An internal investigative report by Israel’s military, published preemptively before the expected release of a biased, anti-Israel report later this week, reveals the extent of Hamas’ war crimes and the IDF’s outstanding efforts to avoid civilian casualties during its war against Hamas in 2014.
Israel publicized on Sunday a comprehensive report, titled “The 2014 Gaza Conflict (7 July – 26 August 2014): Factual and Legal Aspects” on the IDF’s actions to uproot the Hamas terror infrastructure during Operation Protective Edge.” The report was published ahead of a pending report compiled by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), slated to be publicized later this week.
The Israeli report, intended to provide an “informed understanding” of the events, accurately depicts the unfolding of the events and recounts in detail how and why Israel and the IDF took specific actions.
The 2014 Gaza Conflict was a chapter in the ongoing war waged against Israel for over a decade by terrorist organizations operating from the Gaza Strip that fired thousands of rockets at civilian targets throughout the country.
On July 7, 2014, the Government of Israel ordered the IDF to launch an aerial operation against Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. This operation, named Protective Edge, was launched in response to increasing rocket and mortar fire on Israel from the Gaza Strip during June and early July 2014, despite Israel’s continued efforts at de-escalation.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely’s press briefing on the Israeli report on the 2014 Gaza conflict:
On July 17, 2014, as a result of Hamas’s continued rejection of Israel’s ceasefire initiatives, combined with the ongoing launching of rocket and mortar fire attacks on Israeli territory by sea and through cross-border assault tunnels, the Government of Israel authorized the entry of ground forces into a limited area of the Gaza Strip. These ground forces were tasked with identifying and neutralizing the cross-border terror tunnels, which originated from the outskirts of the urban areas of the Gaza Strip. The ground forces withdrew from the Gaza Strip on August 5, after locating and neutralizing 32 tunnels, despite continuing rocket and mortar attacks against Israel. The 2014 Gaza Conflict concluded after 50 days, on August 26, with an unconditional ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
The full report includes official documents concerning factual and legal aspects of the 2014 Gaza conflict and provides information on the following topics:
– Background to the armed conflict that Hamas has waged against Israel for over a decade and the circumstances that led Israel to launch Operation Protective Edge;
– The effect of Hamas’s attacks on Israel’s civilian population and Israel’s civil defense measures;
– The tactics employed by Hamas and other terrorist organizations during the conflict and their violations of international law;
– Detailed factual and legal information concerning the actions of the IDF during the war, including the steps taken before and during the conflict to ensure Israel’s compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict; and
Israel’s examination and investigation mechanism for dealing with alleged misconduct by IDF forces.
The 2014 Gaza Conflict was another peak in the hostilities concerning the ongoing armed conflict that has been waged against Israel for well over a decade by terrorist organizations operating from the Gaza Strip, the report explains. The nature of the hostilities between the IDF and these terrorist organizations in the summer of 2014 was characterized by two inter-related elements.
Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold presents Israel’s report on the 2014 Gaza conflict:
First, the conflict occurred primarily in an urban environment. Hamas combat manuals and training materials recovered by IDF forces in the Gaza Strip demonstrate that Hamas’s strategy was to deliberately draw the hostilities into the urban terrain and to use built-up areas and the presence of the civilian population for tactical advantage and political gain. This strategy was obvious during the 2014 Gaza Conflict in view of the sheer scope of military activity that Hamas and other terrorist organizations embedded within the urban environment.
Second, the conflict involved non-state actors who defy international law, including the Law of Armed Conflict applicable to the hostilities within the Gaza Strip, meaning Hamas committed war crimes as proscribed by international law. More than just drawing the fighting into the urban terrain, these organizations often unlawfully intertwined their military operations with the civilian environment. IDF airborne and ground forces faced terrorists disguised as civilians and as IDF soldiers, residential homes converted to military command centers, multi-story buildings used as pre-prepared surveillance positions, mosque minarets employed as sniping posts, schools utilized as weapons caches, civilian structures extensively booby-trapped, and tunnel openings and infrastructure hidden in and under civilian areas.
This exploitation of civilian surroundings – which constituted double war crimes and crimes against humanity as Hamas targets civilians while hiding behind civilians – posed significant operational, legal and ethical challenges to the IDF. The IDF is committed to conducting all its operations in accordance with international law and makes efforts, including beyond its legal obligations, to mitigate the risk of harm to civilians, the report states. Despite the IDF’s commitment to the rule of law and efforts to protect civilians, an unfortunate result of the complex realities described above is that during the 2014 Gaza Conflict, numerous civilians were caught in the hostilities.
It is against this background that the harm to civilians and civilian objects in the Gaza Strip that resulted from the 2014 Gaza Conflict should be assessed, the report emphasizes. In all armed conflicts, the application of military force almost inevitably causes residual and incidental harm; this is even more so when the hostilities occur in the urban environment. The 2014 Gaza Conflict in particular involved high intensity and protracted hostilities, including close-quarter combat and intensive urban warfare, exacerbating the risk of harm to civilians within the combat arena. Such harm was also the direct result of rockets and mortars that were launched towards Israel from within the Gaza Strip but fell short.
Furthermore, much of what may have appeared to external parties to be indiscriminate harm to civilians or purely civilian objects was in fact legitimate attacks against military targets that merely appeared to be civilian but were actually part of the military operations of these terrorist organizations, the report states. Many allegedly “civilian” casualties were in fact terrorists. Harm to the civilian population also occurred as the result of unfortunate – yet lawful – incidental effects of legitimate military action in the vicinity of civilians and their surroundings, and as a result of the inescapable constraint of commanders not being infallible, intelligence not being perfect and technological systems sometimes failing.
As stated repeatedly by the IDF and the Government of Israel’s highest representatives, Israel did not intend, and deeply regrets, the harm caused to the Palestinian civilian population and surroundings during the 2014 Gaza Conflict, the report concludes.
By: United with Israel Staff
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