On Saturday night, Israeli troops entered Gaza to further dismantle Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure and impede the group’s ability to harm Israeli civilians. Israel began its operations against Hamas Dec. 27 to try to stop the years-long, deadly campaign to kill Israeli civilians with rockets, mortars and missiles.
“The objective of this stage is…to greatly reduce the quantity of rockets fired at Israel and Israeli civilians,” according to an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) statement issued Jan. 3. The goals of Operation Cast Lead are “to strike a direct and hard blow against the Hamas while increasing the deterrent strength of the IDF, in order to bring about an improved and more stable security situation for residents of Southern Israel,” the IDF stated. 
In 2008, Iran-backed Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza fired more than 3,200 rockets, missiles and mortars [link to By the Numbers] at Israeli civilians – including at the Ashkelon power plant that provides Gaza with much of its electricity. Since Israel evacuated all of Gaza in Aug. 2005 to pave the way for an independent, peaceful Palestinian state, terrorist groups in Gaza have fired more than 6,500 rockets, mortars and missiles at Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at a cabinet meeting Sunday morning (Jan. 4) that he, along with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, had decided “to send our boys to defend their parents, brothers, sisters and neighbors that they left at home. We did not reach this conclusion lightly. For many months, we gave the calm a chance in the hope of avoiding a wide-ranging military operation. Our hopes were dashed.
“…I asked myself and my ministerial colleagues if there was some other step, outlet or effort that we had not yet tried before sending our boys into a place fraught with such risks – from which some of them may not return. This morning, I can look each one of you in the eyes and say that the Government did its utmost before deciding on the operation. This operation was unavoidable.”
The head of IDF Military Intelligence, Gen. Amos Yadlin, also briefed the cabinet saying that Hamas has suffered significant setbacks, with hundreds of its operatives killed and their ability to produce rockets and weapons damaged. Since the defensive ground operation began, one IDF soldier has been killed and another seriously wounded. Since Dec. 27, continued rocket fire at Israeli civilians by Iran-backed terrorists have killed four Israelis and injured 81. Another 244 have been treated for shock and trauma.
Terrorists in Gaza fired more than 36 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza at Israeli civilians today (Jan. 4), hitting the Israeli cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Sderot as well as several other regions in southern Israel including Eshkol and an area known as ‘Shaar Hanegev.' At least 12 of the rockets fired were the more advanced Katyusha.
Hamas Wages War on Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Faction in Gaza
Within the Gaza Strip, Hamas has been attacking members of the rival Fatah party, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah officials in the West Bank said Hamas militia had shot at least 75 Fatah members in the legs and broken the hands of others. In addition, Hamas has executed more than 35 Palestinians in Gaza for allegedly collaborating with Israel. 
Statements of Support by Foreign Dignitaries
Foreign officials have voiced their backing for Israel and its efforts to stop Hamas from almost daily attacks on Israeli civilians during the past several years.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Friday (Jan. 2), “Every nation has the right to defend itself against terrorism and cold-blooded attacks on its people. Israel is no different and is right to defend itself against the unceasing violence of rocket attacks launched by Hamas.”
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country took over the rotating EU presidency Jan. 1, said Dec. 30 in an interview with a Czech daily, “Let us realize one thing, Hamas increased steeply the number of rockets fired at Israel since the ceasefire ended on December 19. That is not acceptable anymore.”
A spokesman for Schwarzenberg said later, “According to our minister Israel has the right to take military action in defense of locations where its civilians live…Hamas does not act as a partner and no political dialogue is possible unless Hamas stops its attacks.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited the Israeli city of Sderot today (Jan. 4) with Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights) to show support for Israel’s efforts to protect itself from Hamas. At one point, the mayor and others accompanying him had to seek shelter in a bomb shelter when a missile warning siren sounded.
“You should rest assured, if anyone in New York was being threatened, my instruction to the NYPD would be to use all the resources at their disposal to protect civilians,” Bloomberg said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I think as a New Yorker, we’ve been attacked twice by al-Qaida itself…We’ve seen enormous devastation and courage and after that you sort of feel you have a bond, if you will, for those who live in a dangerous world and subject to someone trying to kill them.”
