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Israel Goes Above and Beyond: Assessing Operation Protective Edge

July 6, 2015

by: Joshua Spurlock, The Mideast Update

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 War crimes were committed during the 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorists in the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian civilians were deliberately put in harm’s way—but it was Hamas who drew their own people into the fighting, not Israel. Hamas intentionally placed military targets in civilian areas, disguised militants as civilians, and even forced their own civilians to stay in areas at risk of IDF (Israel Defense Forces) attack, according to a 200-plus-page report covering the 2014 Operation Protective Edge conflict in detail.

The report, prepared in coordination with the Israeli Justice Ministry, Foreign Ministry, IDF and more, highlights the lengths to which Israel went to avoid collateral damage in the midst of an intentional urban warzone created by Gaza terrorists. But don’t just take Israel’s word for it—other nations are also saying Israel did all they could and more in last summer’s fight. “This report points to similar findings that were reached by senior US and European generals,” noted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a press statement when the Israeli report was released.

“They determined explicitly that Israel operated during Operation Protective Edge in accordance with every international standard in order to avoid hitting innocents. They are familiar with the international standard; they are familiar with it in their own militaries. They say that Israel acted beyond the international standard.”

So what did that look like? To get the fullest picture, the Israeli report has to start before Operation Protective Edge began.

The Setup


 Hamas has spent more than a decade launching thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel, while actively seeking to harm and kill Israeli civilians. In June 2014, the Gaza-based terror group struck in the Judea and Samaria (West Bank) region, kidnapping and murdering three Israeli teenagers. Furthermore, almost daily rocket and mortar fire escalated the already tense situation—to which Israel responded with targeted strikes. Finally, and only after seeking international intervention to calm down hostilities, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge to defend their own terrorized civilians.

The report notes that Hamas’ military advancements allowed it to target more than 70 percent of Israel’s civilian population, using lethal weapons that killed multiple Israeli civilians. Showing the Israeli willingness to honestly assess the situation, the report notes that the Palestinian casualties exceeded 2,100 persons—not all of which were killed by Israeli fire and at least 44 percent of which were “positively identified” as militants from Hamas or other terror groups. That figure stems from IDF expert analysis done as of April 2015, with the report noting that an even higher percentage of the casualties may be Gaza militants.

Israel notes specifically their regret that any Palestinian civilians were killed in the conflict and makes a point of saying that “Israel did not intentionally target civilians or civilian objects.” At the same time, the report acknowledges that human error and technological failures can result in unfortunate results—and that’s when the other side plays by the rules. Hamas did not, and in fact intentionally placed their own civilians in the crosshairs.

Hamas War Crimes


 Beyond attacking Israeli civilians, Hamas’ war crimes against their own civilians are extensive. The report listed activities such as booby-trapping civilian buildings, using places of worship as sniping positions and schools for storing weapons, and more. “Some 550 rockets and mortars were identified by IDF systems as being launched from within or near ‘sensitive sites’ such as schools, U.N. facilities, hospitals, and places of worship,” noted the report, stating further that Hamas manuals discovered during the conflict said to use the presence of civilians for strategic gain.

Furthermore, while Israel sent warnings to civilians of areas that would be attacked, Hamas told their own people to ignore the warnings and even directed the civilian movements with “explicit physical coercion” so as to shield their own forces.

Israel’s Efforts


 Israel, by contrast, sought to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. The report notes that Israel utilized lawyers and engineers in pre-planned attacks to determine if a strike had the potential for collateral damage, as allowed by international rules of combat. Their caution resulted in attacks being called off, including one example during which Israeli soldiers were under attack.

The report highlighted a situation on July 27, 2014 in which Israeli forces chose not to return fire after an apparent attack from a long-range anti-tank missile, so as to avoid civilian deaths. The Palestinian attack had been launched from a four-story apartment building and the IDF was unsure if civilians were inside, also noting that it was prayer time at a nearby mosque.

War Not Israel’s Choice

So while Hamas was deliberately endangering their own population, Israel was refraining from defending themselves in situations where the risk of collateral damage existed. But that’s not the worst Hamas crime. The ultimate way to prevent death in combat is by not fighting at all, and the report lists a chilling statistic as to the results of Hamas’ refusal to take the ceasefire that would have ended Operation Protective Edge a month earlier than it actually did.

Said the report, “Had Hamas accepted the initial Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that the Arab League endorsed and Israel accepted on July 15—which featured the same terms as the ceasefire offer to which Hamas ultimately adhered to on August 26—approximately 90 percent of the casualties incurred during the 2014 Gaza Conflict could have been avoided.”

In other words, beyond the rockets fired from civilian areas and the intentional targeting of Israeli civilians, Hamas’ stubborn refusal to reach even a temporary peace with Israel last summer is why nearly 2,000 Palestinians died. That’s a blood-red stain on Hamas’ hands that no Palestinian excuse or argument can ever wash away.

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