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   Responses to Common Inaccuracies About Israel
RULE
Israel's Operation in Gaza  

Inaccuracy
Israel’s December 2008 military operation in Gaza was unjustified and unnecessary.


Inaccuracy
Israel’s December 2008 military operation in Gaza was unjustified and unnecessary.


Inaccuracy
Israel's actions were excessive and they caused deliberate and undue damage and injury to Palestinians civilians in Gaza..


Inaccuracy
Israel’s military operation was disproportionate to the threat from Hamas rockets.


Inaccuracy
The IDF is guilty of war crimes for its actions in Gaza. The Israeli army deliberately committed grave violations of international law in Gaza through indiscriminate killing, vandalism and the like.


Inaccuracy
Hamas is just “fighting against the Israeli occupation.”


Inaccuracy
Israel is imposing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.



Response

 Israel determined it had no choice but to take military action in Gaza after years of deadly rocket and missiles attacks launched by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza. Israel's military objective in the operation, known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead, was to end Hamas' ability to launch rockets into Israel and to prevent Hamas from smuggling in further weapons and materiel. Israel was fulfilling its duty and responsibility to protect the people of southern Israel who were terrorized by eight years of deadly rocket assault by Hamas. 

Israel’s operations in the air and on the ground targeted Hamas operational centers, storage depots, weapons workshops, rocket and bomb production facilities, smuggling tunnels, rocket launching pads and Hamas gunmen. 

For years, Hamas had built up its military resources and know-how for the sole  purpose of attacking Israel and its population centers. Since 2000, Hamas launched thousands of rockets against cities in Israel’s south, well inside the internationally accepted borders of the State of Israel established in 1948.  The rocket attacks intensified following Israel's 2005 disengagement from Gaza and Hamas' violent take over of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.   Hamas temporarily lessened its rocket attacks following an Egyptian-brokered six-month “period of calm” in June 2008.  As this period drew to a close, Hamas resumed firing rockets and mortars into Sderot, Ashkelon, and other densely populated centers in Israel’s south, launching more than sixty rockets on December 25 alone.  Over the course of Israel’s operation, which began on December 27, more than 800 rockets and mortars  attacked Israel.   On December 30, Hamas rockets reached the Israeli city of Beer Sheva.  On January 6, rockets hit the central Israeli city of Gadera, leaving  more than 900,000 Israeli civilians within range of Hamas rocket attacks.

Israel's ability to survive and prosper for decades in a region where enemies abound has been due to its military strength and deterrence which prevented cross-border aggression because of fear of a massive Israeli response. Hamas challenged that deterrence capability through their rocket campaign, which was  growing more and more lethal. Indeed, in the days before Israel began its operation, Hamas pledged that its artillery would soon be able to reach Israel's heartland, threatening millions of Israeli civilians, and called for the resumption of suicide bombing attacks within Israeli cities and the assassination of Israeli leadership. Advances in weapons technology available to Hamas mean that in the future, Israel will likely have to deal with the threat of missiles armed with chemical weapons. With the Gaza operation, Israel determined that it must act to end the barrage or risk having it continue to jeopardize Israel's fundamental security and existence as an independent state.

No sovereign government in the world would stand by and allow its citizens to be under steady and heavy attack. In light of the unceasing attacks, Israel had no choice but to act against Hamas and eliminate its operational capabilities.
As then-Presidential candidate  Barak Obama said when he visited the beleaguered town of Sderot in July 2008, "If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that."



Response

 Israel was not at war with the people of Gaza or the Palestinian people. Throughout its operation, the IDF took serious measures to avoid harming civilians and expressed regret at the Palestinian civilian injuries and death.  Israel's military took appropriate action against Hamas and its operational infrastructure, most of which were deliberately located in densely populated areas. The targets included Hamas command centers, training camps, rocket manufacturing facilities, storage warehouses and tunnels used to smuggle arms. Israel enacted procedures to warn civilians though leafleting and phone calls, that their neighborhoods and buildings were located in the vicinity of impending military operations and urged  them to leave the area.

While every military operation is difficult, the Israel Defense Forces faced particular challenges in Gaza. Hamas deliberately placed its operational centers in densely populated neighborhoods.  Hamas leadership headquarters were bunkered beneath a major Gaza hospital.  Rockets were launched against Israeli targets from locations near apartment houses, schools, mosques and hospitals.  Hamas stashed weapons in houses, schoolyards and mosques.  The IDF. following its own internal ethics guidelines and rules of engagement, required its forces to make every effort to limit civilian casualties under these very challenging conditions.  IDF investigations into the conduct of soldiers during the operation are ongoing, and soldiers found to have behaved in a matter which violated IDF guidelines are facing action, including, in some cases, criminal charges. 

It should also be noted that while Israel made efforts to limit Palestinian civilian casualties, Hamas rockets aimed to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible.


Response

While the significantly higher number of casualties among the people in Gaza is indisputable, the concept of proportionality in war is a complex legal term that has been interpreted by international tribunals and is not based on a quantitative comparison of the number of casualties on each side of the conflict. 

