6,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel

in Gaza since 2005


Since Israel "withdrew" from Gaza in September 2005, it has killed almost 6,000 Palestinians during its military incursions into Gaza.


In the five major military operations by Israel since September 2005, the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza in each operation was as follows:








Dec 2008

Cast Lead


Nov 2012

Pillar of Cloud


July 2014

Protective Edge


May 2021

Guardian of the Walls


Aug 2022

Breaking Dawn






(These figures are from a database maintained by the excellent Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem.  It contains information about every individual killed during the conflict in Israel/Palestine since September 2000}.


Just over 4,000 Palestinians were killed in these five major operations, but this is by no means the total killed since September 2005.  According to B’Tselem, that number is 5,986 up to the end of June 2022.



Deaths in Israel due to rocket fire from Gaza


The ostensible reason for Israel’s major military assaults on Gaza – and for countless other minor incursions – was, and is, to halt rocket and mortar fire into Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian groups and to stop people in Israel being killed or injured by them.


Over the years, Israel has given the impression that the number of people killed and injured in Israel by this fire out of Gaza has been substantial.  As a consequence, Israel has been compelled, it says, to take whatever action is necessary to suppress it, even if Palestinian civilians in Gaza suffer as a consequence.


In reality, the number of people killed in Israel as a result of this fire out of Gaza has been quite small – probably less than 60 - compared with the almost 6,000 Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza since September 2005. 


How did I arrive that this figure?  An article How many people have died from Gaza rockets into Israel? by Phan Nguyen, published by Mondoweiss, names 38 individuals (24 civilian and 14 military) who were killed in the 9 years from September 2005 to 29 August 2014, as a result of rocket or mortar out of Gaza.   In the following 6 years to August 2020, according to B'Tselem, 5 were killed and, according to the Times of Israel, 13 were killed during Operation Guardian of the Walls in 2021.  This leads to an overall total of 56.


Many of these deaths occurred during Israel’s major assaults on Gaza when rocket fire from Gaza was at its most intense.  The following table shows the number of people killed from September 2005 onwards during, and in between, Israel's major assaults:











Dec 2008

Cast Lead





Nov 2012

Pillar of Cloud





July 2014

Protective Edge





May 2021

Guardian of the Walls





Aug 2022

Breaking Dawn






This shows that 40 of the 56 deaths occurred during Israel’s major assaults on Gaza.



June 2008 ceasefire agreement


Israel's periodic military assaults on Gaza didn't halt rocket and mortar fire out of Gaza.  On the contrary, they intensified it.  Of course, there was available to Israel an effective method for halting rocket and mortar fire out of Gaza.  That was for Israel to stick to the various ceasefire agreements that it entered into with Hamas.


That option has been available to Israel since June 2008, when it first concluded a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.  Under that agreement, brokered by Egypt, in exchange for Hamas and other Palestinian groups stopping the firing of rockets and mortars out of Gaza, Israel undertook to lift its economic blockade of Gaza and cease military incursions into Gaza.


Hamas stuck rigidly to the agreement and fired no rockets or mortars into Israel from 19 June, when the ceasefire came into operation, until 4 November.  Other Palestinian groups fired a small number, despite being restrained by Hamas.  As a partner for peace with Israel, Hamas could not be faulted – it made a deal with Israel, stuck to it and tried to make other Palestinian groups do likewise.


These arrangements could have continued indefinitely.  They didn’t because on 4 November (while the world was watching Barack Obama being elected US president), Israel made a military incursion into Gaza, its first since the ceasefire began, and killed 7 members of Hamas.  Israel had now breached both of its obligations under the ceasefire agreement, having already failed to lift the economic blockade of Gaza completely as promised.  In retaliation, Hamas resumed rocket fire out of Gaza into Israel.


A few weeks later, on 27 December, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead ostensibly to stop Hamas rocket attacks out of Gaza.  Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni explained why a few days later:


“For eight years now, Israel has been under attack from the Gaza Strip and it has become worse. Hamas, which is an extreme Islamic organization, a terrorist organization … has been targeting Israel on a daily basis.”


That was a lie, of course: for four and a half months Hamas had not targeted Israel at all, as Israeli Government spokesman Mark Regev confirmed on More4 News on 9 January 2009.  When it was put to him that “there were no Hamas rockets during the ceasefire before November the 4th, there were no Hamas rockets for 4 months”, Regev replied: “That’s correct”.


During Operation Cast Lead, 1,391 Palestinians were killed in Gaza by Israel.  4 Israelis were killed by rocket and mortar fire out of Gaza.  Had Israel stuck to the ceasefire agreement like Hamas, none of these people would have died.



November 2012 ceasefire agreement


In November 2012, Egypt brokered another agreement between Israel and Hamas, which brought to an end Operation Pillar of Cloud, Israel’s second major offensive against Gaza.  The deal had the blessing of the US, since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood beside the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mohamad Amr, when he announced it.


