Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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8 Adar 5766 - March 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Israel Reduced Civilian Casualties to an Incredible 3.5 Percent

by M. Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

In a talk to the press on Tuesday morning, IAF Commander Major General Eliezer Shakedi said that the air force makes "superhuman efforts in order to reduce the number of innocent casualties in aerial strikes." He presented the latest IDF data that showed that the proportion of noncombatants (a technical term defined in the Geneva Conventions) killed in IAF aerial strikes in the territories has been reduced to a stunning 3.5 percent of all such casualties.

Shakedi spoke in the context of an IDF strike on Monday in Gaza that unfortunately killed three noncombatant bystanders in addition to its two targets: senior Islamic Jihad militants riding in an unmarked ice cream van. It is considered a war crime for combatants to ride in such vehicles and according to international law the militants are responsible for collateral deaths that result from legitimate and lawful means taken against them, and not the army that acted responsibly and according to internationally approved procedures.

The IDF has always striven to ensure that as few noncombatants as possible are harmed, even though Palestinian criminal terrorists deliberately try to blend among civilians and even stoop to using ambulances with genuinely sick people to transport bombs and bombers at the same time. Other countries, even those that take sincere steps to avoid noncombatant casualties, often cause very high numbers of civilian deaths in legitimate campaigns against the difficult adversaries that modern states face. Palestinian bombers, in criminal contrast, explicitly target non-fighting civilians of all ages.

Other countries do not release any figures and in fact take steps to conceal the number of collateral deaths from their legitimate military activities. Despite its best efforts, IDF figures show that noncombatant deaths made up about half of all Palestinian casualties resulting from IAF strikes until 2003. However in 2005 the IDF, using improved methods, had managed to reduce the proportion of non-targeted deaths to only 3.5 percent of all such casualties. Shakedi said that Monday's casualties were the first civilians harmed in aerial assassinations since the beginning of 2006, and the last time before that Palestinian civilians were hurt in an IDF attack was in October 2005, when a senior Islamic Jihad member was assassinated. Even that time, Israel security sources claimed that the death of three civilians was a result of explosives that went off in the car that was attacked, and not from the attack itself.

In the latest attack in Gaza City the preliminary IAF probe released Tuesday said that an IAF observation unit identified the target vehicle as it was traveling. When they first saw it and approved the attack, it was traveling alone. By the time that the spotters saw that the vehicle was approaching a crowd of civilians it was too late to divert the two missiles from their courses.

The prime target of the attack was Islamic Jihad terrorist Munir Mahmed Mahmed Sukhar, 30, a resident of Sajaiya Jadida. Ashraf Shaluf, another Islamic Jihad criminal terrorist was also in the vehicle. The army said that the activity was carried out within the framework of IDF activity against the launching of projectile rockets from the Northern Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad has repeatedly declared that it has never accepted any "calm" or truce period and is at all-out war with Israel.

Sukhar was in fact recently involved in projectile rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and civilian infrastructures. Furthermore, the IDF said that Sukhar was involved in the transfer of weaponry to other Islamic Jihad terrorists for them to carry out terror attacks against Israelis. He was also involved in the detonation of explosive devices aimed at IDF forces in and near the Gaza Strip.

Sukhar was also directly involved in attempts to smuggle terrorists armed with explosive belts from the Gaza Strip into Israel via the Sinai Peninsula who were to carry out suicide bombing attacks against civilians of all nationalities and religions in Israel.

Unfortunately, the strike also killed an eight year old boy and a fifteen year old boy, as well as a 24 year old man who were nearby. Other passersby were also wounded according to Palestinian reports. According to international law the dead Islamic Jihad criminals and their commanders are responsible for those deaths and wounds.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday that the targeted killing had proved a very effective countermeasure against Palestinian militants and that no criminal terrorist is immune. He specifically mentioned that Hamas's prime minister- designate, Ismail Haniyeh, is not immune from an Israeli targeted killing. As a faithful member of Hamas, Haniyeh professes and advocates all-out armed struggle against Israel.

"There is no question about its efficacy," Mofaz said. "Look what happened to Hamas in the years it conducted an untrammeled suicide bombing war against us. When we started the targeted killings, the situation changed," he said.

"We will continue the targeted killings at this pace," Mofaz added. "No one will be immune."

Hamas, one of several Palestinian groups sworn to Israel's destruction, swept January parliamentary elections and is in the process of forming a Cabinet. It has rejected international calls to renounce its violent, anti-Israel ideology. It has declared a public, year-old moratorium on suicide bombings but Israeli intelligence said that members of Hamas continue to promote such attacks actively.

Mofaz added: "If Hamas, a terror organization that doesn't recognize agreements with us and isn't willing to renounce violence, presents us with the challenge of having to confront a terror organization, then no one there will be immune. Not just Ismail Haniyeh. No one will be immune."

Incredibly Salah al-Bardawil, a Hamas spokesman, denounced Mofaz's comments. "This statement and Israeli practices on the ground reflect the bloody, inhumane and inflammatory character of the Zionist enemy," al-Bardawil said. The Hamas position is that they are allowed to advocate and practice killing of Israelis, but Israel is not allowed to respond.

It is possible that Israel's strong efforts to conduct its military operations in the most moral way it can is an important element in its success, since it enhances siyata deShmaya which is the absolutely critical element of the entire process.


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