Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.
Israel has suffered a bombardment of over 22,500 rockets and mortars since 2005. The rockets are targeted at heavily populated Israeli cities including Ashdod, Beersheba, Rehovot, Ashkelon Sderot, and main cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The areas account for 2,027,414 people which is 22.6% of Israel’s population.
When you look at the number of casualties from the Israel-Gaza conflict, the disparity in casualties on both sides may be disturbing. Gazans have an overwhelmingly large number of casualties. To be exact, 10,432 Gazans have perished compared to 1,305 Israelis. Worse still, of the dead, there are 2,367 Gazan children compared to 137 Israeli children. Up to August 2018, 99,968 Gazans compared with 11,949 Israelites have been injured.
Death, destruction, and loss are tragic no matter how you look at it. But when you look at the casualty numbers, you may imagine the Israelis are cruel murderers with no empathy for the people of Gaza given the disproportionate casualties. It is important to take a closer look at why the numbers may appear so.
Israel has created defense systems that prevent casualties. They have fortified schools, hospitals, and buildings. Additionally, they have two technological systems, the Red Color radar system and the Iron Dome.
The Color Red system is an alarm system throughout Israel that alerts civilians of impending rockets and mortars from Gaza. The system alerts civilians to give them time to find bomb shelters for safety. The Iron Dome is a technology that intercepts rockets fired from Gaza. The system is reported to have a 90% success rate at intercepting rockets.
They have also conducted several military campaigns into Gaza to destroy terrorist weapons, camps, tunnels, and more. One of their first operations to curb the challenge was to conduct Operation Cast Lead. The operation bombed 170 targets using IAF fighter jets and attack helicopters. Reports from Gaza claimed 200 Gazan civilians died and 800 injured. The attack led to the United Nations creating a fact-finding mission known as the Goldstone Report which accused Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Faced with international pressure and a looming security risk, Israel had to devise better ways to conduct their operations in Gaza with minimal civilian casualties and collateral damage. Taking appropriate precaution required understanding two categories of people during attacks. The first were the terrorists planning or about to attack. The second were the homes, apartment buildings, offices, mosques, and other civilian buildings where Hamas had command posts and hid weapons. The goal was mainly to protect the second category of people, specifically innocent civilians.
With the help of Shin Bet, Israelites developed an innovative system. They collected a list of phone numbers belonging to the owners of the homes, office buildings, and hospitals in the Gaza Strip. This phone list would be used by the IDF and Shin Bet to contact building owners in the event of an imminent attack. They would get a standard phone call in Arabic warning them to evacuate the building within five minutes. In the meantime, there was an IDF drone watching to ensure that every person in the building had evacuated before they could execute the attack.
After executing this tactic for some time, some Gazans caught on. They understood that when they got the phone call, it probably meant they would lose their home. Eventually, some started resisting by refusing to leave their properties knowing there was a drone overhead watching for evacuation before the attack. The IDF went back to the drawing board to develop another tactic, roof knocking.
Roof knocking is a tactic where the air force would fire a harmless missile on the roof. The missile, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, was small, precise and could be configured to carry a limited number of explosives. It could also be configured to burst in mid-air where it would avoid any casualties. This tactic has been more successful at getting Gazans to evacuate their homes after refusing to leave after the call. Once the drones confirmed that civilians had left the building, a heavier bomb is used to destroy the building. However, some civil rights groups find the tactic very controversial.
Besides employing several warning methods including roof knocking, texts, phone calls, and sending leaflets, Israel has provided several aid services and goods during crises in Gaza. In 2014, Israel repaired a power line for 70,000 people that was damaged by a Hamas rocket. Furthermore, they provided 1,772 tons of medicine and medical equipment to Gaza, shipped 3,270 truckloads of food, and sent 5,637 trucks bringing over 120,000 tons of humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip.
In the meantime, Hamas has allegedly used its people as human shields against Israeli attacks. They allegedly use ambulances for combat maneuvers, and heavily populated civilian areas for their attacks. Israel has also been documented as using children as human shields. But if we condemn Israel for the disproportionate deaths and injuries, shouldn’t we include Hamas? Shouldn’t we consider what Hamas is doing to protect innocent Israeli civilians and its own?
Disproportionate casualty numbers are not a clear picture of the Israel-Gaza conflict. There is more than meets the eye.
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