Who Is Putting Gazan Lives At Risk?


Philip Klein flags an UNRWA statement about rockets its relief workers found stored in a vacant Gaza school, offering it as proof of Hamas’s disregard for the lives of Gazans:

UNRWA said it had taken steps to have the weapons removed. As I noted on Wednesday, the fact that Palestinian terrorists store and fire rockets from schools, hospitals and residential areas increases the likelihood of civilian casualties.

But does that justify bombing the school? Max Fisher thinks not:

Israel has overwhelming military superiority in the conflict, and while that does not make Hamas rockets disappear or obviate their very real effects on Israeli civilians, Israel is strong enough to choose not to bomb a mosque and a center for the disabled in Gaza, as it did on July 12. It can choose not to bomb Gaza beaches frequented by civilians, as it did on Wednesday, killing four boys between the ages of 9 and 11. …

This is the one thing that both Hamas and Israel seem to share: a willingness to adopt military tactics that will put Palestinian civilians at direct risk and that contribute, however unintentionally, to the deaths of Palestinian civilians. Partisans in the Israel-Palestine conflict want to make that an argument over which “side” has greater moral culpability in the continued killings of Palestinian civilians. And there is validity to asking whether Hamas should so ensconce itself among civilians in a way that will invite attacks, just as there is validity to asking why Israel seems to show so little restraint in dropping bombs over Gaza neighborhoods. But even that argument over moral superiority ultimately treats those dying Palestinian families as pawns in the conflict, tokens to be counted for or against, their humanity and suffering so easily disregarded

Both sides are putting innocent Gazan lives at risk. And Israel cannot grotesquely pin the deaths of, say, those four boys, or countless others, on Hamas. Omar Baddar adds that the question of who is using “human shields” is also not as clear as Israel would like it to be:

While human rights organizations haven’t yet addressed “human shields” allegations in the ongoing round of Israel-Gaza violence, they did after the 2009 round when Israel killed at least 773 Palestinian civilians, compared to three Israeli civilian casualties (a ratio of 257:1), and used the same “human shields” argument to deflect responsibility for those deaths. When the dust settled, Amnesty International investigated the matter and concluded that there was “no evidence that [Palestinian] rockets were launched from residential houses or buildings while civilians were in these buildings.” …

By contrast, the same report found that “in several cases Israeli soldiers also used [Palestinian] civilians, including children, as ‘human shields’.” Going back in time just a little further to put this into context is important: when the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the Israeli military had to stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields, the Israeli “defense” establishment objected to the ruling. The appeal against the ruling failed, and the practice remains technically illegal, but Israel implicitly encourages it to continue by offering an “inadequate … slap on the wrist,” as Human Rights Watch put it, to Israeli soldiers caught using this reprehensible tactic.

Christa Case Bryant and Ahmed Aldabba examine why Gaza doesn’t have bomb shelters like Israel does:

If Gaza’s leadership were able to replicate [Israel’s] civilian infrastructure, would it be able to achieve similar protection in the face of Israel’s military superiority? “If there is a direct [Israeli] hit … the shelter will not stand,” says Lt. Col. Avi Bitzur (res.), former head of the Israeli military’s fortifications branch. “If [the munitions] will fall next to the shelter, it can stand against it.”

From an urban planning perspective, it would be feasible to build an extensive network of civilian shelters in Gaza despite the outdated infrastructure, says Bitzur, who now serves as deputy head of Homefront Defense Studies at Beit Berl College.  But financially it is unworkable, he says. “It’s too much expense, too much to do it now. You cannot give now a shelter for 1.5 million people,” he says, estimating that it would require billions of shekels and at least five to six years.

(Photo: A Palestinian man holds his daughters, Shada and Lama al-Ejla, who were injured in an Israeli tank attack, as he leaves al-Shifa hospital on July 18, 2014 in Gaza City. Israel warned it could broaden a Gaza ground assault aimed at smashing Hamas’s network of cross-border tunnels, as it stepped up attacks that have killed more than 260 Palestinians. By Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images.)