Following a series of bloody June attacks on Gaza by Israeli forces, including the weekend shelling of a beach that killed 8 Palestinian civilians, including 7 members of the same family and injured a further 32 civilians, including 13 children (9 June); a missile attack on a Gazan highway that killed eleven and injured 30 (13 June); and another missile attack that killed 3 children and wounded 15 others (20 June), Palestinian militants carried out a raid on Israeli military positions near Gaza on June 25th.
The raid resulted in the killing of two soldiers and the capture of one, Cpl Gilad Shalit. Israel had threatened an assault and the assassination of top Hamas leaders if the soldier was not freed, and has been deploying tanks along the border for several days. At 11:51PM* (Palestine time) on June 27th, Israel launched a large scale military assault on Gaza, as Israeli fighter planes carried out three airstrikes on Gazan bridges. Further strikes against Gazan power plants took place at 1:42AM, sending most of Gaza into darkness. At 2:24AM, Israeli forces began moving into Gaza to take control of the open areas east of Rafah.
At 5:08AM Israeli fighter planes began flying low over Gaza, causing intentional sonic booms. According to Israeli PM Ehud Olmert the aim of the invasion was “not to mete out punishment but rather to apply pressure so that the abducted soldier will be freed. We want to create a new equation — freeing the abducted soldier in return for lessening the pressure on the Palestinians.”
* Timestamp source: Ha’aretz
Nigel Parry is a cofounder of the Electronic Intifada.