Israel’s actions were taken in self-defense, as is the right of every sovereign nation.   An equitable number of casualties on both sides does not determine whether a country’s response was “proportionate.”  Indeed, according to the President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Rosalyn Higgins, proportionality "cannot be in relation to any specific prior injury - it has to be in relation to the overall legitimate objective of ending the aggression."  Under international law, Israel is not required to calibrate its use of force precisely according to the size and range of the weaponry used against it.  For instance, Israel is not expected to make Kassam rockets and lob them back into Gaza.

In fact, proportionality addresses whether force used by a nation facing aggression was specifically used to bring an end to the armed attack against it.  Force becomes excessive if it is employed for another purpose, like causing unnecessary harm to civilians.  Proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk posed.  Israel showed the greatest possible restraint and made a determined effort to limit Palestinian casualties. The Israel Defense Forces responded to Hamas violence in a directed manner, at carefully specified targets. 

Tragically, innocent Palestinians were caught in the crossfire.  As the Advisor to Palestinian Authority President, Nimr Hammad, stated on December 29, 2008, “The one responsible for the massacres is Hamas, and not the Zionist entity (ie Israel), which in its own view reacted to the firing of Palestinian missiles. Hamas needs to stop treating the blood of Palestinians lightly."

One can not diminish the ongoing trauma caused by years of Hamas rocket attacks on civilian centers in Southern Israel.  When the alarm of an incoming rocket is sounded, no matter where they are or what they are doing – taking  a shower, shopping for food, in the classroom, going to work – residents have 15 seconds to reach shelter or risk being killed or injured. In the city of Sderot, for example, where the majority of rockets have fallen, mental health professionals have documented the trauma experienced by children and adults alike, many of whom endure nightmares, panic attacks, and are afraid of going about their daily lives for fear of being caught unprotected during a missile strike.  For the children in Sderot, the trauma is most intense.  They are more accustomed to daily siren alarms and the regular rush to a bomb shelter than to an innocent play date with friends.


Response

 Israel did not commit war crimes in Gaza.  Israel did not intentionally harm civilians or Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. 

All allegations that individual Israeli soldiers acted unethically or illegally during Israel’s military operations in Gaza are being carefully investigated.  Action is being taken against those soldiers found to have committed violations, including criminal indictments.   

IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi addressed these allegations in an open letter to the military on April 5, 2009: 

    "If a shade of a doubt is to be uncovered that any deviations from the IDF's norms took place, they will be investigated and thoroughly dealt with. The IDF is determined to rigidly maintain its values and morality. This is where our strength lies. We will never embrace the ideologies of our enemies and will forever be loyal to the tradition and values of our people."

It should also be noted that many of those who accuse the IDF or individual Israeli soldiers of war crimes believe that military action can never be justified, and do not provide guidelines for what they would consider the justified use of force in the context of a state battling a terrorist organization entrenched in a densely populated area.



Response

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip is not under Israeli occupation. Israel fully disengaged from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, uprooting 8,000 Israeli settlers from their homes and removing all  military installations. Israel took this step in order to improve the quality of life for the Palestinian population of Gaza and in the hope that the Palestinians would govern Gaza responsibly and peacefully. Instead, the Hamas leadership has turned Gaza into an armed camp and a launching pad for terrorism and extremism targeting Israeli civilians.

Moreover, Hamas' openly declared objective and strategy  do not focus on the West Bank or Gaza Strip, but calls for the complete eradication of the State of Israel. Its ultimate objective is the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state ruled by Islamic theocratic law in place of the State of Israel. The Hamas covenant, issued in 1988, is replete with anti-Semitism, and echoes the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion which charges Jews with an international conspiracy to gain control of the world. In Hamas' world-view, Islamic precepts forbid a Jewish state in the area known as Palestine, and the Jewish people have no legitimate connection to the land of Israel. As its covenant proclaims, "The land of Palestine is an Islamic trust... It is forbidden to anyone to yield or concede any part of it... Israel will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it..." To this end, the leaders of Hamas have denounced peace negotiations with Israel as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

Hamas bears sole responsibility for the situation in the Gaza Strip. It cynically and deliberately put ordinary Palestinians in harms way by establishing its terrorist infrastructure – manufacturing, storage, training and strategic planning – within densely populated areas, in the midst of homes, schools, mosques and hospitals.  For eight years it launched thousands of rocket attacks at Israeli population centers, and reached further inside Israel during the Gaza operation – endangering more than 900,000 Israeli civilians. 



Response

Israel enables the flow of essential goods into Gaza each day. Given the ongoing threat from Hamas, Israel does restrict dual-use goods, such as some building supplies, which could be used for military purposes. At the same time, food, medicines, fuel and electricity flow into Gaza.  Egypt has also heavily restricted the flow of goods into Gaza, and maintained a border closure until the summer of 2010.

Hamas is ultimately responsible for the difficult conditions the people of Gaza are enduring. Its refusal to comply with international demands to recognize Israel's right to exist and cease terrorist operations has led to the isolation of Gaza by the international community. It has cynically exploited the harsh conditions in Gaza for public relations purposes, while continuing to expand the hostile activities that created and exacerbated these conditions.


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