Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Operation Cast Lead: The Israeli Viewpoint

As my friend Sol says, there's nothing brief about this legal brief. (I'll add that whoever chose the fonts should be demoted immediately.)

Beyond that, it's an extremely detailed report on Israel's December 2008 - January 2009 incursion into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and well worth a look. The executive summary alone runs to 14 paragraphs, including such details as these:
3. The Paper addresses the context of the Gaza Operation and notes that Israel had both a right and an obligation to take military action against Hamas in Gaza to stop Hamas‘ almost incessant rocket and mortar attacks upon thousands of Israeli civilians and its other acts of terrorism. Israel was bombarded by some 12,000 rockets and mortar shells between 2000 and 2008, including nearly 3,000 rockets and mortar shells in 2008 alone. Hamas specifically timed many of its attacks to terrorise schoolchildren in the mornings and the afternoons. These deliberate attacks caused deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage; forced businesses to close; and terrorised tens of thousands of residents into abandoning their homes.

4. The Paper notes that Hamas constantly worked to increase the range of its weapons and that, by late 2008, its rocket fire was capable of reaching some of Israel‘s largest cities and strategic infrastructure, threatening one million Israeli civilians, including nearly 250,000 schoolchildren. Hamas also orchestrated numerous suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and amassed an extensive armed force of more than 20,000 armed operatives in Gaza.

5. The Paper also describes the numerous non-military approaches Israel pursued to try to stop the attacks before commencing the Gaza Operation, including urgent appeals to the U.N. Secretary General and successive Presidents of the Security Council to take determined action, and diplomatic overtures, directly and through intermediaries, to stop the violence. Hamas nonetheless continued, and in fact escalated, its cross-border attacks. [...]

6. [...] Both before and during the Gaza Operation, the IDF went to great lengths, as documented in the Paper, to ensure that humanitarian aid reached the Palestinian population, including by facilitating the delivery of 1,511 trucks carrying 37,162 tons [of aid].

7. By contrast, both before and during the Gaza Operation, Hamas committed clear grave violations of international law. The Paper documents Hamas‘ deliberate rocket and mortar attacks against Israel‘s civilian population, which violated the international law prohibition on deliberate attacks against civilians and civilian objects. It also documents deliberate Hamas tactics that put Gaza‘s civilian population in grave danger. [...]

8. The Paper addresses the acute dilemmas faced by Israel in confronting an adversary using its own civilian population as a shield. It details the extensive precautions taken by the IDF to avoid or limit harm to civilians in Gaza, while still having to achieve the necessary objective of stopping Hamas‘ constant rocket and mortar fire on Israeli civilians and property. The IDF not only checked and cross-checked targets and used the least destructive munitions possible to achieve legitimate military objectives; it also implemented an elaborate system of warnings, including general warnings to civilians (through media broadcasts and leaflets) to avoid or minimise the presence of civilians in areas and facilities used by Hamas, regional warnings to alert civilians to leave specific areas before IDF operations commenced, and specific warnings (through telephone calls and warning shots to rooftops) to warn civilians to evacuate specific buildings targeted for attack. The IDF dropped more than 2.5 million leaflets and made more than 165,000 phone calls warning civilians to distance themselves from military targets.
(emphasis added)

The "brief" itself goes on and on, into excruciating detail. For example, this simple sentence:
In the eight years preceding Israel‘s decision to launch the Gaza Operation, Israel sent dozens of letters to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the President of the Security Council, describing the Qassam rocket shelling of Israeli town and cities and suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.29
...is followed by footnote #29, which goes on for two pages of small print, listing over 220 official letters to the UN in chronological order. (With no visible irony, the footnote begins "see, for example"...)

Hamas self-inflicted casualties are also listed:
Between 27 and 31 December 2008, the first five days of Israel‘s air offensive, about 6.5 percent of the rockets fired by Hamas at Israel fell in the Gaza Strip.

The brief also goes into great detail about the rights and obligations of self-defense, international law as it applies to proportionality and the need to avoid civilian casualties, and so on, listing both Israel's painstaking care and Hamas' utter disregard of such things. Hamas' use of civilian buildings -- and UN facilities! -- from which to launch their attacks is documented with dates, locations, and photographs. Even IDF training materials (emphasizing the sanctity of all human life, and the need to protect civilians) are documented. I was interested to see documentation of how the IDF telephoned military targets ahead of time, in order to warn non-combatants away; so far as I know, this is unique in the history of warfare. (The brief calls this technique "frequently effective", because "aerial surveillance many times was able to confirm the resulting evacuation of numerous civilians prior to an attack by the IDF".)

There's also a breakdown of that 1,511 trucks carrying 37,162 tons of humanitarian supplies on pages 102 and 103. For example, 119 Israeli trucks crossed into Gaza at Kerem Shalom, carrying 1,038 tons of medicines and medical equipment; 24 trucks brought 160 tons of blankets. There's also a list of 706 trucks of humanitarian supplies from various international organizations and other countries. (I, for one, find it notable that Egypt -- the country with the largest humanitarian contributions, other than Israel -- sent 43 trucks with 1,183 tons of supplies. That's less than one-thirtieth of what Israel contributed... and they share a border with Gaza.)

The whole thing goes on for 164 pages, with 283 footnotes. And... as the introduction notes, this is the preliminary report.

I will not exhort you to Read The Whole Thing. But you might well want to take a look. It is, as Sol calls it, "everything you always wanted to know about the Gaza operation but were afraid to ask".


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