Ten Days of Penitence

Operation Days of Penitence

Operation Days of Penitence (In Hebrew, מבצע ימי תשובה) was the name used by Israel to describe an Israel Defense Forces operation in the northern Gaza Strip, conducted between September 30, 2004 and October 15, 2004. The operation, focused on the town of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia and Jabalia refugee camp, which were used as launching sites of Qassam rockets on the Israeli town of Sderot and Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, and in particular in response to the death of two children in Sderot. The operation resulted in the deaths of between 104 and 133 Palestinians (42 civilians), and 5 people on the Israeli side (2 soldiers and 3 civilians).

The operation's name corresponds to the Hebrew name for the High Holiday season during which the operation was carried out.


Following the death of two Israeli children from a Qassam rocket launched by Palestinian militants, Israel launched a major military attack onto the northern Gaza strip, focusing on the towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia and the Jabaliya refugee camp. The stated goal of the operation, code-named "Days of Penitence" (ימי תשובה) by the Israeli Defence Force, was to prevent Palestinians from launching rockets and mortar shells into Israeli settlements in Gaza and the town of Sderot in Israel.

During this attack the Israeli military killed between 104 and 133 Palestinians, including 62-87 militants and 18-31 civilians; demolished 77 houses and damaged hundreds more; damaged public facilities, including schools, kindergartens and mosques, and destroyed farmland. According to Israeli soldiers, many of the buildings that were demolished were used by Palestinian militants as a cover for launching Qassam rockets and for shooting anti-tank missiles.

During the U.N.Security Council deliberations over censuring Israel for this military attack, Israel accused the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) of complicity in Palestinian attacks by allowing its vehicles to transport rockets. The Israeli government released a video claiming that it showed rockets being loaded into the UNRWA ambulance. UNRWA denied the accusation and demanded an apology stating that the object was a stretcher, not a rocket (the person in the video was carrying the lightweight object with just one hand). On October 6th, Israel retracted the accusation. (Reuters) See further discussion here.

The attack resulted in a proposed resolution of the U.N. Security Council condemning the Israeli action, calling for Israeli withdrawal and respect for human rights of Palestinians. The resolution was vetoed by the United States on October 5 who criticized it for ignoring terrorism against Israelis.

Over the weekend of October 17, the Israeli military announced that its troops withdrew from the Jabalia refugee camp and other populated areas and redeployed to positions nearby and proclaimed the attack a success, with a warning that the troops would return if the rocket attacks resume, which analysts from both sides say is likely.

Both sides claimed victory in the operation.

Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli Defence Forces spokesman, acclaimed the operation's success: "We really impaired the ability to shoot Qassams from Jabalya. We engaged many cells and now there are fewer Hamas members to shoot rockets," he says. "We dealt a hard blow to the whole Hamas infrastructure in Jabalia."

The Palestine Information Center published a statement by Hamas spokesman Ismail Hanneya who asserted that the problem was not in resistance or in Qassam missiles but rather in what Hamas views as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land: "Hamas achieved a victory over the Zionist enemy ... the blows of the resistance and the steadfastness of the people caused the occupying forces to withdraw without achieving any of their goals."


Notable events in the timeline are as follows:

September 29

September 30

  • Israel launches a major offensive into the Jabalia refugee camp killing at least 23 gunmen and civilians. Earlier this morning, a column of Israeli tanks moved into the center of the camp, followed by bulldozers. At least three Palestinian civilians have been killed thus far. Homes are being demolished, forcing people to flee. 72 Palestinians are known to have been wounded. (BBC) (Reuters)
  • Two Palestinians are killed by Israeli troops returning fire after an Israeli soldier was killed at an observation post in the northern Gaza strip. The troops have been engaged in that part of the northern Gaza Strip since yesterday, September 29. (AP)

October 1

October 2

October 3

October 4

October 5

  • The United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate end to military operations in the northern Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of Israeli forces. The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 11 in favor and one against, with Britain, Germany and Romania abstaining. (ABC News)
  • A 13-year-old girl, Iman Darweesh Al Hams, was shot by soldiers from an Israeli military post near Rafah, while she was on her way to school. According to Israeli forces, the area was restricted and they suspected that Iman’s schoolbag contained a bomb. IDF chief of staff Moshe Yaalon said she was sent there as a decoy by Palestinian militants. Platoon soldiers accused their commander of shooting 20 rounds at close range to "confirm the kill". The Israeli army chief prosecutor ordered an investigation of the allegations. (Haaretz) The Gaza attacks have left 68 Palestinians dead. (Haaretz)
  • Palestinians claim an Israeli unmanned drone aircraft fired a missile towards the Al Ajramy street in Jabalia camp. Two brothers were killed, Hasan Abdul Hai Darweesh, 30, and Mousa Abdul Hai Darweesh, 24, both from the neighboring Mashrou' neighborhood. Six others were injured, two of whom critically. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • In Gaza City, Bashir al-Dabbash, a leader in the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, is killed by a missile fired from an Israeli aircraft. (INN) (BBC)
  • Three Hamas militants are killed after infiltrating the Israeli settlement of Kfar Darom. One of the militants blew up when hit by Israeli gunfire, killing a Thai worker in addition to himself. The other two militants were killed by IDF forces. Gaza Strip. (Haaretz) (INN) (IMRA)

