The Gaza War, also known Operation Cast Lead (מבצע עופרת יצוקה) and Gaza Massacre (مجزرة غزة) or the Battle of al-Furqan (معركة الفرقان) was a three-week armed conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Palestinian militants during the winter of 2008–2009. It began on 27 December 2008 and ended on 18 January 2009 with each side declaring a unilateral ceasefire.
Israel's stated goal was to stop rocket fire into Israel and weapons smuggling into the Gaza strip. After the beginning of the conflict, Palestinian groups continued firing rockets in response to what they characterized as "massacres". Israeli forces attacked police stations, military targets including weapons caches and suspected rocket firing teams, as well as political and administrative institutions in the opening assault, striking in the densely populated cities of Gaza, Khan Yunis and Rafah.
An Israeli ground invasion began on January 3. Infantry commanders were given an unprecedented level of access to coordinate with air, naval, artillery, intelligence, and combat engineering units during this second phase. Various new technologies and hardware were also introduced. On January 5, the IDF began operating in the densely populated urban centers of Gaza. During the last week of the offensive (from 12 January), Israel mostly hit targets it had damaged before and struck Palestinian rocket-launching units. Hamas intensified its rocket and mortar attacks against civilian targets in southern Israel, reaching the major cities of Beersheba and Ashdod for the first time during the conflict. Israeli politicians ultimately decided against striking deeper within Gaza amid concerns of higher casualties on both sides and rising international criticism. The conflict ended on January 18, when Israel first declared a unilateral ceasefire, followed by Hamas' announcing a one-week ceasefire twelve hours later. Israel completed its withdrawal on January 21.
The conflict resulted in between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths (4 from friendly fire). According to the Shin Bet, after the conflict, there was a decrease in Palestinian rocket attacks. In September 2009, a UN special mission, headed by the South African Justice Richard Goldstone, produced a controversial report accusing both Palestinian militants and the IDF of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, and recommended bringing those responsible to justice. In January 2010, the Israeli government released a response criticizing the Goldstone Report and disputing its findings. In 2011, Goldstone wrote that he no longer believed that Israel intentionally targeted civilians in Gaza. The other authors of the report, Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers, rejected Goldstone's re-assessment. However, the United Nations Human Rights Council did not agree and ordered Israel to conduct various repairs of the damages. On September 21, 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council concluded that 75% of civilian homes destroyed in the attack were not rebuilt.
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