The question of proportionality

Over the recent days during the flareup with Hamas in Gaza, several foreign correspondents have raised questions of proportionality of the IDF conduct.

August 12, 2018 22:14
3 minute read.
The question of proportionality

Smoke rises after an Israeli aircraft bombed a multi-story building in Gaza City August 9, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)


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Over the recent days during the flareup with Hamas in Gaza, several foreign correspondents have raised questions of proportionality of the IDF conduct.

However, contrary to some of the predetermined opinions, the bare figures scream credible level of proportionality. The IDF conducted, by its own admission, approximately 180 precision strikes. In the aftermath of those strikes the Hamas Ministry of Health announced that three people had been killed.

One of the dead was announced as a Hamas terrorist. The two others were reported as civilians. Inas Abu Khmash, a 23-year-old pregnant woman, and her 18-month daughter, Bayan. While their deaths are tragic, they are not an indication of a disproportionate response to Hamas’ bombardment of Israel’s southern communities. With some 200 rockets and mortars fired, 28 Israelis that required medical assistance, 30 Iron Dome interceptions, I would argue the heart-rending Palestinian deaths indicate the exact opposite.

The precision strikes, on Hamas’ assets with so few death goes to show how deep and thorough the planning process the IDF has put in place, it highlights the vast intelligence capabilities, and how the execution of that plan is nearly flawless. The military clearly understood that civilian deaths could make the step off of the cliff into another war inescapable. The last escalation was a result not of Israel’s intention to go to war, but the use of military force in order to try and prevent it. Kinetic diplomacy to send a clear message. That message was proportionate.  

Proportionality in warfare is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. One Israeli for one Palestinian is not proportionate warfare. Proportionality weighs on the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. The level of Israel’s intelligence, combined with its operational delivery systems, proved once again that Israel does everything professionally possible in order to limit the deaths of non-combatants.

In the case of the last few days, it appears that even intended combatant deaths were undesirable, due to their potential to increase the chances of war. So the IDF announced that one rocket launching cell had been intercepted, and Hamas compounds, bases, training facilities and weapons caches appeared to be evacuated.

Our enemies understand and exploit these principles. Hamas established their command centers in hospitals, they launch rockets from schoolyards and they build attack tunnels from green houses. Hezbollah have turned entire villages into fortified positions. Our enemies intentionally operate from the civilian arena to attack Israeli civilians indiscriminately.

When Lieutenant Bar Vaknin went to disperse a riot on the Gaza border last month, Hamas sent children as bait to the border, to lure the forces out of cover. Lieutenant Vaknin approached the border fence with tear gas, and a Hamas sniper shot and injured him.

The question that should be repeated is why indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli civilians, from behind Gaza civilians is accepted, under reported and not condemned. The moral equivalence drawn between Israel and Hamas over the last few days is incomprehensible and needs to change.  

Deaths of civilians have occurred during armed conflicts since the dawn of war. The IDF is a pioneer in civilian protection, Israeli and Palestinian, even at the risk of its own troops and I am proud to have served in an army that values life – all life.

The author is a Lt. Col (res) and a Communications and Strategy Consultant, Israel advocate and a former IDF Spokesperson.

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