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Israeli incursions into Gaza are the rule, not the exception

Israeli troops have crossed into Gaza over 70 times this year alone, according to the UN. And those are only the incursions we know about.

Illustrative file photo of Israeli troops deployed along the Gaza border. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Illustrative file photo of Israeli troops deployed along the Gaza border. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Since Israeli special forces troops got into a deadly firefight with Hamas commandos deep inside the Gaza Strip Sunday night, Israel has dropped dozens of bombs and missiles into Gaza and Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

The New York Times described the special forces raid as “the first known Israeli ground incursion into Gaza since Operation Protective Edge, in July 2014.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Since the start of 2015 through the end of October 2018, the Israeli army made 262 known ground incursions and operations to level land inside the Gaza Strip, including over 70 this year alone. This does not include the unknown number of covert operations like the one that went awry on Sunday.

As one retired Israeli general explained on national television, such covert raids across enemy lines are actually rather routine. “Activities that most civilians aren’t aware of happen all the time, every night and in every region,” Tal Russo told Israel’s Channel 10 while discussing the events in Gaza.

According to data obtained by +972 Magazine from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel carried out 21 incursions into Gaza in 2014 (excluding the seven-week war). The next year, in 2015, that number more than doubled, to 56 incidents. In 2016 and 2017, 68 and 65 incursions took place, respectively. By end of October 2018, 73 such incidents had been recorded, according to the UN data.

What is exceptional about Sunday’s action is not that Israeli soldiers crossed into Gaza, but that the military operation was exposed. Most of the time when Israeli forces infiltrate the coastal enclave, they remain within 200 to 300 meters of the border fence, Ibtisam Zaqout, head of field work at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights explained to +972.



Soldiers routinely cross in military bulldozers, not by foot, mostly to raze and level land in order to maintain line of sight in the Israeli-maintained “buffer zone” along the border, she added.

Israel hasn’t consistently determined the perimeter of this access-restricted area along the fence with Gaza, and it has often employed deadly violence to ward off Gaza residents. Between 2010 and 2017, Israeli security forces killed at least 161 Palestinians and injured more than 3,000 near the Gaza-Israel fence, according to a Gisha report published in August.

These regular restrictions of movement near the fence, which the report describes as “arbitrary” and “inconsistent,” are not only life-threatening, but they also severely harm the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Gazan farmers and herders, and stifle the strip’s economic development.

The restriction of movement along the fence, in addition to the daytime, overt incursions that affect farmers and scrap collectors, are just two examples of the ways in which Israel continues to exert control over Palestinians in Gaza despite the “disengagement” of 2005. Since Hamas took control of the strip in June 2007, Israel has also maintained a strict land, air and sea blockade.

The covert incursions we learned about Sunday night demonstrate something even broader, however. The raid came at the height of the most serious cease-fire talks we’ve seen between Israel and Hamas since 2014. That it occurred just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared he was doing everything to avert another war, suggests that Israel did not intend for it to actually spark an escalation. In other words, there was nothing special about the cross-border raid other than the fact that it left seven people dead.

Asked on Monday about the frequency of cross-border incursions into Gaza in recent years, an IDF spokesperson would only say that the army “does not discuss such matters.”

[Editor’s note: In accordance with our legal obligation, this article was sent to the IDF Censor for review prior to publication. We are not allowed to indicate if and where the article was censored.]

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    1. If the Arabs who oppose the existence of Israel and deny the right of the Jews to have a homeland in the Land of Israel weren’t so stupid, there could be peace and the Gazans would live in peace and thrive. The leaders in Gaza are depriving the citizens of Gaza a normal life. This is a war crime!

      Reply to Comment
      • Ray Packham

        So its the “leaders in Gaza” that are depriving the citizens of a normal life. That’s funny, I thought it was the Israelis that had bombed the airport, closed the sea port, shot and kidnapped fishermen, assassinated leaders, bombed civilians, closed the perimeter (its not a ‘border’) and shot medics tending the wounded near the fence……. I must have ben watching the wrong TV Station….how do I tune in to ‘Hasbara TV’?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Brian Cohen

      Strange that in all the talk about “incursions” the author fails to mention two key points: the incursions by Hamas and PIJ into Israel that left over 1000 Israelis dead and the almost 20 years of highly illegal rocket attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians. In fact, she only mentions “rockets” once in the article as if they only popped up after the incident with the IDF incursion. The truth is that Hamas policy is to spit in the face of international law and to shoot rockets at Israeli civilians. That’s a war crime. In fact, Hamas has a long history of committing war crimes as its policy (not mentioned in the article). And Hamas rejects the peace process (also not mentioned in the article). Hamas is illegally holding Israeli civilians hostage (yes, illegal because they refuse to let the Red Cross visit as required by intl law).
      So what’s the big deal about the repeated incursions when Hamas policy is for war?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “Hamas is illegally holding Israeli civilians hostage (yes, illegal because they refuse to let the Red Cross visit as required by intl law).”

