Operation Cast Lead: Setting The Record Straight

– this article is an adapted and abbreviated version of the one that appears in FrontPage magazine. To read the original, go here

From the very second that Israel started responding to eight years of Hamas terrorism, the world screamed in protest. The media did not seem to give a damn that often, their ‘facts’ were nothing more than rumour and misinformation.

So let’s set the record straight. It’s interesting to look at reports by journalists who investigated properly. Those who actually spoke with Gazans.

The media said: “Israel deliberately killed Palestinian civilians.”

FACT: Israel exerted more care than any other country in history to avoid inflicting casualties on civilians, even when that meant risking the lives of Israeli soldiers.

Israel’s Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzognotes: “The IDF made 250,000 phone calls, it has sent text messages and delivered leaflets by air. It made broadcasts on television and on radio and asked people to move away. It did whatever it could to prevent human suffering’

Go on, read that bit again. 250,000 phone calls. That’s almost every home in Gaza. There is no precedent in history for any army phoning each household in enemy territory to warn them in advance to take shelter.

The Israelis even called up major Hamas terrorists 45 minutes in advance of bombing their houses, which were used for storing weapons and ammunition and for concealing terrorist tunnels and bunkers in their basements, in order to give the terrorists and their innocent families time to escape unharmed.

When Israeli planes tracked trucks carrying weapons and ammunition to Hamas, they sometimes deflected the missiles in mid-flight, causing them to fall harmlessly in open spaces, if the trucks happened to pass by civilians on a crowded street. In deflecting their own missiles by remote control, the Israeli pilots and ground controllers lost chances to destroy enemy weapons and ammunition, solely in order to protect Palestinian civilians. These humanitarian measures by the Israeli forces have been abundantly documented by “live” video cameras, and the resulting video records have been broadcast by the IDF on YouTube.

Can you find any evidence of any other army behaving with such restraint and care, in order to help civilians on the enemy side?

The Media: Israel killed 1300 civilians in Gaza. More than half of those killed by Israel were innocent civilians.

FACT: In fact, relatively few civilians actually were killed or injured. The Italian ‘newspaper of record’, Corriere della Serra, reporting from Gaza, stated:

. . .there is fact coming to light ever more obviously, visiting the hospitals, clinics and families of the victims of Israeli fire: In reality their numbers appear much lower than 1300 dead and another 5000 injured, as reported by the men of Hamas and repeated by the UN officials and the local Red Cross.

“The dead can’t be more than 500 or 600. There are many youths between 17 and 23, recruited by Hamas, who sent them quite literally to the slaughter,” said a doctor from the Shifah hospital who under no circumstances wanted to be quoted for he risked his life.

This data has been confirmed by a local journalist. “We already pointed this out to the heads of Hamas. Why do they insist on inflating the number of victims? It’s strange on the other hand that the NGOs, also the western ones, report them without any verification. In the end the truth may come to light. It could be like Jenin in 2002. Initially we spoke about 1500 dead. Then it came out that there were only 54, of whom at least 45 were militants who died in battle. ”

. . . It’s sufficient to visit a few hospitals to understand that the numbers don’t add up. There are many empty beds in the European Hospital in Rafah, one of the [hospitals] that should be most involved with the victims of the Israeli “war of the tunnels.” The same goes for the “Nasser” of Khan Yunis. Only 5 out of the 150 beds in the private hospital of Al-Amal are occupied.

Analysts monitoring the Palestinian Arab media have come upon much information that supports this. They have found that over 75% of the individuals whom the Arab media have identified as having been killed in the fighting were males between the ages of 15 and 50—the ages, and gender, of the overwhelming majority of Hamas and other Palestinian fighters.

They have also found that the names of many Palestinians who turn up on lists of “civilians” killed in the Gaza war published by Palestinian “human rights” organizations are identified as Hamas fighters by other Palestinian news publications. The “human rights” organizations also omitted from its casualty reports the names of Hamas fighters who are known from other sources to have been killed in the fighting. This misreporting and selective reporting result in a sizable overstatement of the percentage of civilians killed in the fighting. Yet much of the news media relies on these organizations, such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), for their data on civilian casualties in Gaza.

