Key Moments in a 50-Day War: A Timeline

Key Moments in a 50-Day War:
A Timeline

Daniel Rubenstein

Overview

In the first week of July 2014, Hamas’ rocket attacks against Israel intensified. In response, the Israel Air Force struck targets in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government emphasized that if Hamas stopped firing rockets, Israel would have no reason to act. Hamas continued to escalate its attacks. On July 8, Israel declared the start of Operation Protective Edge; its goal was to restore quiet to southern Israel and to make Hamas pay a price for its ongoing rocket barrages. The IDF operation remained an air campaign until July 17, when a Hamas tunnel infiltration led to a limited IDF ground incursion in order to locate and destroy the underground passages that opened inside Israel. IDF ground forces completed that mission and withdrew from Gaza on August 5, but Hamas’ rocket attacks continued; so, too, did the IDF air campaign. On August 26, Hamas – which had rejected or violated 11 ceasefires during the war – accepted an open-ended ceasefire, having achieved none of its demands for an airport, a seaport, open borders, prisoner releases and more.

Rocket Chart of daily rockets coming from Gaza

Click to enlarge: Hamas and other terrorists groups in the Gaza Strip fired more than 4,500 rockets at Israel during the summer 2014 war. (Source for data: IDF Intelligence presentation to foreign reporters on Sep. 3, 2014)

The following timeline is a brief summary of the major events in the summer war.

July 8

In response to a dramatic increase in Hamas rocket and mortar attacks, the IDF declared the start of Operation Protective Edge. Hamas commandos infiltrated Israel by sea at Zikim. Rockets hit Jerusalem and Hadera (100 km. from Gaza) and were intercepted over Tel Aviv and surrounding areas.

Leaked IDF video of the Hamas frogmen assault on the Mediterranean coast inside Israel, just north of the Gaza Strip border, on July 8, 2014.

Hamas spokesman:

“This is not the time for quiet. We have a bank of various targets. An Iron Dome [missile battery] will be needed in every Israeli home.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon:

“We are prepared for a campaign against Hamas, which will not end within days. Hamas is leading the current confrontation to a place in which it seeks to exact a heavy price from our home front. There is a need for patience.”

July 9

Rockets hit Zichron Yaakov, 120 km. from Gaza.

July 13

Rockets fired from Gaza struck Bethlehem and a Palestinian house in Hebron.

 Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron inspect the damage to a house that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on July 12, 2014. (EPA/Abed Al Hashlamoun)

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron inspect the damage to a house that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on July 12, 2014. (EPA/Abed Al Hashlamoun)

The IDF dropped warning leaflets over the Gaza Strip with specific evacuation instructions. Hamas urged Palestinians to ignore the IDF’s warnings.

Left: Original Arabic flyer dropped over the northern Gaza Strip on July 13, 2014, with specific evacuation instructions for the residents of Beit Lahia; Right: English translation of flyer for illustrative purposes (IDF/Twitter)

Left: Original Arabic flyer dropped over the northern Gaza Strip on July 13, 2014, with specific evacuation instructions for the residents of Beit Lahia; Right: English translation of flyer for illustrative purposes (IDF/Twitter)

July 14

Hamas launched a UAV into Israel. The IDF intercepted it with a Patriot missile above Ashdod.

July 15

At 9:00 a.m., Israel accepted an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire and halted all strikes in Gaza. Over the next six hours, Hamas fired 50 rockets at Israel. An Israeli civilian was killed by mortar fire at the Erez border crossing. At 3:00 p.m., the IDF resumed its operations in Gaza.

A fire in Eilat in the aftermath of a Hamas rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on July 15, 2014. (IDF/Twitter)

A fire in Eilat in the aftermath of a rocket attack on July 15, 2014. (IDF/Twitter)

July 16

The IDF dropped warning leaflets over Gaza with specific evacuation instructions.

