Friday, November 23, 2012

On Civilian Casualties: Words Worth Quoting

Predictably enough, the media has been full of shrill accusations of indiscriminate Israeli air strikes and deliberate targeting of civilians. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Every strike in a civilian area is authorised in real time, personally, by the commander of the Israeli Air Force or one of his deputies. As in Cast Lead, extraordinary steps have been taken to minimise civilian casualties - leaflet drops, text and radio messages, phone calls. Israel has even developed live munitions that explode harmlessly above terrorist-occupied buildings before a strike, warning innocent civilians to leave.

Intelligence is vital for accurate targeting and minimising civilian casualties. The Israelis have refined technical intelligence collection as well as use of agents on the ground to a high degree of sophistication. Not without a heavy cost - suspected Israeli informants were publicly executed by Hamas this week.

Despite such immense efforts, innocent civilians, including women, children and old people have been killed in Israeli air strikes. Every one of these is a tragedy. But Hamas and its terrorist bedfellows Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committee must shoulder responsibility. They deliberately place their weapons, launch sites, communication centres and leaders right in the heart of civilian areas.

Thus Israel's choice is stark: put up with terrorist missiles aimed at its civilian population, or attack and risk civilian casualties in Gaza.

What do other countries do? Turkey, faced with terrorist attacks by Kurdish separatists has repeatedly and viciously bombed what it believes to be Kurd strongholds in the sovereign territory of Iraq. Yet Turkey has been vehemently critical of Israel for taking similar - though far more discriminating - action. Many have criticised Israel for the surgical strike that killed Hamas terrorist commander Ahmed Jabari. Few levelled similar criticism against the Americans for eliminating Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.

Col. (UK RES.) Richard Kemp

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