In many interviews, both print and TV, I keep seeing world leaders, talking heads, and others gravely nod their heads and intone solemnly that “well, yes, Israel has a right to respond to rocket fire, but they really need to do more to prevent civilian casualties.”.
Here are a few truths that are relatively objectively accepted.
1. Hamas “embeds” their rocket launchers, weapons caches, fighters, and command centers in residential neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, and homes. Their tunnels frequently have entrances in these venues. There is ample video evidence of this online.
2. Hamas exhorts its citizens to NOT evacuate when Israel warns them of impending attacks on specific areas. They claim, proudly (on TV) that their people are happy to be used as human shields in this manner. Again, the evidence of this is ample, including in video interviews with Hamas leaders.
3. Israel warns civilians (and Hamas fighters) by dropping leaflets, texting and phoning individuals,, and finally “roof knocking” with inert or very low power ordnance, prior to attacks on buildings that would otherwise be considered civilian buildings. This is easily verifiable, and has, in fact, been admitted by Hamas and the UN.
4. Israel, in its warnings to evacuate, specifies safe routes, safe destinations, and time windows during which it is safe to move. This is also readily verifiable.
5. Israel, when targeting buildings and installations from the air, has aborted many missions because there are civilians readily apparent in the targeted area. Again, there are lots of videos of this online. It is easy to verify.
6. Israel has delayed responses to heavy fire when there are readily identifiable civilians present. The Wafa hospital engagement is a clear example of this. For days, Israel took fire from the hospital, yet waited until they had phone confirmation that there were no patients or doctors left in the hospital before firing on fighters launching RPG’s and other fire on Israeli forces. This, too, is easily verifiable.
It is quite clear that Hamas very cynically and deliberately places its civilians in harm’s way in order to boost the media coverage and propaganda value of dead civilians.
No matter what or how much Israel does to try to minimize civilian casualties, there will always be civilian casualties in an urban war zone.
So, to Mr. Kerry, Navi Pillay and all those who continually demand that Israel do “more” to protect civilians, I would ask, simply, “what, SPECIFICALLY should Israel do to reduce civilian casualties further?”
And, I would challenge them to use examples from other conflicts around the world in which other armies have successfully used such methods. Perhaps we can use examples from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, where I am sure there are no civilian casualties….
While I wait for an answer to those questions, perhaps I’ll go back to school, earn a few more degrees, and grow old.