Unreported: IDF Values Life as Hamas Aims to Maximize Casualties
After hundreds of rockets from the Gaza Strip targeted central Israel on Tuesday night, killing three more Israeli civilians, IDF airstrikes overnight destroyed military positions belonging to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist groups. According to the IDF, several senior terror operatives were killed in the retaliatory attacks. In some cases, the Israeli Air Force must contend with Hamas’ well-known strategy of militarizing residential areas by striking, for example, a house that was allegedly used as a weapons depot.
The world’s leading news organizations have repeatedly and uncritically cited the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry when it accuses Israel of “targeted attacks against civilians.” Experts, however, have cast doubt on these claims. Hamas has issued guidelines calling on Palestinians to always describe casualties as “innocent civilians,” even when they are terrorists. Moreover, roughly a third of the projectiles fired from Gaza landed inside the densely populated enclave, feeding suspicions that at least some of the civilian casualties were actually victims of Hamas rockets.
Several journalists were eager to blame Israel for the deaths of civilians. In some cases, they resorted to blatant lies to prove their point. For example, Bel Trew — Middle East correspondent for The Independent — on Tuesday said that in Gaza, “families don’t have warnings” against incoming airstrikes. That same day, her lie was refuted on Al Jazeera. In a news segment, a reporter for the Qatar-based news agency acknowledged that Israel gave advance warning before hitting a target:
A reporter for the Qatar-based @AJEnglish yesterday acknowledged that Israel gave an advanced warning before taking out a target.
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) May 12, 2021
With the media incessantly pushing a false moral equivalence between Palestinian terror groups and the Israeli civilians they are attacking, it is time to unpack the IDF’s Code of Ethics, and the measures it takes to save lives on both sides. A glimpse into the values that guide this army will dispel any notion that the Israel Defense Forces are as culpable for the loss of innocent human life as Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
“Maintaining Humanity Even in Combat”
The IDF adheres to an unusually high moral standard of conduct. As Defense Minister Benny Gantz put it in 2019: “Our battle orders include the rules of engagement and the [Biblical] Ten Commandments. The computer code of the F-35 and the moral code of the prophets of Israel.” This concept is made more explicit in Ruach Tzahal, the IDF’s Code of Ethics, which every Israeli soldier studies during basic training:
The soldier shall make use of his weaponry and power only for the fulfillment of the mission and solely to the extent required; he will maintain his humanity even in combat. The soldier shall not employ his weaponry and power in order to harm non-combatants or prisoners of war, and shall do all he can to avoid harming their lives, bodies, honor and property.”
Accordingly, the IDF goes to great lengths to avoid harming civilians, often going beyond its obligations under customary international law. A video shared by Palestinians on Tuesday shows the concierge of a building in Gaza discussing its evacuation with an IDF representative, the latter giving him hours to clear the premises.
Footage from #Gaza of a Palestinian receiving a call from the IDF warning him to evacuate the building that is being used by terrorists to fire rockets. The IDF is saving lives, even while they fight terror. pic.twitter.com/EXODUnVb1e
— יוסף חדאד – Yoseph Haddad (@YosephHaddad) May 11, 2021
Phone calls are just one part of Israel’s effort to minimize civilian casualties. The IDF, once described as the “most moral army in the history of warfare” by the British Colonel Richard Kemp, also sends out text messages and drops leaflets. If people nevertheless remain in the area, they are often warned with a so-called “knock on the roof”: a loud, non-lethal bomb informing them that a strike is imminent.
Hamas: Committing Double War Crimes; Israel: Saving Lives on Both Sides
But while Israel tries to minimize civilian casualties, Palestinian terror groups use their people as human shields. During the 2014 war, Hamas encouraged Palestinians to gather on rooftops to fend off Israeli attacks. Consequently, several airstrikes were called off at the eleventh hour. The terror organization is known to use residential buildings, hotels, hospitals, and even UNRWA schools as launching pads for attacks against Israel.
“The people oppose the Israeli fighter planes with their bodies alone,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri previously asserted. “We, the [Hamas] movement, call on our people to adopt this method to protect the Palestinian homes.”
Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip are knowingly putting Palestinian lives at risk. Footage of rocket barrages, launched from populated areas in the enclave, show that their perverse military strategy has not changed. This amounts to a double war crime: the terror groups deliberately fire rockets at Israeli population centers, while using Gazans as shields to fend off Israeli retaliatory actions.
Despite Hamas’ long, documented record of human rights violations, not a single mainstream media outlet has written about the use of human shields by Gazan terror groups within the context of the current escalation.
Instead, major news organizations have opted to scold Israel without providing relevant background information about the extraordinary lengths to which the IDF goes to minimize the loss of life (see for example The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Guardian).
The New York Times went as far as to write that Hamas and Israel are “unevenly matched,” as Israel has a “sophisticated antimissile defense system,” effectively blaming the Jewish state for defending its citizens against terror. What the Times’ Patrick Kingsley failed to grasp is that Iron Dome saves lives on both sides, by preventing further escalation.
Despite the media’s bias against Israel, the IDF continues to defend its citizens, while at the same time protecting as many Palestinian lives as possible.
The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias.
This article originally appeared at HonestReporting, which is providing vital work in correcting anti-Israel narratives during the current crisis.