Amnesty International recently accused Israel of showing “callous indifference to the carnage caused” during their war with Hamas, saying their attacks went against the principles of international humanitarian law.
During a forum at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in New York City, however, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, painted a different picture of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), saying he believes “that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.”
Retired Colonel Richard Kemp CBE, former commander of the British armed forces in Afghanistan, concurred, telling Ynet News that “everything the IDF does to protect civilians and to stop the death of innocent civilians is a great deal more than any other army, and it’s more than the British and the American armies.” In fact, an American delegation visited Israel three months ago to learn about the measures the IDF takes to prevent civilian casualties.
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The IDF has gone above and beyond in its efforts to protect the innocent. Numerous videos show them dropping leaflets warning civilians to avoid Hamas operatives and facilities, diverting missiles from Hamas targets to avoid civilians, and “roof-knocking” (dropping a warning bomb so civilians have time to flee before the real bombs are dropped on Hamas-occupied buildings).
Abu Bilal al-Ja’abeer, a senior Hamas activist, said in an interview that he received a phone call from Israeli security telling him he had five minutes to evacuate his house with his wife and children before it was destroyed. However, instead of fleeing, they gathered civilians and put them on the roof of the house, knowing the IDF would not drop a bomb on innocent civilians if they could help it.
All the while, Hamas continued their attacks on Israel with no concern as to whether those they killed were soldiers or civilians. During the 50 days of the Israel-Gaza conflict, Hamas fired thousands of rockets and mortars at Israeli towns and cities and used a tunnel network to carry out attacks on Israel. Some of those tunnels exited near Israeli civilian communities, giving Hamas the ability to attack them as well.
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Hamas used hospitals as command centers, ambulances as transportation, and medics as human shields because international law gives medical facilities and personnel special protection from attack during active conflict. They also intentionally fired rockets from residential areas, knowing that the IDF would avoid firing; and if they did have to attack a hospital or ambulance or launch missiles at residential areas, they would draw international condemnation.
Israel has accused Hamas of intentionally distorting the facts to gain international support. Retired Major General Amos Yadlin, the former Chief of Intelligence for the IDF, spoke about the tactics of the Hamas militants with Wolf Blitzer in July.
“Hamas military terrorists are killed in hundreds, and they are not reporting it. They, of course, are putting all the cameras on the civilians… Hundreds of Hamas militants in the tunnels, in the fighting on the ground, from the air. But they will show you only the civilians… They shield behind civilians. Where are Hamas leaders? They are in the bunkers.”
Dempsey summarized the tough spot Israel is in, commending their moral integrity:
“In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticized for civilian casualties…. But they did some extraordinary things to try to limit civilian casualties.”
h/t Times of Israel
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Photo credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Flickr)
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