Report details comprehensive Israeli measures avoid civilian casualties in Gaza

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WASHINGTON — Israel’s military has developed a range of systems to warn civilians in enemy territory of an attack, a report said.

The Gatestone Institute asserted that Israel’s military deployed communications that warned residents of the Gaza Strip of impending air and artillery attacks during the war with Hamas in July.

Palestinians gather leaflets that fell from an Israeli plane on July 30.  /Hatem Moussa/AP
Palestinians gather leaflets that fell from an Israeli plane on July 30. /Hatem Moussa/AP

Analyst Richard Kemp, a leading counter-insurgency specialist in both the British Army and parliament, said the Israel Air Force aborted numerous missions because of reports of civilians in the area.

“The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] has developed the most comprehensive and sophisticated measures to minimize civilian casualties during attacks against legitimate military targets,” the institute said in a report.

Titled “Gaza’s Civilian Casualties: The Truth Is Very Different,” the report cited a range of military systems and techniques to avoid civilian casualties. They included multi-sensor intelligence and surveillance systems to confirm the presence of civilians to text messages, phone calls and radio messages in Arabic to evacuate.

“Air-dropped leaflets include maps showing safe areas,” the report, dated Aug. 3, said. “When warnings go unheeded, aircraft drop non-lethal explosives to warn that an attack is imminent.”

The report said the military systems have significantly reduced civilian casualties during the 26-day war. Kemp said Hamas has been reporting all deaths as those of civilians.

“The reality of course is that Hamas make great efforts to segregate their military casualties to preserve the fiction that Israel is killing civilians only,” the report said. “There are also increasing indications that Hamas, through direct force or threat, are preventing journalists from filming their fighters, whether dead or alive.”

Kemp, who was briefed by the military, cited the Air Force as instituting measures to avoid collateral damage. He said F-16 multi-role fighter pilots must wait for clearance before fire.

“Only when pilots and air controllers are sure that civilians are clear of the target will authorization be given to attack,” the report said. “When pilots use laser-guided munitions they must have pre-designated safe areas to which to divert the missiles in flight should civilians suddenly appear.”

The Army has also been directed to warn civilians of operations. The report said infantry units were ordered to do all they can to avoid civilian casualties “even when under fire themselves.”

“Weapons guidance systems sometimes malfunction and bombs, bullets or missiles can land where they are not supposed to,” the report said. “Even the most hi-tech communications systems can fail at the critical moment.”

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