Fighting Anti-Israeli Bias

Countering
Item 7

THE UNHRC'S STANDING AGENDA ITEM
TARGETING ISRAEL

Claims

Claim 32: Israeli attacks on Gaza were indiscriminate

examples

Bangladesh, 47th Session

“We condemn Israel’s continued and unlawful occupation of the Palestinian territories, systemic human rights violations, indiscriminate attacks against civilians…”

Yemen, 30th Special Session

“indiscriminate attacks on residential areas in Gaza.”

South Africa, 30th Special Session

“We condemn indiscriminate violence against Palestinians that killed hundreds of women and children.”

Bangladesh, 30th Special Session

“indiscriminate Israeli attacks.”

Our Response

UN Watch

The opposite is the case. Actually, it is the Hamas rocket attacks that are indiscriminate. Hamas rockets cannot be precisely aimed at any specific target and are intended to create maximum civilian casualties on the Israeli side.[1] This explains why approximately 15% of the rockets during the May 2021 Israel/Hamas conflict—680 out of some 4,300—fell short in Gaza, killing Gazans and harming Gazan infrastructure.[2]

By contrast the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) takes great care—even beyond what is required by law—to avoid civilian casualties under the close guidance of its International Law Department.[3] The IDF employs sophisticated technology enabling it to pinpoint military targets with a high degree of precision and to minimize harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.[4] Military law expert Prof. Geoffrey Corn commented that “the precision is in military terms relatively remarkable,” noting also that Israel does not do “artillery barrage into populated areas.”[5] Military law expert Prof. Michael Schmitt likewise described the IDF’s sophisticated weapons: “The IDF often employs specially configured smaller warheads with reduced explosive material against targets in urban areas to limit collateral damage. Other warheads have been re-engineered to generate lighter fragments upon detonation so that the fragments travel shorter distances from the point of impact.”[6]

The IDF launched hundreds of surgical strikes against 1,500 Hamas military targets, including rocket stores, rocket launchers, underground terror tunnels, militants, and operational facilities.[7] In many of these strikes there were no Palestinian casualties. Hamas has already admitted that 90 of the deaths were terror operatives. Furthermore, according to an analysis of the casualty names conducted by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, approximately half of those killed were terrorists.[8] Col. Richard Kemp commented that the casualty numbers here indicate that the IDF was “even more successful in minimizing civilian casualties during this campaign than in previous engagements in Gaza.”[9]

Even now former-UNRWA Gaza head Mathias Schmale admitted that the Israeli strikes were “very precise”, and that Israel operated with “huge sophistication” in how it struck its targets[10]—comments by someone present in Gaza during the conflict which directly contradict this accusation. Schmale’s statement contradicting the Hamas propaganda portraying Israel as the murderous criminal clearly angered Hamas. The terror group quickly condemned Schmale’s remarks and accused him of “excusing the harm against civilians and their homes…” leading him to apologize.[11] Ultimately, Schmale was declared persona non grata in Gaza and both he and his deputy were recalled by UNRWA on grounds the agency could not guaranty their safety.

A quick consideration of what an indiscriminate attack by a modern air force on a city like Gaza would look like — at a minimum, thousands of casualties evenly distributed between women and men and people of all ages — shows how absurd this claim is.

[1] Hamas committed multiple war crimes with ‘indiscriminate’ rockets and mortars – new report, Amnesty International UK (March 25, 2016), https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/hamas-committed-multiple-war-crimes-indiscriminate-rockets-and-mortars-new-report (“All the rockets used by Palestinian armed groups – including the long-range M-75, Fajr 5, J-80, M-302 (up to 100 miles) and R-160 (also up to 100 miles) – are unguided projectiles which cannot be accurately directed at specific targets and are inherently indiscriminate.”).

[2] @IDF, Twitter (May 22, 2021, 9:27 PM), https://twitter.com/IDF/status/1396170789305659402; Jonathan Sacredoti, Hamas’s rockets are killing Palestinians too, The Spectator (May 16, 2021), https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/hamas-s-rockets-are-killing-palestinians-too; AP, Israel says high-voltage power lines supplying Gaza Strip with electricity damaged, Al Arabiya (May 16, 2021), https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/05/16/Israel-says-high-voltage-power-lines-supplying-Gaza-Strip-with-electricity-damaged.

[3] Schmitt, Michael N. and Merriam, John, The Tyranny of Context: Israeli Targeting Practices in Legal Perspective (April 12, 2015). 37 University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 53-139 (2015), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2593629. [Hereinafter: The Tyranny of Context].

[4] Merav Ceren, The Moral Case for High-Tech Weapons, The New Atlantis (Summer/Fall 2017), https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-moral-case-for-high-tech-weapons.

[5] Andrew Tucker, Briefing Paper on The current situation in Israel and International Humanitarian Law, thinc (May 19, 2021), https://www.thinc.info/the-current-situation-in-israel-and-international-humanitarian-law-2/.

[6] The Tyranny of Context, supra note __, p. 77.

[7] @IDF, Twitter (May 22, 2021, 9:27 PM), https://twitter.com/IDF/status/1396170789305659402; Anna Aronheim, Operation Guardian of the Walls: Targeting Hamas terror, behind the scenes, Jerusalem Post (June 3, 2021), https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/gaza-news/op-guardian-of-the-walls-behind-the-scenes-of-targeting-hamas-terror-669989.

[8] An analysis of the names of Gazans killed during Operation Guardian of the Walls indicates that about half of them were terrorist operatives, Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (June 29, 2021), https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/an-analysis-of-the-names-of-gazans-killed-during-operation-guardian-of-the-walls-indicates-that-about-half-of-them-were-terrorist-operatives/.

[9] Richard Kemp, Trumpets and Tank Engines: A Turning Point in Gaza? Gatestone Institute (May 16, 2021), https://richard-kemp.com/trumpets-and-tank-engines-a-turning-point-in-gaza/.

[10] UN agency withdraws director from Gaza after threats, AP (June 4, 2021), https://apnews.com/article/united-nations-middle-east-b03eb29c5b9286fff1d6b80cf6539294.

[11] Amira Hass, Following Backlash, UNRWA Director Apologizes for Saying Israeli Army Rarely Attacked Civilians, Ha’aretz (May 26, 2021), https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.HIGHLIGHT-unrwa-director-apologizes-for-saying-israeli-army-rarely-attacked-civilians-1.9843814.

UN Watch

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