Left: Original Arabic flyer dropped over the Gaza Strip on July 16, 2014, with specific evacuation instructions for the residents of Shuja'iya and Zeitoun. The arrows direct people to move into Gaza City. Right: English translation of flyer for illustrative purposes (IDF/Twitter)

Left: Original Arabic flyer dropped over the Gaza Strip on July 16, 2014, with specific evacuation instructions for the residents of Shuja’iya and Zeitoun. The arrows direct people to move into Gaza City. Right: English translation of flyer for illustrative purposes (IDF/Twitter)

July 17

In the morning, 13 Palestinians infiltrated Israel through a tunnel dug from Gaza. The tunnel began in the southern Gaza Strip and exited near Kibbutz Sufa. The terrorists were heavily armed with RPGs and assault rifles and were prepared to carry out a massacre. The IDF foiled their attack, saving countless Israeli lives.

The IDF neutralized Hamas terrorists after they infiltrated Israel from Gaza via a tunnel on July 17, 2014. (IDF/YouTube)

After the tunnel infiltration, the IDF announced that it agreed to a UN request for a humanitarian window in Gaza and would hold its fire for five hours. Three mortars fired from Gaza hit Israel in that time. After the five-hour window expired, Hamas fired over 100 rockets at Israel.

In the evening, the IDF intercepted a UAV above Ashkelon with a Patriot missile.

At night, the IDF began a large-scale ground operation in Gaza. Before it began, the IDF dropped leaflets in 14 areas of Gaza, warning civilians to evacuate well-defined areas and providing clear instructions about where to move for their safety.

IDF statement:

“Following ten days of Hamas attacks against Israel by land, air, and sea – and after repeated rejections of offers to de-escalate the situation – the Israel Defense Forces has started a new phase of Operation Protective Edge. A large IDF force of infantry, tanks, artillery, combat engineers, and field intelligence is entering the Gaza Strip. The force is supported by the Israel Air Force, Navy, and other Israeli security agencies.

Their mission is to target Hamas’ tunnels that cross under the Israel-Gaza border and enable terrorists to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks.

Such a goal requires intensive and precise operations inside Gaza. Hamas terrorists are operating underground, and that is where the IDF will meet them. The IDF intends to impair Hamas’ capability to attack Israel.

Hamas fires rockets at Israelis around the clock – 1,500 since July 8. The IDF is operating in order to counter this threat.”

July 19

Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel in three separate incidents. In one attack, a Hamas squad emerged from a tunnel wearing IDF uniforms and fired an RPG at an IDF jeep, killing two IDF officers.

Weapons found after Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel on July 19, 2014. (IDF/Twitter)

Weapons found after Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel on July 19, 2014. (IDF/Twitter)

July 20

Overnight, 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya – seven of them in a troop carrier that took a direct hit from an anti-tank missile, and six others in subsequent fighting. Hamas captured the body of IDF soldier Sgt. Oron Shaul. Israel approved a two-hour humanitarian window in the area of Shujaiya, following a Red Cross request. Forty minutes after the ceasefire began, Hamas violated it. Nevertheless, Israel extended the ceasefire for two more hours.

July 21

Two Hamas squads infiltrated Israel from northern Gaza via a tunnel. They were identified by IDF lookouts and targeted by air and ground forces.

The IDF thwarts a Hamas infiltration into Israel on July 21, 2014. (IDF/YouTube)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon:

“We are prepared to continue the operation as long as necessary, and, if necessary, to enlist more combat forces from the reserves until we bring quiet to the Gaza Strip.” 

July 22

A rocket struck a house in Yehud, near Ben-Gurion Airport.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on July 22, 2014, struck this house in the Israeli town of Yehud, a short distance from Ben-Gurion Airport. (IDF/Twitter)

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on July 22, 2014, struck this house in the Israeli town of Yehud, a short distance from Ben-Gurion Airport. (IDF/Twitter)

July 23

Following the rocket strike in Yehud on July 22, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned flights to Israel. The UN Human Rights Council condemned Israel for war crimes, including the targeting of civilians, and called for an international investigation of Israel and accountability for crimes committed. Hamas was not mentioned in the resolution.

July 24

The FAA lifted the ban on flights to Israel.

July 26

Israel agreed to the UN’s request for a humanitarian ceasefire from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Israel said it would extend the ceasefire until midnight, but a few minutes after 8:00 p.m., Hamas fired rockets.

July 27

Hamas called for a 24-hour pause for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, but violated its own ceasefire initiative by firing rockets at Israel.

