JNS.org – Other than hardened anti-Israel zealots and supporters of Hamas, few have questioned the need for Israel to take military action to defend its citizens after the depredations of Oct. 7. But the Israel Defense Forces have come under intense criticism about the way it is conducting the war in the Gaza Strip, with allegations of excessive force and even indiscriminate attacks. Some former Western military officers have joined the chorus of condemnation, suggesting the IDF should adopt the tactics of coalition forces in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Given the outcomes of both campaigns, perhaps neither provides the ideal template for how jihadists can be defeated.
Amid this growing reproof from afar, I have not yet heard one single realistic proposal for an alternative way of operating that would reduce civilian harm while still achieving the necessary objectives. That tells me that the IDF has no choice but to prosecute this conflict along current lines, despite the terrible loss of civilian life. But given the ill-informed accusations and wide-ranging misunderstanding of how the IDF is actually operating in Gaza, it is worth a closer look at what the IDF has been doing to mitigate harm to civilians.
I have been in Israel since the start of this war in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter, rape, torture and kidnapping spree three months ago. During that time, I have been extensively briefed on the conduct of operations by IDF commanders and staff and visited a wide range of IDF air and ground combat units, including inside the Gaza Strip, on a number of occasions, when I have been able to observe military operations firsthand.
During “Operation Swords of Iron,” the IDF has faced and continues to face one of the most difficult and complex combat environments any armed forces have ever had to deal with. Hamas and its fellow Gaza terrorists has, over several years, been preparing the territory with weapons and ammo caches, booby traps, mines, kill zones, and ambush and sniper positions.
They have an armory that includes sophisticated ground combat systems including thermobaric anti-armor missiles, explosively formed penetrator IEDs, long-range sniper rifles, explosive suicide vests, remote detonation equipment, attack drones, surveillance drones and ground-mounted surveillance cameras. In addition, they have positioned a vast array of mobile rocket launchers that continue to attack Israel’s civilian population, with missile barrages ongoing since the start of the war.
Hamas fighters and their infrastructure are comprehensively embedded in all populated areas of the Gaza Strip, and frequently relocate both above and below ground according to the movements of the IDF and the civilian population. The terrorists have utilized the predominantly urban areas to afford maximum cover and facilitate concealed approach and escape routes.
Hamas has constructed an extensive network of underground tunnels to gain protection for terrorists, to move fighters and equipment, to store weapons, to house command and control facilities, as well as to launch attacks and carry out ambushes. Some of these tunnels have been fitted with heavy blast doors to afford greater protection and frustrate assaulting troops. They are booby-trapped and rigged with explosives, early-warning devices and surveillance cameras. I have been into the tunnels during this conflict and can confirm that this network adds exponentially to the already immense challenges of fighting in urban areas, recognized by military professionals as perhaps the most demanding of all battle environments. Indeed, I am not aware of any comparable purposely built underground complex that any armed forces have had to tackle in any other conflict.
Hamas’s tactics are based on the exploitation of the civilian population of Gaza. Their above-ground infrastructure utilizes protected locations, including a large number of schools, hospitals and mosques for weapons storage, fighting positions, and tunnel access and egress. They have similarly used office and commercial facilities, shops and residential buildings. I have been briefed by combat troops on the ground that in some areas as much as every house and in other areas every other house contains elements of terrorist infrastructure; and I have been shown, for example, children’s bedrooms used to store grenades, anti-tank missiles and other munitions.
It is a standard Hamas tactic for terrorists to move unarmed, in civilian clothing, among the civilian population, collecting weapons stashed in civilian buildings and then carry out attacks against IDF troops. Hamas often compels civilians to remain in positions that the IDF is likely to attack, seeking to either deter an assault or exploit civilian deaths for international propaganda purposes if an attack is carried out. There are examples of Hamas killing civilians who fail to obey.
In addition to all this, Hamas is holding a large number of hostages in the Gaza Strip, which adds significant complications as the IDF seeks to find and rescue them and to avoid inadvertently killing them. Hamas has used the presence of their captives, including simulated and recorded hostage voices and related markings, to lure IDF soldiers into ambushes. Along with the tunnels, this adds yet another unique dimension to this conflict.
