Soldiers guard prisoners 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Having endured almost two years of heavy international criticism regarding
civilian casualties during the Operation Cast Lead assault on Hamas in the Gaza
Strip, the IDF is set to hold its first-ever training course for a new military
job that will be incorporated into combat brigades and battalions to try to
reduce such casualties. The designated purpose of the new post: to help Israel
minimize harm to civilians during future operations in Lebanon, Syria and the
RELATED:Security and Defense: Taking to the streetsGoldstone follow-up panel visits Gaza
Titled “population coordination officer,” the post will be
mostly held by reservists with the rank of captain or major. The first course is
to begin early December, and the officers will be trained to help prepare
battalion and brigade commanders for operations within urban
The decision to establish the new post came after Israel
encountered stinging protests from international leaders and human rights groups
over Gaza civilian fatalities in Cast Lead, notably including the Goldstone
If Israel remains in a combat area for an extended period of
time, the officer will coordinate between the combat force and civil
administrations – as it does in the West Bank.
The decision to establish
the new post was made by the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities
in the Territories (COGAT), which will oversee the training course, as well as
the IDF Ground Forces Command which needed to institute the organic change to
the combat units.
According to defense officials, the officers appointed
will not actually interface with the civilian population, which will remain
under COGAT’s authority.
COGAT already trains what are called
humanitarian liaisons. Rather, the new officers will be trained by COGAT to
assist battalion and brigade commanders in planning operations while assessing
the effect they will have on the civilian population.
One example: the
planning of targets to bomb. The officer will advise the commanders of the
impact that destroying civilian infrastructure – such as water reservoirs or
main roads – could have on civilians who remain behind in the midst of ongoing
The hope within the IDF is that, with the assistance of these
new officers, commanders will be more sensitive when operating in urban
settings. This in turn, it is hoped, will minimize the criticism Israel would
face following a future war with, for example, Hizbullah; the latter has
stationed its weaponry and command posts inside homes throughout southern
Prior to entering the residential areas, the IDF will do its
utmost to warn civilians to evacuate potential combat zones.
Operation Cast Lead, the IDF dropped millions of flyers over locations it
planned to invade, and made over 250,000 phone calls to Gazans’ homes and mobile
phones to warn them to leave their residences because conflict was imminent.