas interior minister Said Siam, along with his brother, a commander in Izzedin Qassam brigades. Meanwhile, Egyptian mediation efforts succeed in convincing Hamas delegation to travel to Cairo.
Jan. 16 – Gaza Strip experiences the most violent shelling since start of war. Northern Beit Lahia is heavily targeted.
Jan. 17 – Israel announces unilateral ceasefire. Palestinian factions agree to ceasefire and demand Israeli forces to withdraw in a week’s time.
Jan. 18 – Israeli troops begin to withdraw. Death toll reaches 1,330.