(This has been updated/corrected since first posting. Thanks to Ben McCombe for pointing out that I conflated "incidents" with raw claims of rocket and mortar fire in the Shabak's reporting).
There's been some confusion over the frequency with which missiles are fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, the official reason the Israeli government gave for launching its offensive on Gaza yesterday, which started with the assassination of senior Hamas militant Ahmed Jabari in Gaza City.
Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip have reported 13 dead in the violence. On the Israeli-side, the first three Israelis of the year to be killed by rocket fire, which has intensified substantially in the past 30 hours.
We're seeing the old adage that violence begets violence. Israel says there have been 275 rocket and mortars fired (updated total at 12:45 US eastern time on Thursday) from Gaza since Mr. Jabari was killed yesterday. That's a huge proportion of the total so far this year, prompted by the very thing that it was officially designed to stop it. How big? At least 25 percent, and probably more. Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency reported 451 total mortar and rocket "attacks" this year through Oct. 31 (though in some of these cases the "attacks" contained more than one rocket fired). The past week, however, has seen nearly that many.
The escalation cycle, so far, in brief:
On Nov. 5, an unarmed Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli forces as he crawled near the heavily armed Israeli border fence with Gaza. His family said he was mentally ill. On Nov. 8, Palestinian militants from one of the Popular Resistance Committees (not under Hamas control) engaged with an Israeli military unit that had entered Gaza. An Israeli miltary spokesman said the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded by firing at "suspicious locations" and in the process killed Palestinian 12-year-old Ahmed Abu Dagah.
On Nov. 10, Palestinian militants fired an antitank missile at an Israeli military jeep near the border, wounding four soldiers. The Israeli reprisals for that attack left five Palestinians dead that day: two teenagers playing soccer, two attendees at a funeral where the mourning tent was hit by an errant Israeli tank shell, and one Palestinian militant who was trying to fire a missile at Israel. Israeli officials claimed at least 100 more rockets were fired at Israel on Nov. 10 and 11.
I distilled the numbers of mortar and rocket attacks published by the Shin Bet in its monthly reports for January-October (sample report here.) I share them below because I haven't found a handy link to these totals, and there are lots of claims and counter-claims about the real numbers. (Update: I've added the individual rockets and mortars fired below.as well as the "attack" totals).
Month Rocket and mortar "attacks" Total rockets and mortars fired
Oct. 92 171
Sept: 18 25
Aug. 16 24
July: 19 27
June: 94 218
May: 6 6
April: 8 8
March: 156 192
(This March surge followed a series of Israeli strikes on Gaza on March 9, one of which assassinated Zuhir al-Qaisi, a top leader of the Popular Resistance Committees. Another 14 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli airstrikes. On March 9, and March 10, Palestinian militants fired at least 95 rockets at Israel in retaliation.)
February: 28 37
January: 14 15
Total: 451 723