Some have questioned why President-elect Barack Obama has yet to comment on the situation in Gaza while, in contrast, he was vocal in his condemnation of the Thanksgiving Mumbai attacks. Said The Israel Project Founder and President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “The Mumbai situation was quite different because what happened there was a new situation whereas heavy barrages of rockets been hitting Israeli civilians for eight years now.
“When President-elect Obama was in Sderot in July, he met with families living under constant rocket attacks, and at the time made extensive comments about the situation. Sadly, even during Obama’s visit, Iran-backed Hamas did not stop the rockets. Hamas’s campaign of terror is no different now than it was during Obama’s visit to Israel, and Obama made his position clear. Hamas has brought this terrible situation upon the people of Gaza, who have suffered greatly under their reign of terror.” Click here to view video of Obama addressing press at the Sderot Police Station
During his July visit to Israel, Obama defended Israel’s right to protect itself from such attacks: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing.”
Speaking about the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama also said during the visit, “A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” 
Violence and Extremist Protests Worldwide Against Jews and Israel
In Denmark, two Israeli salesmen were shot at a shopping center in the city of Odense; one was shot in the leg and the other in the arm, but their injuries were not life-threatening. A Danish man of Palestinian origin was later arrested on suspicion of having carried out the shootings.
Protests against Israel’s operation to stop Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure have been held in many cities around the world. In London, a demonstration turned violent when protestors burned Israeli flags and hurled objects and fireworks at police officers. Protests also took place in other cities such as Paris, Berlin, Rome, Athens, New York and San Francisco. The demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in Athens also turned violent when protesters threw stones and petrol bombs at riot police.
At a protest in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., demonstrators hurled diatribes against Jews and Israel, shouting statements such as, “Go back to the oven,” a reference to the Nazi holocaust in which six million Jews in Europe were murdered during World War II. Others held placards bearing slogans such as “Nuke Israel.”
 IDF Spokesperson’s Unit Communique, Jan. 3, 2009
 Communique of the Prime Minister’s Office, Jan. 4, 2009
 Ravid, Barak, “Shin Bet Chief: Hamas has eased its demands for truce with Israel,” Haaretz, Dec. 4, 2009, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1052549.html
 Harel, Amos, Stern, Yoav, Yagana, Yanir, “IDF soldier killed, another critically hurt in Gaza ground operation,” Haaretz, Jan. 4, 2009, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1052299.html
 Magen David Adom Communique, Jan. 4, 2009
 “6 hurt as 36 rockets, shells hit South,” The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2009, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1230733159842&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
 IDF Spokesperson’s Unit Communique, Jan. 4, 2009
 Abu Toameh, Khaled, “Hamas moves on Fatah’collaborators’,” The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2009, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1230733155685
 “Schwarzenegger: Every nation has right to defend itself,” YnetNews, Jan. 3, 2009, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3649837,00.html
 Goodenough, Patrick, “For Israel, Glimmers of Support in Europe,” CNSNews.com, Dec. 30, 2008, http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=41361
 “Bloomberg in Israel, backs strikes on Hamas,” Associated Press via Newsday, Jan. 4, 2008, http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/ny-nybloom0105,0,3572388.story
 Ravid, Barak, “Obama in Sderot: Nuclear Iran would be game-changing,” Haaretz, July 23, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1004747.html
 “Obama says nuclear Iran a “grave threat,” Reuters, July 23, 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSL2376765320080723
 “Dane held for ‘shooting Israelis’,” BBC, Jan. 2, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7807799.stm
 McVeigh, Tracy, Quinn, Ben, “Gaza protest march ends in violence,” The Observer, Jan. 4, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/04/gaza-israel-demonstration-trafalgar-square; Times Rivera, Ray, “Square Rally Protests Fighting in Gaza,” The New York Times, Jan. 3, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/nyregion/04march.html?em; de Sa, Karen, “San Francisco rally protests Israel’s Gaza action,” San Jose Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_11358988
 Goodenough, Stan, “Florida demonstrator: Jews – you need a big oven’,” Jerusalem Newswire, Jan. 4, 2009, http://www.jnewswire.com/article/2606
By The Israel Project