        What is most interesting about your viewpoint, Brian Cohen, is the way it blithely gives Israel a special pass you won’t give the other side. That is, how your viewpoint blithely ignores the fact that Israel for over fifty years now has been illegally holding the entire Palestinian populace of the occupied West Bank and Gaza captive, and as we saw recently in Gaza, but not only in Gaza, killing civilians pretty much whenever it feels like, which is often and in large numbers. But you are obsessed with Red Cross visits. Could it be because Red Cross visits are what we think of when we think of human beings and their treatment? When’s the last time thousands of Palestinian prisoners disappeared into Israeli indefinite detention without due process got a lawyer never mind a Red Cross visit? When they were tortured by the Shin Bet and military intelligence operatives did they get a Red Cross visit during the procedure?

        Reply to Comment
        • Brian Cohen

          Ben, like most alleged “liberal progressives” you take the subject of Hamas subjugation of Gaza and simply ignore it.
          International law applies to both Israel and the Palestinians, and on the Palestinian side that means both governments: Fatah and Hamas. I personally do not agree with administration detention and agree that nobody should be held without being charged and having a fair and open trial.
          But have you ever heard of such a thing in Gaza? Of course not, because it does not exist at all. You conveniently ignore the fact that Hamas rejects international law and brings death and destruction on Gaza as part of its policy. Instead of standing up for Gazans and opposing Hamas, liberal progressives simply ignore it and try to blame everything on Israel.
          So instead of saying yes, Hamas is indeed a major part of the problem and yes, they violate international law and must stop and yes, they must allow the red cross to visit prisoners (administrative detention prisoners in Israeli jails are allowed red cross visits) you simply ignore it all and blame Israel for all the Palestinians ills.
          And with thousands of political prisoners in Fatah and Hamas jails being regularly tortured and sometimes killed, where is your outcry if you allegedly support Palestinians?
          Like you, leftists are silent about Palestinians abusing Palestinians. It is fashionable, trendy and politically correct to ignore Palestinian crimes against Palestinians. The bottom line is that Hamas is indeed the Islamofascist military ruler of Gaza. It’s time for 972 to get off their comfy chairs and actually address this major issue facing the Palestinians.
          And for Ray, yes, the “leaders in Gaza” were the ones who promoted the second intifada in which 1000 Israelis were murdered. Deal with it. And yes, the border is indeed recognized by the international community, as is the international law that says shooting rockets at civilians is a war crime.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            @Brian Cohen: The one thing you say about the Left that is true is that they pay attention to the powerless more than the powerful. No one here, least of all me, thinks there are any good leading actors in this drama. (See Samer Badawi’s piece here of Nov. 11th–I align myself with Samer’s thinking). But it is Israel that kicked off this current round with its intrusion into Gaza–and it is Israel that has ALL the power, and holds all the cards, and plays and manipulates Hamas like a fiddle–not too much violence, not too little. Israel complains about Hamas outwardly but secretly loves the Hamas, and loves to divide and conquer and play the feigned helplessness card, so yes, Ray Packham is exactly right. In fact, in America currently it is fashionable, trendy and politically correct to ignore the Palestinians altogether. And when Israel was the one with scant power, when it was the underdog years ago, it was fashionable, trendy and politically correct to support Israel. The Right, busily anti-Semitizing and spieling anti-“progressive” rhetoric like yours, likes to forget that when Israel was the underdog it got plenty of support from “progressives” and all those Europeans Israel now likes to vilify. But Israel is no longer the underdog by a long shot, it is more like the modern Romans, and the Palestinian “terrorists” are more akin to the ancient Sicarii. Chew on that for a minute. It explains much more about “The Left” than you realize. So I stand by every word of what I wrote and, again, I agree with Ray Packham.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            And to underscore what I am saying, take note of what Bruce Gould writes below: “Israel is by far the stronger power, and it has no proposal for two states on the table, it has not asked for any negotiations, and the settlements keep expanding.”

            Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      It is a sad fact of life that the distinction between civilians and military in conflicts is the exception and not the rule – in the last “war” between Israel and Gaza the IDF was lobbing 100 pound artillery shells into densely populated civilian areas (not to mention the Nakba).

      Israel is by far the stronger power, and it has no proposal for two states on the table, it has not asked for any negotiations, and the settlements keep expanding
      ( https://www.middleeasteye.net/Israel-settlement-unites-Hebron ). What’s the endgame?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Lewis from Afula

      Re: “Israeli troops have crossed into Gaza over 70 times this year alone, according to the UN. And those are only the incursions we know about.”

      Yep, but the nice peaceful Jihadis from Hamas have never attempted to cross into Israel……

      Does 972 mag attempt to try to sound stupid or do they do it naturally ?

      Reply to Comment
    5. The article is correctly researched and unbiased, unless the reader is. I, and many other Jews see that, Those who have posted ugly, untrue information in their comments only serve to strengthen the argument of the victims of Corpo-zionism, Palestinian, Arab and Jew.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Aaron

      “[Editor’s note: In accordance with our legal obligation, this article was sent to the IDF Censor for review prior to publication. We are not allowed to indicate if and where the article was censored.]”

      How about a daily “censor canary”?


      Reply to Comment