July 28

A Hamas squad emerged undetected from a tunnel near an IDF base at Nahal Oz, stormed the fortified area, and killed five IDF soldiers. Hamas later published video of the attack. Separately, four IDF soldiers were killed in a mortar attack near the Gaza border. Rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza hit Shifa Hospital and Shati refugee camp.

A Hamas video published on YouTube shows its fighters infiltrating Israel from Gaza via a tunnel and storming an IDF post at Nahal Oz on July 28, 2014.

July 30

Israel announced a humanitarian ceasefire between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. A few minutes after 3:00 p.m., Hamas fired rockets at Ashdod, Ashkelon, and other populated areas.

July 31

Five IDF soldiers were killed when a mortar shell fired from Gaza exploded in a staging area near the border.

August 1

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that “Israel and the Palestinian factions have agreed that they are now prepared to implement a 72-hour unconditional humanitarian ceasefire” starting at 8:00 a.m. Kerry emphasized that “Israel will be able to continue its defensive operations for those tunnels that are behind its lines.” At 9:30 a.m., Hamas terrorists, including a suicide bomber, ambushed IDF forces in Gaza, killing two soldiers and capturing the body of Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was later declared dead.

At a news conference in India on August 1, 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces a UN-backed, 72-hour ceasefire in fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department/Flickr)

At a news conference in India on August 1, 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces a UN-backed, 72-hour ceasefire in fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department/Flickr)

August 4

Israel authorized a seven-hour humanitarian window in Gaza, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Hamas continued firing rockets throughout the Israeli lull.

August 5

The IDF withdrew its ground forces from Gaza and announced the success of its mission to dismantle Hamas’ network of infiltration tunnels. Israel accepted an Egyptian proposal for a 72-hour ceasefire from 8:00 a.m. Before the ceasefire went into effect, a rocket fired from Gaza hit a Palestinian home in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem.

August 8

Israel notified Egypt that it accepted a 72-hour extension to the ceasefire, but Hamas refused. At around 4:30 a.m., Hamas shot two rockets at Israel, violating the ceasefire that was set to expire at 8:00 a.m. When that time passed, Hamas dramatically increased its rocket attacks, injuring a number of Israelis. The IDF held its fire for hours, but eventually responded.

August 10

Hamas rockets struck the Kerem Shalom border crossing and forced it to close temporarily, delaying the passage of vital humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Hamas attacked the Kerem Shalom border crossing on August 10, 2014. (IDF/YouTube)

August 11

At 12:01 a.m., Israeli and Palestinian negotiators accepted Egypt’s proposal for a new 72-hour ceasefire.

August 13

About two hours before midnight, Palestinian terrorists fired a rocket toward Ashkelon – violating the ceasefire agreement – and after midnight, a rocket barrage hit southern Israel. The IDF responded by hitting at least four targets in Gaza. Hamas denied that it was responsible for the attacks. Israel and Hamas agreed to extend the ceasefire for five more days, until 11:59 p.m. on August 18.

August 18

Israel announced it agreed to extend the temporary truce in Gaza for 24 more hours while – at Egypt’s request – it continued to negotiate a permanent agreement with the Palestinian delegation in Cairo.

August 19

Hamas broke the ceasefire by shooting rockets at Beersheba and Netivot. In response, the IDF struck targets in Gaza. Hamas then fired rockets at Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. The IDF Home Front Command ordered the opening of public bomb shelters up to 80 km. from Gaza.

Late at night, Israeli warplanes dropped at least five bombs on a house in Gaza City in an effort to target Mohammed Deif, the commander-in-chief of Hamas’ military. It was not clear whether Deif survived the attack.

August 20

IDF tweet, 12:37 a.m.: “Israeli cities are under rocket attack. Millions of Israelis are running to bomb shelters. Hamas made its decision. Now we will make ours.”

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August 21

Overnight, the IDF targeted senior Hamas military commanders in Rafah: Mohammed Abu Shamlah, Raed Attar, and Muhamad Barhoum. Attar oversaw Hamas forces in Rafah and planned the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in 2006. Abu Shamlah directed Hamas’ forces in southern Gaza and planned dozens of terror attacks that killed Israeli civilians and soldiers; he also was involved in the Shalit abduction. Barhoun smuggled weapons to Hamas in Gaza and raised funds in Libya and Syria.