No place devoid of terrorists, munitions
This daunting combination of concurrent and conflicting challenges, coupled with the fact that Hamas systematically uses Gazans as human shields, and operates within and beneath civilian infrastructure, means that it is literally not possible to achieve the objectives of defeating Hamas and rescuing the hostages without the tragic consequence of civilian casualties and the regrettable destruction of civilian property from both ground and air. No army in the world would be able to do so, no matter what tactics they employed, and indeed no other army has ever done so in any comparable conflict.
Furthermore, Hamas’s form of operations—most of which directly and intentionally contravene the laws of armed conflict—also explain the necessity for the IDF to act with immense combat power when required and to operate with force across all areas of Gaza. No place in the Strip is devoid of terrorists and their munitions unless and until the IDF has cleared and secured them.
I have been briefed on IDF techniques and training for mitigating harm to civilians by commanders, staff officers and lawyers. I have also spoken to a large number of air and ground combat troops, and all have shown a clear understanding of the IDF rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict, as well as the personal and unit dedication to adhere to them. For example, I was present recently at a conference of operational commanders inside the Gaza Strip at which they discussed in great detail measures to avoid harm to civilians while attacking enemy positions in the close vicinity of a school that was being used for refuge by civilians. It was clear to me that the determination to protect civilian life was at the forefront of these commanders’ minds, in their planning and in their direction of tactical operations.
Measures that the IDF routinely take include selection of munitions to achieve the necessary effect on enemy targets while reducing the prospects of civilian casualties, especially in air operations where such calibration is more practicable; calculating proportionality; discriminating between combatants and non-combatants; and warning and enabling civilians to leave areas that are to be targeted.
The latter includes, at the time of writing, airdropping 6 million leaflets warning civilians to leave specified areas and indicating places of greater safety. In addition, the IDF has made 14 million pre-recorded phone calls and 72,000 personal calls warning civilians to leave targeted areas. The IDF then extensively monitors target areas from the air and ground to confirm the departure of civilians where possible before striking.
With these and other measures, the IDF has done all they are able to warn civilians of impending attacks. Temporary evacuation of civilians from areas of intense fighting into places of relative safety is the best way to keep civilians as far as possible out of harm’s way when fighting an enemy that has no regard for its own population, and, in fact, actively seeks to cause their deaths in order to bring pressure on Israel to cease its defensive operations inside Gaza. This latter factor may not be unique to this conflict, but for Hamas, it is a top operational priority, which makes it far more challenging for the IDF to minimize the number of civilian casualties. The IDF recognizes this and consequently makes efforts beyond those of any other army. In fact, taken together, the techniques I have described and the IDF’s other civilian harm mitigation measures represent by far the largest scale and most sophisticated efforts ever made to avoid civilian casualties in battle.
The IDF is also working hard to alleviate civilian suffering by facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid. That includes daily pauses in fighting and the opening of humanitarian corridors and humanitarian relief zones. The IDF enables the supply of hundreds of tons of aid each day, and current constraints on aid delivery are due not to IDF-imposed restrictions but to the capacity of U.N. aid organizations. The IDF is striving to make the flow of aid more effective than it has been so far, including potentially opening an additional crossing point into Gaza. These efforts show Israel’s commitment to humanitarian assistance, despite its often negative impact on military operations. The fact is that unilateral humanitarian pauses and creation of corridors provide a military advantage to Hamas; additionally, there is no doubt that some of the aid delivered into Gaza is appropriated by terrorists.
Information and intelligence shortcomings, operational mistakes, human error, miscalculations and technical malfunctions occur in all wars, and sometimes tragically lead to loss of civilian life and indeed to fratricide (“friendly fire” or “blue on blue”). I have witnessed and been involved in several such events in other conflicts. Inevitably, dreadful incidents of this nature have occurred in this war, too. When errors or unlawful activity are suspected, the IDF uses its Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism (which I have observed in action) to learn lessons, prevent repetition, and, if appropriate, refer cases to the Military Advocate General for further investigation.
Based on my own military experience in similar types of conflict and on my direct observations throughout the first three months of this war, in my opinion, the IDF has taken all reasonable measures to achieve its mission while minimizing harm to the civilian population and maximizing humanitarian relief. Nor are Israel’s military objectives optional or negotiable. To eliminate the potential for a recurrence of another Oct. 7-like massacre, which Hamas’s leaders have repeatedly threatened, Hamas’s fighting capabilities must be destroyed; its ability to continue firing lethal rockets into the Israeli population must be denied; and every possible effort must be made to rescue the hostages.
