The attack on Gaza was self-defence – myths and facts

“The attack on Gaza was self-defence.”

a graph showing numbers killed prior to Gaza War 2008
Israelis killed by Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians killed by Israelis in Gaza prior to the 2008 Gaza War
source: B’tSelem.
  • During the Israeli assault that started on 27 December 2008 and lasted 22 days, 13 Israelis were killed and 1,400 Palestinians.[1]
  • The Israeli attack codenamed Operation Cast Lead actually followed a six-month calm in which there were no Israeli deaths. Even when Israel broke the calm, killing 17 Gazans in November, Hamas stood still and did not retaliate.[2]
  • There was also a huge dis proportionality in arms. Israeli airstrikes are made by F-16s, Apache helicopters and drones while al-qassam rockets were, according to the UN’s Goldstone Report, “fashioned from rudimentary materials such as hollow metal pipes (…) relatively unsophisticated weapons and lacking a guidance system”.


  • An Egyptian-brokered six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas came into force on 19 June 2008, policed in Gaza by Hamas, and expired on 19 December. On 27 December Israel began the assault on Gaza which ended on 22 January 2009 with 1,400 Palestinians dead.
  • Operation Cast Lead is the Israeli term for the bombardment of Gaza during December 2008 and January 2009. The term gives the impression it was a legitimate military operation or a war. Under international law, as occupying power, Israel is obliged to protect the Gazan civilian population. The wholly disproportionate nature of the attack and the deliberate assault on civilians and civilian infrastructure were widely condemned. Armed conflict in Gaza was not between two states or even between a state and a non-state actor, but against a defenceless population.

[1] See statistics at Annexures

[2] See statistics at Annexures

“We never starve the Gazans. We always let humanitarian goods in.”

  • Israel is restricting food supplies into Gaza allowing an average 1,000 lorries a week to enter Gaza so far this year compared with 2,807 a week before the blockade.
  • This is part of an undeclared policy of ‘semi-starvation’ designed to punish the Gazans for voting for Hamas.
  • Gazans’ per capita gdp has fallen by 17 % since 2005 pushing the standard of living down with 38% defined as “poor”, 44% as “food insecure” and 80% receiving UN food aid.


  • Israel was forced in the High Court to admit authorship of a classified document on ‘‘Food Consumption in the Gaza Strip’’ for use by occupation authorities to measure Gazans’ ‘humanitarian minimum’ calorific requirements depending on age, height, weight and sex.
  • Dov Weissglass, Prime Minister Sharon’s bureau chief, told a private meeting, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”[1]


Contact Details

This briefing has been produced by Martin Linton, Sally Fitzharris and Taris Ahmad. For further questions please contact:

Martin Linton,

Sally Fitzharris,

Taris Ahmad,

Further information

Map of West Bank settlement

Trajectory of the Wall


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