At the end of Operation Breaking Dawn, Prime Minister Yair Lapid stated proudly that “the operation brought back the initiative and deterrence to Israel,” adding that “all the goals were achieved.” In his speech, Lapid did not settle with just the “what,” but also the “how.” He went out of his way to emphasize “we made a special effort to prevent harm to those not involved. The State of Israel will not apologize for defending its residents through the use of force, but the death of innocent people, mostly children, is heartbreaking.”
In light of Yaniv Kubovich’s report in Tuesday’s paper about the five minors who were killed on the last day of the operation in an Israel Air Force strike, this declaration is baseless. The figures prove that the military’s special effort to prevent harm to uninvolved civilians does not meet the test of reality, and it serves more as a story Israel likes to tell itself and the world, similar to the story that the IDF is “the most moral army in the world.”
The IDF, and not a failed rocket launch by Islamic Jihad, is what killed Jamil al-Din Nijm, 3; Jamil Ihab Nijm, 13; Mohammad Nijm, 16; Hamed Nijm, 16; and Nathmi Karsh, 15. The five were killed on August 7 by an airstrike in the Al-Faluja Cemetery east of Jabalya.
The fact that a day earlier, eight civilians were killed by a failed rocket launch of Islamic Jihad, caused many to think that this was a similar incident: Once again, Islamic Jihad is killing Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and not the IDF. Nonetheless, the military inquiry discovered that there were no rocket launches there, and the Air Force struck there at that time.
Military researcher Yagil Levy also revealed the difference between Israel’s official public relations, which emphasizes the desire to minimize civilian casualties, and the actions of IDF forces. According to Levy, 42 percent of all those killed in Breaking Dawn were civilians, similar to Operation Guardian of the Walls last year and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 – three campaigns that were based in full on remote attacks, mostly from the air.
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In response to the report on the deaths of the five children, the IDF said, “The circumstances of the incident are being investigated.” One can hope that this will be done, but at the same time it is worth taking into account that the IDF has been investigating itself for years, and the data shows that the percentage of civilian casualties has not decreased.
That is why it would be appropriate for the military – and also for the political leadership that oversees it – to dial down the rhetoric on the special efforts being made not to harm civilians, and instead to actually make greater efforts not to harm civilians.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.