January 13, 2009

In January 2006, Hamas won a legislative majority, giving it control of the Palestinian cabinet, while Mahmoud Abbas remained the chief executive, controlling overall security. In June 2007, Hamas challenged Abbas’ security forces, overthrowing the Palestinian Authority government (PA) in Gaza, which led to division with the West Bank. Following a year-long blockade of Gaza and ongoing rocket attacks into Israel, Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered six-month ceasefire in June 2008. By agreeing to the deal, Israel hoped to end the rocket attacks from Gaza, freeze Hamas’ military buildup in Gaza and begin a process that could lead to the release of captured Israeli solider Gilad Shalit. Hamas hoped to end Israeli air strikes and incursions into Gaza and ease the closure of the territory. On December 27, following intensified rocket fire after the ceasefire expired, Israel launched an extensive military operation in Gaza.

• The ceasefire began on June 19. At the time, PA officials expressed concern that an agreement with Hamas would undermine the PA.
• On June 29, Hamas arrested a spokesman of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade after the group claimed responsibility for launching two rockets into Israel.

• On July 2, Israeli authorities said they had closed the Gaza border six times in response to rocket fire since the truce began.
• In late July, Abbas called for renewed talks with Hamas with the help of Egyptian mediation.
• Israeli and UN figures reported between 10 to 20 rockets fired into Israel from Gaza.

• In early August, following a bombing in Gaza, 11 people died in a Hamas crackdown on a clan supportive of Fatah. In response, Israel, in consultations with the PA, allowed 88 Fatah supporters to seek asylum in Jericho.
• In late August Egypt held meetings with representatives from Islamic Jihad as part of a series of bilateral meetings with Palestinian factions.
• Between 10 to 30 rockets were fired into Israel in August.

• On September 17, Israeli negotiator Ofer Dekel met with Egyptian officials to discuss the release of Shalit in exchange for Hamas prisoners in Israel.
• Between 5 to 10 rockets were fired into Israel in September.
• In meetings with Egyptian officials in September, PLO/Fatah representatives accepted Egyptian proposals to end inter-Palestinian rifts.

• On October 6, Hamas officials said they would not recognize Abbas’ presidency after January 8, 2009.
• On October 8, Hamas representatives met with Egyptian officials in preparation for a future joint meeting of various Palestinian factions.
• The Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) reported two rocket and mortar attacks during October.

• Egypt announced that reconciliation talks between different factions had been postponed due to Hamas’ decision not to take part. A Hamas official cited Fatah’s refusal to free Hamas prisoners in the West Bank as the group’s reason for not participating. Hamas had also previously taken issue with Cairo’s unwillingness to hold talks regarding the opening of the Rafah border crossing. Hamas later cited additional reasons for not joining the talks, leading to the impression it feared being pressured into an agreement.
• On November 4, in the course of Israel’s first incursion into Gaza since the ceasefire–a mission intended to destroy a tunnel built to capture Israeli soldiers–six gunmen were killed and militants fired 35 rockets. In the following days, Palestinians fired dozens of rockets and mortars at Israel and Israel closed commercial crossings into Gaza, allowing in limited amounts of fuel.
• On November 12, Israel killed four Hamas members that the military said were attempting to put an explosive device near the border fence. Hamas also launched rockets into Israel and the Israeli military carried out two air strikes in Gaza.

• On December 14, during the celebration of Hamas’ 21st anniversary, Hamas leaders in Gaza left open the possibility of extending the truce while the exiled political leadership in Damascus, Syria said it would end December 19. A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israel was willing to continue the ceasefire if Hamas stopped militants from firing rockets into Israel. Major General Amos Gilad, a high-ranking Israeli defense official, traveled to Egypt to discuss the truce.
• By mid-December, Israeli military cited 250 rockets and mortars had been fired at Israel since November 4 and Israeli operations had killed at least 10 more Palestinians.
• On December 18, Hamas declared an end to the ceasefire.
• By the end of the ceasefire, the daily average number of trucks allowed into Gaza had increased from 70 to approximately 90. Before the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the closing of the crossings, 500 to 600 truckloads entered Gaza daily. The Israeli government also reported 362 rocket and mortar shells fired at Israel during the ceasefire.

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