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October 28, 2021 5:57 pm
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Israel Complied With Law of Armed Conflict During Gaza War: JINSA Report

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Streaks of light are seen from Ashkelon as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, May 15, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel complied with the law of armed conflict (LOAC) and the requirement to mitigate civilian risk during the May hostilities with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, argued a report released Thursday by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

“IDF military operations complied with LOAC and consistently implemented precautions to mitigate civilian risk, some exceeding those implemented in recent US combat operations that we participated in, despite confronting an adversary that often sought to exacerbate that risk deliberately,” concluded the assessment, undertaken by a task-force of a dozen retired senior US generals, admirals and military legal experts commissioned by the Washington, DC-based JINSA.

The Israeli army implemented a number of precautionary measures to mitigate risk to the Gazan civilian population, including the dropping of leaflets, telephone calls to Gazan residents, and text messages which were sent to warn Gazan civilians to leave an area in advance of airstrikes, according to the report. Minutes preceding an actual attack, small munitions delivered a “knock on the roof” to provide further warning.

“Yet, we found a significant gap between this reality of IDF LOAC compliance, and of Hamas’ violation of it, and the public’s perception. Israel’s messaging efforts were unable to close this gap,” the report stated.

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It purports to present the first independent analysis of the conflict by US military commanders and lawyers with experience in counterterrorism and the laws of armed conflict — including Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr. (ret.), former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Gen. Charles Wald (ret.), who served as deputy commander of United States European Command.

Their assessment was based on primary source research, a fact-finding trip to Israel, and discussions with senior Israeli and United Nations (UN) officials.

“The most telling feature of the Gaza conflict was the strategy mismatch between Israel’s purely military and operational objectives to degrade Hamas’ military capabilities and Hamas’ information-based strategic objectives of delegitimizing the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in global opinion as a violator of Palestinian rights and international law and degrading the IDF’s operational advantage,” the report found.

During the 11-day operation Guardian of the Walls in May, about 4,340 rockets were fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, with hundreds of them falling within Gaza. In response, Israel struck about 1,600 military targets and destroyed more than 60 miles of underground terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip, while its Iron Dome air defense system intercepted the rockets at a 90% rate.

The JINSA report cited Israeli estimates of 264 total deaths in Gaza during the conflict, including 99 confirmed combatants, 40 believed to be combatants, and 120 civilians, with 20 of those killed by misfired Hamas rockets.

The hostilities claimed the lives of 12 Israelis, including one IDF soldier.

“Hamas serially violated LOAC by directing attacks against Israeli civilians, launching indiscriminate attacks against Israel, and exposing Gazan civilians to avoidable risk to either intentionally complicate Israeli military operations or exploit civilian casualties in order to make false claims of Israeli war crimes,” the report said. “Hamas deliberately located its military assets — including rocket launchers, mortar positions, command and control posts, and military tunnels — in close proximity to civilians, indicating an unlawful intent to utilize human shields and render it near impossible for the IDF to attack lawful targets without serious risk of incidental civilian casualties or collateral damage to civilian property.”

The JINSA report faulted Israel for “insufficiently” countering Hamas’ strategic use of disinformation.

“The mismatch between Hamas’ strategic informational and Israel’s military operational objectives enabled both sides to claim victory in the May 2021 conflict, failing to resolve any foundational issues in the conflict and suggesting a high probability of future hostilities,” it was stated.

Learning from Israel’s experience during the May hostilities, the task force concluded, “the United States should prepare for operations against future adversaries that fight in complex environments, willingly put civilians at risk, and deploy deliberate disinformation campaigns to blame the other side for it.”

Specifically, the Gaza war “reveals the need for cooperation between the United States, Israel, and like-minded nations to address the threat posed by the proliferation of both advanced and effective low-end capabilities from state sponsors of terrorism like Iran and North Korea to unconventional adversaries like Hamas,” the report recommended.

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