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IDF in Gaza vs. NATO in Afghanistan

Ron Ben Yishai: "NATO employs much harsher military measures in Afghanistan than the IDF did in recent Gaza operation"

Palestinians in Gaza launched 10 rockets at Israel over Sabbath

Spanish Judge orders legal inquiry into Israeli targeted killing of notorious Hamas terrorist responsible for murdering dozens of Israelis

IDF soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip

Over the Sabbath, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip launched 10 rockets at Israel - one of them hit an empty high school in Ashkelon causing serious damage to the building. Meanwhile in Spain, a local judge has ordered his own inquiry into Israel's targeted killing of terrorist chief Salah Shehade in Gaza who was responsible for murdering many Israeli civilians. Against this backdrop, IsraCast interviewed Ron Ben Yishai, a veteran Israeli military correspondent, who has covered military operations in many parts of the world including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Salah Shehade

Palestinian terrorists in Gaza launched 10 rockets at Israel over the weekend; one hit an empty high school in Ashkelon on Saturday morning. It was the heaviest rocketing of Israeli civilians since the IDF military operation 'Cast Lead' into Gaza in January. Meanwhile Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu is continuing his inquiry into Israel's targeted assassination of Hamas terror-chief Salah Shehade some seven years ago. The complaint was lodged in Spain by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. A Spanish judge says he is investigating whether seven Israeli defense officials and military officers may be guilty of war crimes. An Israeli aircraft launched a missile at the building in Gaza where Shehade was hiding out. Fourteen other Palestinians were also killed in the air strike. Shehade was commander of the Izzedin el Kassam Martyrs Brigades which carried out some of the worst atrocities against Israeli civilians. Shehade was directly responsible for the murder of scores of Israeli children, women and men and was known to be planning more attacks. Like other Palestinian terrorists, he grouped his own wife and children around him to provide a human shield.

The latest Palestinian legal ruse in Spain follows similar attempts in Britain and Belgium. Israeli officials view it as a patent Palestinian attempt to embarrass the Jewish state by exploiting the legal technicalities of the European Union.

American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces have come under increasing criticism from Afghans and political leaders in Kabul for the soaring number of civilians killed by airstrikes and fighting between Taliban and American-led forces'

So how do Israel's counter-terror operations compare with those of other democracies such as the US, Britain Canada and others which are fighting wars not at home but in far off Iraq and Afghanistan?  For example, while the Spanish judge was busy with Israel the following report, similar to many other previous articles was printed in the International Herald Tribune on Feb 23rd and was compiled by Richard Oppel Jr.

'An airstrike by the U.S.-led military coalition killed 13 civilians and three militants last Tuesday in western Afghanistan, not up to 15 militants' as was initially claimed by American forces. The civilians who were killed included three children, six women and four men in the Gozara district of Heart province, in addition to three people suspected of being Taliban fighters. American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces have come under increasing criticism from Afghans and political leaders in Kabul for the soaring number of civilians killed by airstrikes and fighting between Taliban and American-led forces'.

Moreover, Afghanistan President Karzai even complained personally to U.S. about the massive Afghan casualties inflicted by NATO forces in the war against the Taliban. The number of civilian casualties in Iraq is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. This indicates the real complexity of conducting counter- terror operations against guerrillas who take cover among civilian populations. But why is Israel the only one to be singled out for 'special' treatment by responsible states that allow themselves to be manipulated by Palestinian activists. The fact of the matter is that the Israel Defense Forces actually take pains to prevent civilian casualties that do the NATO forces in Afghanistan or the US-led coalition in Iraq.

Ron Ben Yishai, a veteran Israeli military correspondent, has been to Afghanistan and Iraq for a first-hand view of the fighting in those two arenas. Renowned for his fearless and objective reporting Ben Yishai says there is no question that the IDF takes far more steps to prevent civilian casualties than do other armies he has observed elsewhere. In his experience, no other military forces have taken similar steps in warning civilians before launching operations in their own combat zones.

Transcript of the interview

Ron Ben Yishai, you are perhaps Israel’s most seasoned military correspondent, you’ve covered the wars in Iraq, perhaps even in Chechnya as far as I know, just you name it and you’ve been there.  How would you compare the conduct of Israeli troops during the recent engagement in Gaza, compared to these other assignments that you had.

There’s almost no comparison. First of all, because Hamas, the enemy of the IDF, employed civilian population as human shield, in many aspects of it, like nowhere else. I didn’t see it in Afghanistan, I didn’t see it in Chechnya and I didn’t see it in Iraq in such a dimension.  Secondly, the IDF took so many precautionary measures in order to minimize the collateral damage caused to non-involved civilians, and I emphasize non-involved civilians, because Hamas was also dressed like civilians, and pretended to be civilians as long as the IDF was fighting against it. So the IDF called the people on their telephones at home to tell them to evacuate, dropped leaflets, warned over the radio, including Hamas radio, so I haven’t seen any army that I’ve watched, including the American army, the British army, the Canadian, the French and the Russian, that took all these precautionary measures including the simple thing that you ask the drone flying overhead to see if the house that you are about to shoot at, because there are fighters there, if there are civilians or non-combatants. So that is a long answer to a short question.

But in spite of your answer, in spite of what you saw there, in many places in the world, the IDF is now being accused of war crimes over what happened in Gaza.

That’s baloney; excuse me for using this word. I don’t believe there were war crimes. I am sure and I know of some cases in which there were mistakes, but inadvertently, which means civilians were killed inadvertently by fire that perhaps could have been avoided, that some field commanders, company leaders, or battalion commanders ordered the demolishing of a house that was not absolutely necessary, but it was done in the course of action during the fighting and it was not premeditated and it was not systematically employed.

You’d say it is politically motivated then, these allegations?

That’s a different question, I don’t think that all of it is politically motivated; some of it is emotionally motivated. I believe that part of it, mainly the European Left, is trying to clean its concience from its colonial heritage by blaming Israel, and feeling better people, because they are not employing these methods. And they are employing - NATO is using even much harsher measures in Afghanistan for instance.       

Anatomy of targeted killings - Interview with Prof. Asa Kasher


David Essing

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