On December 27, 2008, Israel launched a massive three-week-long air and ground assault on the Gaza Strip, ostensibly to put an end to Palestinian rocket attacks that had been launched for years from Gaza against nearby Israeli towns.
In fact, however, from June 19 to November 4, 2008, Hamas had honored a mutually agreed-upon cease-fire, intended to run for six months, and had reduced rocket fire from Gaza to near zero.
Israel, on the other hand, failed to honor its promise as part of the cease-fire to end the blockade of Gaza, and on November 4 it broke the truce by launching an incursion into Gaza and killing six Hamas men.
Although Hamas resumed rocket attacks in response to Israel's violation of the cease-fire, no Israelis were killed by hostile Palestinian action during the entire six-month period before Israel launched its December assault on Gaza.
The three-week assault, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, killed over 1,400 people, mainly civilians not engaged in any form of resistance. Over 5,000 Palestinians were injured, and almost 25,000 were made homeless when their houses were destroyed.
More than 300 Palestinian children were killed during the attack, an indication of Israel's disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force.
Photographs of dead and maimed Palestinian children, juxtaposed with photos of the remnants of U.S.-made bombs and white phosphorus shells, were broadcast throughout the Arab and Muslim world, reinforcing widespread anger toward the United States for its continuing provision of deadly weaponry to Israel.
Protests against Israel's aggression were held throughout the world, including in the U.S.
U.S. weapons provided to Israel free of charge by American taxpayers and used in the latest attack include:
Human rights organizations and numerous Israeli observers and experts have refuted Israel's oft-repeated claim that, in launching its assault on Gaza, it was simply acting in self-defense against unremitting attacks by terrorists.
Gaza, a tiny territory with a population of 1.5 million packed into an area of 140 square miles, has been an open-air prison since Israel fenced in the territory in the early 1990s. Since 2006, the Israelis, supported by the U.S., have imposed an almost total blockade on Gaza, depriving the territory of the basic necessities of life: food, water, electricity, fuel, medicines, and medical supplies.
In legislative elections in 2006-endorsed by the United States-Hamas won a clear majority of seats. Israel's American-backed response to this unexpected outcome was to arrest the democratically elected leaders. The U.S. then instigated a coup to overthrow the Hamas-led government. The coup failed but led to bloody fighting between Hamas and Fatah and to a serious political split in Palestinian ranks.
The crippling blockade has intensified since 2006, aggravating an already severe humanitarian crisis in a badly overcrowded territory.
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