In it, Israel agreed to “stop all hostilities on the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals” and Hamas and other Palestinian groups agreed to “stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks, and attacks along the border”.  In addition, Israel promised the “opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents free movement”, in other words, to lift its economic blockade of Gaza.


In accordance with this agreement, Hamas engaged in no military action against Israel for nearly 20 months from 21 November 2012 until 7 July 2014, in particular, it fired no rockets or mortars into Israel during this period.  As happened during the 2008 ceasefire, there was some firing in Israel by other Palestinian groups, despite Hamas setting up a new police force to prevent them doing so.


By contrast, Israel made no attempt to abide by the agreement.  It continued to make regular military incursions into Gaza - from 21 November 2012 until 30 June 2014 it killed 25 Palestinians in Gaza – and it took no steps whatsoever to lift its economic blockade.  One could be forgiven for thinking that Israel was intent on provoking rocket fire from Gaza rather than seeking a permanent end to it.



Why did Israel always choose the ineffective military option?


So why did Israel always choose the ineffective military option rather than effective ceasefire arrangements to preventing, or at least reducing, mortar and rocket fire from Gaza?  Answer: because having permanent ceasefire arrangements with Hamas was tantamount to recognising Hamas as the legitimate ruler of Gaza – and Israel was absolutely opposed to that.


Tzipi Livni, then Israeli Foreign Minister, spelt this out in December 2008, shortly after Israel had torpedoed the 2008 ceasefire agreement.  Speaking at Tel Aviv University, she said that an extended truce or long term calm with Hamas “harms the Israel strategic goal, empowers Hamas, and gives the impression that Israel recognizes the movement”.


She returned to this theme on 31 December 2008, just after Operation Cast Lead began, telling the world that attempts by Hamas to gain legitimacy must be resisted:


“But there is one thing that the world needs to understand: Hamas wants to gain legitimacy from the international community. Hamas wants to show that there is a place which is called the Gaza Strip, that this kind of an organization - an extremist Islamic organization that acts by terrorism and which is a designated terrorist organization - can rule. And to make it seem a legitimate regime.


“So they want the crossings to be opened, not only for the sake of the population, but because this symbolically is how they can show that the Gaza Strip has become a kind of a small state, which is controlled by them. This is something that nobody can afford, neither Israel, nor the pragmatic leadership, nor the legitimate Palestinian leadership or government, nor any part of the moderate the Arab world.”


So, making arrangements with Hamas about a long term ceasefire or the permanent opening of border crossings, bolsters the legitimacy the Hamas as the ruler of Gaza – and Israel is opposed to that, even though ceasefire arrangements did bring peace and quiet to people in Israel – and saved Israeli lives.


But saving Israeli lives wasn’t Israel’s primary objective.



The Agreement on Movement and Access


In November 2005, shortly after it withdrew its settlers and ground troops from Gaza, Israel signed an agreement which laid down arrangements that were designed to maintain and develop the economic life of Gaza in the new circumstances.  Called the Agreement on Movement and Access, it was drawn up by former head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn.


The Agreement provided for, amongst other things:

·       continuous operation of crossings between Israel and Gaza for the import and export of goods and the transit of people

·       a crossing between Gaza and Egypt at Rafah for the export of goods and the transit of people

·       the building of a seaport in Gaza

·       re-opening of the airport in Gaza

·       bus and truck convoys between the West Bank and Gaza

·       reduction of obstacles to movement within the West Bank


At the launch, Condoleezza Rice said:


“This agreement is intended to give the Palestinian people freedom to move, to trade, to live ordinary lives. The agreement covers six topics.”


She continued:


“First, for the first time since 1967, Palestinians will gain control over entry and exit from their territory. This will be through an international crossing at Rafah, whose target opening date is November 25th.


“Second, Israel and the Palestinians will upgrade and expand other crossings for people and cargo between Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. This is especially important now because Israel has committed itself to allow the urgent export of this season's agricultural produce from Gaza.


“Third, Palestinians will be able to move between Gaza and the West Bank; specifically, bus convoys are to begin about a month from now and truck convoys are to start a month after that.


“Fourth, the parties will reduce obstacles to movement within the West Bank. It has been agreed that by the end of the year the United States and Israel will complete work to lift these obstacles and develop a plan to reduce them.


“Fifth, construction of a Palestinian seaport can begin. The Rafah model will provide a basis for planned operations.


”Sixth, the parties agree on the importance of the airport. Israel recognizes that the Palestinian Authority will want to resume construction on the airport.”


In November 2005, the US/EU deemed these arrangements necessary to maintain and develop the economic life of Gaza and promised that they would be delivered to the people of Gaza.  A decade and a half later, almost nothing has been delivered.  On the contrary, for most of that time, Israel has subjected Gaza to a brutal economic blockade and unceasing military intervention, which has brought untold misery and death to the people of Gaza.


David Morrison

26 August 2022