August 22

A Grad rocket fired from Gaza hit a synagogue in Ashdod, injuring three civilians. About two hours later, a four-year-old Israeli boy, Daniel Tragerman, was killed from shrapnel when a mortar fired from Gaza hit his house in Kibbutz Nahal Oz. The mortar was fired from near a Gaza school used as a shelter for Palestinian refugees. In Gaza, Hamas executed 18 Palestinians for suspected collaboration with Israel.

August 23

Israel leveled the 12-story Zafer Tower, where the IDF said Hamas used multiple floors for operational activities. Local residents were warned to evacuate, and there were no fatalities.

An IDF airstrike on the Zafer Tower in Gaza City on August 23, 2014. All residents were evacuated before the strike.

August 24

An IDF pinpoint missile strike targeted Muhammad al-Ghoul, a senior Hamas member who managed the terrorist group’s financial transactions in Gaza. The strike ripped open his vehicle, revealing bags of American dollars. Currency was scattered on the street. In Israel, three Israeli Arab taxi drivers were wounded by mortar fire at the Erez crossing. The drivers were transporting Palestinians from Gaza for medical care in Israel.

Palestinians in Gaza City inspect the wreckage of a car belonging to Muhammad al-Ghoul, a senior Hamas member who was targeted in an IDF airstrike on August 24, 2014. (AP/Adel Hana)

Palestinians in Gaza City inspect the wreckage of a car belonging to Muhammad al-Ghoul, a senior Hamas member who was targeted in an IDF airstrike on August 24, 2014. (AP/Adel Hana)

August 26

Israeli airstrikes leveled the 15-floor Basha Tower and badly damaged the 13-story Italian Complex used by Hamas. The towers were evacuated before the attacks.

Palestinians walk next to the rubble of the 15-story Basha Tower that collapsed from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on August 26, 2014. All tenants were evacuated before the strike. (AP/Adel Hana)

Palestinians walk next to the rubble of the 15-story Basha Tower that collapsed from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on August 26, 2014. All tenants were evacuated before the strike. (AP/Adel Hana)

In the evening, two Israelis died in a mortar attack on Kibbutz Nirim. Fifty-five-year-old Ze’ev Etzion, the security chief for the kibbutz, was killed as he worked to fix electricity lines damaged in an earlier mortar attack. Shahar Melamed, a 43-year-old father of three, died on his way to the hospital.

Shortly after the mortar attack, Hamas accepted an open-ended, Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement and declared victory, even though the deal was nearly identical to the one it rejected in the first week of the war.

Postscript

August 27

Excerpt from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement:

“Hamas set conditions at the outset for a ceasefire. We accepted the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire, already in the first days, unconditionally and without time constraints, whereas Hamas set conditions. It demanded a seaport – it did not get one. It demanded an airport, it did not get one. It demanded the release of the Shalit prisoners, those who were released in the Shalit deal whom we returned to prison following the murder of the three youths, it did not get this. It demanded Qatari mediation, it did not get it. It demanded Turkish mediation, it did not get it. It did not receive any condition. It demanded further conditions. It demanded the rehabilitation of the institutions that we dissolved in Judea and Samaria, it did not get this. It demanded salaries and money from us, it didn’t get them. It did not receive any of the conditions that it set.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media on Aug. 27, 2014. He emphasized that Hamas did not achieve any of its original conditions for a ceasefire. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media on Aug. 27, 2014. He emphasized that Hamas did not achieve any of its original conditions for a ceasefire. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

August 28

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Hamas for needlessly prolonging the war in the Gaza Strip and for the resulting loss of lives and property damage.

As Abbas told Palestinian Authority TV:

“Everything that happened could have been avoided. We could have avoided the 2,000 martyrs, the 10,000 wounded, the 50,000 homes….All of this could have been avoided.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terrorist group Hamas for its rejection of numerous ceasefire proposals that would have prevented the tragic loss of life in the Gaza Strip. (MEMRI)

Had Hamas accepted the original ceasefire, Palestinian wartime fatalities would have numbered less than 200, as opposed to the more than 2,000 who died by the time Hamas stopped its attacks.

Daniel Rubenstein is an editor and researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a strategic communications consultant. He tweets @paulrubens.