October 6

October 7

  • Suleyman abu Foul, 15, and his 14-year-old nephew Raed abu Zaid, were killed by Israeli fire in Jabalia. Israeli military sources said Suleyman and his nephew were killed by a missile fired from a helicopter after an airborne drone spotted two suspicious figures who appeared to be launching a Qassam rocket. A 16-year-old from Jabalia, Muhammad Abu Saif, died from wounds received by Israeli bullets in the neck and the chest on October 1. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • Their deaths — plus the death of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who had been injured earlier — pushed the toll from the latest fighting to more than 80. Late in the day, Israeli forces shot a 12-year-old girl, Samah Mu'een Udeh, in the head in the Beit Hanoun community. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights) (Boston Globe)
  • Witnesses say that two Palestinian children were killed when the Israeli military shelled a crowd near the Jabaliya refugee camp. Israel says that an Israeli helicopter gunship fired at two people attempting to launch a Qassam rocket. (BBC)

October 8

October 9

  • Israeli troops shot and killed a local leader of the Hamas’ military wing in Jabalia, Abed Rauf Nabhan, as he was preparing to fire an anti-tank missile at Israel Defence Forces tanks invading the Jabalia refugee camp. The Israeli military claimed that Nabhan was responsible for the launching of the rocket that killed two young children in Sderot on Sukkot eve, triggering the army offensive in northern Gaza. Abed Nabhan, 25, was one of five Palestinians killed Saturday. (ABC News) (Maariv)
  • Israeli tanks fired shells towards a 6-story residential building, owned by the Salim family, in the town of Beit Lahia. It hit the sixth floor and killed Ameen Mahmud Salim, 36 Sufiyan Mousa Salim, 28. Three of the family members were injured in the attack: Dawoud Salim, Ahmad Salim and Muhammad Salim. (Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights)
  • Palestinian anti-tank missile hit a house in Beit Hanoun, causing to collapse on the people inside. (Maariv)

October 10

October 11

October 12

  • About 8:15am, several mortar shells were fired at the community of Ganei Tal. (INN)
  • At approximately 11:00 am, Palestinian security and hospital sources claim that Israeli soldiers at the Neve Dekalim settlement shot at UNRWA Al Khalidyeh Primary School in Khan Younis refugee camp critically injuring 10-year-old Ghadeer Jaber Mkheemar in the chest while she was inside her classroom. Israeli military sources claim that the soldiers where shooting at a mortar emplacement either next to or within the school grounds. (Al Mezan Center for Human Rights) (CNN) (UNRWA) (PDF)
  • About 12:30pm, an anti-tank missile was fired at Israeli soldiers near Rafah. (INN)
  • About 1:15pm, a bomb was detonated against Israeli soldiers operating in Jabaliah. (INN)
  • About 4:22pm, Israeli soldiers fire at fighters attempting to launch a missile from within the area of a mosque in Khan Yunis. The missile launch is prevented. (INN)
  • Mortar attack in southern Gaza. (INN)

October 13

October 14

October 15

October 16

  • One al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades militant, hit on Friday, dies from his wounds. (Haaretz)
  • Israeli Defence Forces pulled out of Jabalia and Beit Lahiya and redeployed on surrounding ridges. Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim told Israeli Radio that the pullback was a gesture to the Palestinians before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan but Israeli officials warned that they would return should Qassam rocket attacks continue. (Haaretz)
  • The US State Department welcomed the Israeli withdrawal and stressed the U.S. government position that Palestinians were responsible "for ending violence and terror, and particularly for ensuring that this area - that no area is used for attacks on Israel with rockets." (Haaretz)


Number of casualties during September 29, 2004 - October 15, 2004 is as follows:


  • Two children killed by a Qassam rocket in Sderot.
  • One Israeli woman, civilian resident of the Eley Sinai
  • Two IDF


  • Total of 133 Palestinians killed
  • 31 of the dead were children (Politically motivated source)

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