Israeli commander: ‘We rewrote the rules of war for Gaza’

From The Independent:

A high-ranking officer has acknowledged for the first time that the Israeli army went beyond its previous rules of engagement on the protection of civilian lives in order to minimise military casualties during last year’s Gaza war, The Independent can reveal.

The officer, who served as a commander during Operation Cast Lead, made it clear that he did not regard the longstanding principle of military conduct known as “means and intentions” – whereby a targeted suspect must have a weapon and show signs of intending to use it before being fired upon – as being applicable before calling in fire from drones and helicopters in Gaza last winter. A more junior officer who served at a brigade headquarters during the operation described the new policy – devised in part to avoid the heavy military casualties of the 2006 Lebanon war – as one of “literally zero risk to the soldiers”.

The officers’ revelations will pile more pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set up an independent inquiry into the war, as demanded in the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report, which harshly criticised the conduct of both Israel and Hamas. One of Israel’s most prominent human rights lawyers, Michael Sfard, said last night that the senior commander’s acknowledgement – if accurate – was “a smoking gun”.

A policy of “zero risk to the soldiers” — think about that. Isn’t that exactly what the infamous Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira believes in — a rabbi, it should be noted, who has been portrayed as being a fanatic and an extremist.

This is how the views of Shapira, head of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, were described in the Jerusalem Post a few days ago:

In sharp contrast to the Goldstone Report, which criticizes the IDF for purportedly committing “war crimes” against Palestinians during Operation Cast Lead, Od Yosef Chai’s criticism of the IDF is totally different.

IDF battlefield ethics are seen as immoral not because they allow for the killing of innocent bystanders but because they force Jewish soldiers to needlessly endanger themselves to protect gentiles.

The measures taken by the IDF to protect non-combatants, such as using ground forces to weed out terrorists embedded in highly populated civilian areas so as to minimize collateral damage, are viewed by Shapira as downright evil, because they lead to the needless injury or death of Jewish soldiers.

So, Shapira should be relieved to hear that Jewish soldiers were not put at unnecessary risk — though he’d hardly need to have waited a year to figure that out, since the war’s casualty figures (six soldiers killed, not including four killed by friendly fire) make it transparent that Israel minimized its risks. Indeed, as the Independent report reveals, one of the principal ways the operation kept soldiers out of harms way was through heavy reliance on drone attacks.

“Most of the guys taken down were taken down by order of headquarters. The number of enemy killed by HQ-operated remote … compared to enemy killed by soldiers on the ground had absolutely inverted,” an Israeli soldier told Yedhiot Ahronot.

Since the Independent has, at least in part, run Yedhiot Ahronot‘s own story, hopefully the Israeli newspaper can muster the courage to print the rest of it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email