On the night of November 4, 2008, Israeli troops crossed into the Gaza Strip near the town of Kissufim and targeted a tunnel that Hamas terrorists were planning to use to capture Israeli soldiers positioned on the border fence some 250 meters away from the border and directly adjacent to an IDF border outpost, not unlike the one they used to seize soldier Gilad Shalit a few years back. Intelligence had established that Hamas operatives had been specifically trained for a planned abduction, and that they planned to activate the tunnel in a few days.

Hamas gunmen were waiting there for them; they had anticipated the possible discovery of the tunnel by the IDF and had thus had the entrances to both ends manned and heavily booby trapped. In the firefight that followed, six Israeli soldiers were injured, two of them seriously. Two Hamas gunman were killed, and several injured, and they then let fly with a volley of mortars at Israel. An Israeli air strike then killed five more Hamas fighters. In response, Hamas launched 35 rockets into southern Israel, one reaching the city of Ashkelon.

A six month lull/cease-fire had been established in June 2008 between Israel and Hamas that was brokered by Egypt, and the IDF spokesperson made clear that the operation was not an attempt to abrogate the cease fire:

“This was a pinpoint operation intended to prevent an immediate threat,” the Israeli military said in a statement. “There is no intention to disrupt the cease-fire, rather the purpose of the operation was to remove an immediate and dangerous threat posted by the Hamas terror organization.”

The tunnel skirmish of November 4, 2008 was then met by Hamas in the launching of some 193 rockets and mortars in November, and some 290 between December 1 and December 24, every one of them a war crime.

The Hamas regime, upping the ante, now demanded the following terms for a renewal of the lull/cease-fire, which lapsed on December 18: a complete opening of all border crossings, an opening of the Rafah border with Egypt, and a ban on all IDF activity in Gaza. Hamas was thus now demanding a removal of all the restrictive measures and “IDF activity” that the terrorist actions they had previously committed, and were currently committing, had made absolutely necessary.

On December 24 Hamas launched “Operation Oil Stain” to the accompaniment of a 60 rocket and mortar volley. On December 25 Israeli Prime Minister Olmert said: “I am telling them now, it may be the last minute. I’m telling them stop it. We are stronger.” This was met with an attack of 5 rocket and 14 mortar attacks, and the next day there were 12 more. All efforts to constrain or contain the attacks being ineffective, on December 27 Israel commenced Operation Cast Lead, a three-week sustained military strike on Hamas’ terror infrastructure and rocket launching sites in an effort to thwart future attacks.