Bintel Blog

Human Rights Watch Head Surveys the Gaza Battlefield

By Daniel Treiman

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Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, paints a not very pretty picture of Israeli actions during the latest Gaza war.

Writing in Forbes, he scores the IDF on the following points:

Targeting:

Part of the problem was the IDF’s expansive definition of a military target. It attacked a range of civilian facilities, from government offices to police stations, on the theory that they all provided at least indirect support to Hamas militants. But by that theory, Hamas would have been entitled to target virtually any government building in Israel on the ground that its office workers indirectly supported the IDF. That would make a mockery of the distinction between civilians and combatants that lies at the heart of the laws of war, which require direct support to military activity before civilians become legitimate military targets….

White Phosphorous:

The IDF has tried to defend itself with denial and obfuscation. It first denied using white phosphorous at all. Then, when that proved untenable, it claimed that use was limited to unpopulated areas of Gaza. Neither claim is true. On Jan. 9, 10 and 15, a Human Rights Watch military expert personally observed white phosphorous being fired from an artillery battery and air burst over Gaza City and the Jabalya refugee camp. Its telltale jellyfish-like plume was a dead giveaway, as can be seen from many photographs that are now emerging from Gaza of white phosphorous raining down on civilian areas.

High-Explosive Artillery Shells:

Awful as it is to have white phosphorous raining down on you, the IDF probably caused more civilian casualties with its use of 155 mm high-explosive artillery shells in Gaza. These weapons can injure civilians from blast and fragmentation over an area with a radius of as much as 300 meters. That’s roughly the equivalent of taking three football fields, lining them end to end and then rotating them around the point of the shell’s impact. In the densely populated residential areas of Gaza, where Human Rights Watch saw these shells used on Jan. 15, they can cause extensive civilian casualties. Such use clearly violates the laws-of-war prohibition of indiscriminate attacks because the shells strike military targets and civilians without distinction.

Alongside his criticism of Israel’s actions on the battlefield, he levels an additional critique, warning that the “the credibility of the IDF” was also a casualty of the offensive.

He writes:

…the IDF does itself no favor when it resorts to censorship, PR techniques and misrepresentation rather than subject its conduct to the open and independent scrutiny that should characterize any military that is genuinely committed to respecting the laws of war.

Read the full article here.


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