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The Gaza War, known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead and in Gaza and by Hamas as the Gaza Massacre or the Battle of al-Furqan [the criterion] was a three-week armed conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Palestinian militants during the winter of 2008–2009. It began on 27 December 2008 and ended on 18 January 2009 with each side declaring a unilateral ceasefire. Israel's stated goal was to stop rocket fire into Israel and weapons smuggling into the Gaza strip. After the beginning of the conflict, Palestinian groups continued firing rockets in response to what they characterized as "massacres". Israeli forces attacked police stations, military targets including weapons caches and suspected rocket firing teams, as well as political and administrative institutions in the opening assault, striking in the densely populated cities of Gaza, Khan Yunis and Rafah. An Israeli ground invasion began on January 3. Infantry commanders were given an unprecedented level of access to coordinate with air, naval, artillery, intelligence, and combat engineering units during this second phase. Various new technologies and hardware were also introduced. On January 5, the IDF began operating in the densely populated urban centers of Gaza. During the last week of the offensive, Israel mostly hit targets it had damaged before and struck Palestinian rocket-launching units. Hamas intensified its rocket and mortar attacks against civilian targets in southern Israel, reaching the major cities of Beersheba and Ashdod for the first time during the conflict. Israeli politicians ultimately decided against striking deeper within Gaza amid concerns of higher casualties on both sides and rising international criticism. The conflict ended on January 18, when Israel first declared a unilateral ceasefire, followed by Hamas' announcing a one-week ceasefire twelve hours later. Israel completed its withdrawal on January 21. (via Freebase)