We must also note that Hamas deliberately forcedGazan civilians to serve as “human shields,” behind which the terrorists conducted their assault. Indeed, this is official Hamas policy, and the group openly boasts about it.

Hamas regularly sent its troops to occupy schools, hospitals, mosques and office buildings, their grounds and adjacent streets, as well as many private Palestinian houses and business, and used them to fire at Israeli soldiers and to launch rockets against Israeli civilians. The Hamas men used mosques as weapons and ammunition storage facilities, and fired anti-aircraft guns from them The Israelis have even caught on camera, and have subsequently broadcast on YouTube, videos of Hamas fighters launching rockets and mortars from the courtyards of schools, or streets directly adjoining them.

On at least one occasion, Hamas operatives even launched a rocket from a building used by foreign journalists; a reporter from an Arab television and radio station reported on the incident “live” as she viewed the rocket launching from her office window, in a bizarre sequence that has subsequently been broadcast on youtube.

Hamas gunmen also hijacked ambulances, and sometimes even fired at Israeli soldiers from them.

These Hamas ‘tactics” put Israeli soldiers in the impossible position of having either to allow the Hamas terrorists to keep firing at them and/or at the Israeli civilian population – or to return fire, and risking killing or injuring civilians.

Israel sometimes has had no choice but to permit its soldiers to return fire in self-defense. This return of fire has sometimes resulted in civilian casualties and/or damage to civilian buildings; but in view of Hamas’ of use of civilians as human shields, blaming Israel for these casualties and calling them Israeli “war crimes,” seems utterly unfair. The actual war crimes were perpetrated by Hamas.

Apropos this situation, Italian journalist in Gaza, Cremonesi, states:

“Get away! Get away from here! Do you want our children to die under the bombs? Take your missiles and weapons away,” he inhabitants of the Gaza strip yelled at the Hamas militants and their allies in Islamic Jihad.

But for all of that the guerrillas didn’t listen to anyone. “Traitors, spies of Fatah, cowards! The soldiers of the holy war will punish you. And in any case you will all die, like us. Fighting Jews we are all destined for paradise. Do you not wish to die with us?” This is what they yelled furiously as they broke down doors and windows, hiding themselves on high floors, gardens, using ambulances and barricading themselves near the hospitals, schools and buildings of the UN.

In extreme cases Hamas shot those who sought to block them from their streets and houses to save their own families, or they beat them savagely. “The Hamas Militants looked for good places to provoke the Israelis. They were usually youths, 16 or 17 years old, armed with submachine guns. They couldn’t do anything against a tank or jet. They knew they were much weaker. But they wanted the Israelis to shoot at the the civilians’ houses so they could accuse them of more war crimes” asserted Abu Issa, 42, resident of the Tel Awa neighborhood.

Another Gaza civilian, calling herself Umm Abdallah, told Mr.Cremonesi:

“Practically all of the tallest buildings in Gaza that were hit by Israeli bombs, like the Dogmoush, Andalous, Jawarah, Siussi, and many others, had rocket launching pads on their roofs, or were observation decks for the Hamas. They had also put them near the big UN warehouse, which went up in flames.

A third part of the answer is that the Hamas terrorists may have directly caused some of the civilian casualties themselves. Numerous Gaza residents and foreign reporters confirm that Hamas took the occasion of Israel’s Gaza operation to kill Palestinians whom it claimed were collaborators with Israel. Many, although not all of these alleged collaborators were actually members of the rival Palestinian terrorist group Fatah, with whom Hamas has long been at loggerheads.

We have already seen the Corriere della Serra report that Hamas sometimes killed Gazan civilians who tried to refuse to allow themselves and their families to be used as human shields, declaring them to be “collaborators” worthy of death.

