British Colonel observes: "The IDF does more to safeguard civilians than any other army"

Col. Richard Kemp, Former Commander British Forces in Afghanistan, spoke at the conference "Hamas, the Gaza War, and Accountability under International Law," hosted by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs 18 June. Col. Kemp reviewed the difficulties of any kind of warfare, but emphasized the challenges faced by Israel when fighting a terrorist organization that purposefully rejects and defies international law.



International Law and Military Operations in Practice, Colonel Richard Kemp - CBE. 18 June 2009
Excerpt from Transcript

"But what of the Israeli Defense Forces? The IDF face all the challenges that I have spoken about, and more. Not only was Hamas's military capability deliberately positioned behind the human shield of the civilian population and not only did Hamas employ the range of insurgent tactics I talked through earlier. They also ordered, forced when necessary, men, women and children , from their own population to stay put in places they knew were about to be attacked by the IDF. Fighting an enemy that is deliberately trying to sacrifice their own people. Deliberately trying to lure you in to killing their own innocent civilians.

And Hamas, like Hizballah, are also highly expert at driving the media agenda. They will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.

Their people often have no option than to go along with the charades in front of the world's media that Hamas so frequently demand, often on pain of death.

What is the other challenge faced by the IDF that we British do not have to face to the same extent?

It is the automatic, pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.

So what did the IDF do in Gaza to meet their obligation to operate within the laws of war? When possible the IDF gave at least four hours' notice to civilians to leave areas targeted for attack.

Attack helicopter pilots, tasked with destroying Hamas mobile weapons platforms, had total discretion to abort a strike if there was too great a risk of civilian casualties in the area. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were cancelled because of this.

During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. This sort of task is regarded by military tacticians as risky and dangerous at the best of times. To mount such operations, to deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands, is to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took-on those risks.

In the latter stages of Cast Lead the IDF unilaterally announced a daily three-hour cease fire. The IDF dropped over 900,000 leaflets warning the population of impending attacks to allow them to leave designated areas. A complete air squadron was dedicated to this task alone.

Leaflets also urged the people to phone in information to pinpoint Hamas fighters vital intelligence that could save innocent lives.

The IDF phoned over 30,000 Palestinian households in Gaza, urging them in Arabic to leave homes where Hamas might have stashed weapons or be preparing to fight. Similar messages were passed in Arabic on Israeli radio broadcasts warning the civilian population of forthcoming operations.

Despite Israel's extraordinary measures, of course innocent civilians were killed and wounded. That was due to the frictions of war that I have spoken about, and even more was an inevitable consequence of Hamas' way of fighting.

By taking these actions and many other significant measures during Operation Cast Lead the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other Army in the history of warfare.

But the IDF still did not win the war of opinions - especially in Europe. The lessons from this campaign apply to the British and American armies and to other Western forces as well as to the IDF.

We are in the era of information warfare. The kind of tactics used by Hamas and Hizballah and by the Taliban and Jaish al Mahdi work well for them. As they see it, they have no other choice. And they will continue to use it." Read full transcript

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