British Columbia’s Jewish community is outraged after MLA Selina Robinson is removed from cabinet over remarks about Israel
Leaders of the British Columbia Jewish community have reacted with dismay to the decision by David Eby, the province’s premier, to remove Selina Robinson from her position as minister of post-secondary education and future skills on Feb. 5 due to remarks she made the previous week during an online discussion. While speaking on a panel […]
Gaza Border Residents Demand A Return Home, Four Months Into War
Israelis from the Gaza Envelope are calling on the government to approve their return home, roughly four months since the war’s outbreak on October 7.
The head of the Scot Negev Regional Council, Tamir Idan, said outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, “We demand a clear statement from the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister that it is safe to return to the area. Until then we are not moving from here.”
The heads of the other regional councils in the Gaza area joined Idan outside the Prime Minister’s office, where they slept last night in protest.
The regional leaders say that members of the Gaza border towns should be allowed to return to the areas if they wish, rather than being forced to live in hotels. An internal plan is set to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the near future.
The heads claim it is safe to return home, and are demanding that the government sign off on such a statement so residents can do so. Their protest comes as the government extended the funds allocated for their stay at hotels until July.
Following the October 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists, when they stormed southern Israel, murdering over 1,200 and taking hostage more than 240, tens of thousands of Israelis from the area were uprooted from their homes and placed in hotels in the Jerusalem area, Eilat, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea region. Since then, they have been living there full time, with makeshift schools set up for children and activities to keep everyone occupied. The move has also led local businesses to be completely shuttered.
Some Israelis have already moved back to their towns, which is technically allowed but under their own risk — rockets still fly near daily from Gaza and the IDF is operating within the Gaza Strip, which is minutes away from certain border towns.
The plan presented by the regional heads, they say, would mean that the towns are technically safe to return to, and therefore the risk falls under the government and the military.
This is as tens of thousands of Israelis from northern towns also remain out of their homes, with no current timeline for return due to the constant threat of Hezbollah missiles and the potential the war extends to the north.
The post Gaza Border Residents Demand A Return Home, Four Months Into War first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Australian Politician Says ‘Jewish Lobby’ Uses ‘Tentacles’ to ‘Influence Power’
Video of a left-wing Australian politician discussing how “the Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby” are using their “tentacles” to “influence power” went viral on Tuesday, sparking backlash from the Australian Jewish community.
Jenny Leong, an Australia Greens member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, spoke on a panel for the Palestine Justice Movement in December to promote boycotting Israel.
“The Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby are infiltrating into every single aspect of what is ethnic community groups,” Leong said during the panel. “They rock up and they’re part of the campaign,” and “they offer solidarity.”
She continued: “They [the Jewish and Zionist lobby] rock up to every community meeting and event to offer that connection because their tentacles reach into the areas that try and influence power and I think that we need to call that out and expose that.”
Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes… pic.twitter.com/P9LokLFQwU
— NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (@NSWJBD) February 6, 2024
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which is the representative of Jews who live in New South Wales, called the remarks “despicable,” adding that “Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes to accuse Jews of covertly manipulating civic life. She has outrageously suggested that there is a sinister or evil purpose associated with Jews undertaking the most normal of activities – interacting with other Australians.”
Josh Burns, a Labor member of the Australian House of Representatives, said her comments were “a direct attack on Jewish people in Australia” and that “she should unreservedly apologize.” He also called on the Australian Greens to “take responsibility and demonstrate that Jewish people in Australia are safe and respected by their Party.”
The right-leaning Australian Jewish Association wrote on X that “Every credible political party must put the Greens last. Every non-racist fair minded person must put the Greens last.”
In response to the criticism, Leong apologized for specifically using the word “tentacles,” but not for her message. She said: “Speaking on a panel during a two-hour-long event last year, I acknowledge that I used a word at one point that was an inappropriate descriptor for the influence of groups backing Netanyahu’s genocidal attacks in Gaza and the ongoing occupation – I apologise that this has caused offence.”
She continued: “It is incredibly telling that after a conversation where myself and other speakers made countless mentions of the genocidal attacks and occupation occurring in Gaza right now, that two months later more focus isn’t being put on the deaths of over 26,000 people, many of them children.”
Her comments and apology come amid increasing concern over antisemitism on the far-left, which has celebrated violent resistance against Israel since October 7, when Hamas invaded the country, killed 1,200 people, and kidnapped more than 240 more.
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