Today marks the sixth anniversary of the end of Operation ‘Cast Lead’, Israel’s 3-week-long offensive on the Gaza Strip

[1] during which 1,400 Palestinians, including 300 children, lost their lives. Until last year’s offensive, Operation ‘Cast Lead’ was the bloodiest Israeli assault inflicted on Palestinians since 1967, with 82% of victims believed to have been civilians.

The Gaza Strip suffered heavy Israeli bombing and shelling, destroying over 4,000 residential units and leaving 20,000 people homeless. After the offensive, investigations by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International found that Israeli forces had used a number of internationally-banned weapons such as white phosphorus, a chemical which enters the body and burns the skin from the inside:  “White phosphorus, a highly incendiary substance, was repeatedly fired indiscriminately over densely populated residential areas, killing and wounding civilians and destroying civilian property”[2].

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Another report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Strip stated that there was significant evidence indicating the widespread and systematic commission of war crimes in the Gaza Strip[3]; and recommended that the allegations of war crimes committed during Operation ‘Cast Lead’ had to be effectively investigated and those responsible prosecuted. Six years later, trapped behind the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians are still waiting for justice to happen.

Since Operation ‘Cast Lead’, Gaza had been struggling with lack of shelter. The situation has gotten catastrophically worse since Israel’s most recent attack – Operation ‘Protective Edge’ – which left more than 2,200 people dead and destroyed over 100,000 homes.

Following Operation ‘Cast Lead’ in 2009, donors pledged $4.4 billion to help rebuild Gaza. But the reconstruction of homes, schools, infrastructure never took place, not because the donors broke their promises but because the necessary materials weren’t allowed into Gaza, due to the illegal blockade.

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Unfortunately that pattern seems to be repeating itself: despite a pledge of $5.4 billion at the International Conference in October last year in Cairo, reconstruction has barely begun:only 2% of thefunds pledged have actually reached Gaza. Oxfam has estimated that at this current rate, rebuilding Gaza could take decades.

The Israeli government must realize that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is worsening day by day and must address it. The lifting of the illegal blockade is needed to start the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure, the revival of the economy, and the restoration of human dignity in Gaza.


[1] Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 27th December 2008 – 18th January 2009

[2]  Israel/Gaza, Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 22 days of death and destruction – Amnesty International Report –  July 2009. Read the report

[3] Human Rights in Palestine and other Arab territories, Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict – September 2009. The report also stated that Israel’s policies were premised on a “deliberate policy of disproportionate force”, aimed not at the enemy but at the “supporting infrastructure”, concluding that “[i]n practise, this appears to have meant the civilian population”. Read the report