Gazan ambulance drivers told a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald of similar experiences with Hamas gunmen: these sometimes attempted to hijack ambulances for their own use, and threatened the drivers with their guns if they resisted surrendering them. While the particular ambulance drivers interviewed by Sydney Morning Herald’s reporter Jack Koutsoukis survived their ordeal, others may not have been so lucky.

Then there is the question of “work accidents.” The Israel defense and intelligence forces have documented numerous cases in which explosives that Hamas was storing or that its operatives were manufacturing exploded accidentally, inflicting deaths and injuries on nearby civilians. In nearly all such cases, Hamas first tried to blame Israel for the civilian casualties, although it sometimes eventually admitted to the truth. How many of the civilian casualties reported during the Gaza operation were similar “work accidents?”

So we have to wonder: How many civilian deaths and injuries inflicted by Hamas gunmen, one wonders, found their way into the civilian casualty statistics released by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), various NGOs, and the media?

Yet the press and the “humanitarian” agencies have attributed all of the civilian casualties to Israel.

The Media: Gaza has been utterly devastated and left in ruins by the Israeli “assault.”

FACTS: The Israelis targeted buildings very carefully and selectively, aiming at buildings used for military purposes by Hamas, and rarely hitting other buildings.

Journalists who were on the scene have admitted that Israel’s air and ground forces in Gaza were almost incredibly precise and careful in their selection of targets, and that as little damage as possible was caused to civilian buildings. Tim Butcher, in a report on the war for London’s Daily Telegraph, wrote that

One thing was clear. Gaza City 2009 is not Stalingrad 1944. There had been no carpet bombing of large areas, no firebombing of complete suburbs. Targets had been selected and then hit, often several times, but almost always with precision munitions. Buildings nearby had been damaged and there had been some clear mistakes, like the firebombing of the UN aid headquarters. But, in most the cases, I saw the primary target had borne the brunt. . .

But, for the most part, I was struck by how cosmetically unchanged Gaza appeared to be. It has been a tatty, poorly-maintained mess for decades and the presence of fresh bombsites on streets already lined with broken curbstones and jerry-built buildings did not make any great difference. And the same can be said for the mindset of many of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents. Outsiders might have expected some sort of collective anger at the loss of life, or mass outrage at the Hamas authorities whose policy of firing rockets against Israel had brought down the wrath of the Israeli armed forces.

The media: Israel has been blockading Gaza for years and denying its people access to vital humanitarian supplies.. This blockade was intensified during the recent Gaza war.

This is absurd.

THE FACTS: There has never been an Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Israel has allowed thousands of truckloads of supplies into Gaza in the past eight years, despite the almost continuous armed attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers originating in Gaza.

It continued to supply Gaza with food, medicine and all other needed civilian goods even during the three weeks of intense fighting during the recent war (December 27, 2008 – January 19, 2009). It has supplied Gaza with electricity, fuel, and water and even money to pay its officials, (who of course work for Hamas) throughout the long years of Gazan aggression against Israel.

Israel continued to supply all of these things to Gaza, except the money, even during the three weeks of intense fighting during its “Operation Cast Lead.”

Since the “cease fire” on January 19 of this year and even at the height of the fighting in January, Israel observed three a hour truce daily to allow supplies to get through to the Gazan civilian population (Hamas violated even these brief truces by using them to fire rockets at Israeli civilians).

Israel has continued to send massive humanitarian supplies to Gaza and to allow the UN relief organizations to do so as well, even though Hamas has been hijacking the relief shipments for its own fighters—which is a serious war crime. It has even resumed its money payments to the Hamas government, despite Hamas’ daily violations of the cease-fire with rocket attacks on, and terrorist raids into, Israel.

No other nation in history has treated the people of a country that was committing armed aggression against their own with the kindness, compassion, humanity and forbearance that Israel has shown towards the Palestinians in Gaza.

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