Monday, August 04, 2014

State Dept. condemns ‘disgraceful shelling’ that wasn’t a shelling and didn’t hit UN school

On Sunday morning, Israel conducted an air strike to take out Hamas operatives on a street in Rafah, in southern Gaza.  Reporting afterward indicated that three Hamas guerrillas on motorcycles were struck, and at least seven reported bystanders were killed in the attack.
The media and the UN promptly went into overdrive to characterize this incident as an attack on a UN school, because the street where the Hamas guerrillas were struck was outside the school (which is being used as a shelter).  Rick Moran reconstructed the event, however, using multiple sources, and pointed out at PJ Media that the air strike, which appears to have involved a single missile, didn’t hit the school at all.  In fact, it looks to have upheld Israel’s usual standard of precision, hitting the target it was aimed at and leaving, in the words of the UK Telegraph, minimal physical destruction: “just a small but deep hole in the road where the missile had landed.”
That in itself defies the reflexive media characterization of an indiscriminate shelling attack “on a school.”  But blogger Lenny Ben-David also did some sleuthing on the collateral casualties in the attack, and what he found was that all but two of them appeared to be military-age males.
[Two tweets from Lenny]

Whether the young adult males were on the street near Hamas for fell purposes or not, these facts paint a picture different from the “attack on a school” narrative.

In fact, Israel didn’t attack a school.  The IDF attacked Hamas guerrillas.  The guerrillas had positioned themselves, for whatever reason, on the street outside of a school.  They were taken out in a pinpoint strike and the school was never hit, nor was anyone in it or on its grounds hit.
As a matter of waging war lawfully, the IDF’s action comports with the standards of international convention.  The IDF targeted combatants, and took care to use as precise a weapon system as possible to minimize collateral damage in an area that might have civilians in it.  Regrettably, there were apparently at least some children in the area, but it is by no means clear that that factor was different from any previous instance of the IDF targeting Hamas operatives in vehicles on city streets.  The targets and their vehicles were outside the school grounds – on the other side of its perimeter fence – at the time of the strike.  The IDF used only the force necessary to accomplish the task; no more.  And it used that force as precisely as technology allows.  It didn’t choose a more destructive method, which might have guaranteed the kill better but at a higher collateral cost.
What all this means is that, based on what we know at this point, Israel’s action was not even questionable, much less indictable.  Far from being disgraceful, it is an example of the preternatural care and restraint routinely shown by the IDF.
Yet the U.S. State Department, in a near-hysterical press release, condemned the attack in intemperate and embarrassingly irresponsible language.
The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which at least ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed. The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties. UN facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks. The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians. We call for a full and prompt investigation of this incident as well as the recent shelling of other UNRWA schools.
We continue to underscore that all parties must take all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties and protect the civilian population and comply with international humanitarian law.
It’s not actually funny that hardly a word of this communication is valid or pertinent.  It’s horrifying, because it came from the government of the United States.
There was no shelling; the number of displaced persons housed at the school is irrelevant (and seems to have been included for rhetorical effect), given that the school was not hit, nor was it likely to be; the exceptional care taken by the IDF is what ensured that the school would not be hit, even though Hamas was putting the area around the school in danger; and the suspicion (in this case, the knowledge) that “militants” are operating nearby does, precisely and emphatically, justify strikes, which is why it is a war crime to hide military activities behind civilians and/or protected sites.
There is no moral principle of war that the presence of civilians demilitarizes what would otherwise be a military target, rendering it ineligible for attack.  Rather, the opposite is true.  It is not a war crime or an inherently vicious or disproportionate act to attack a combatant.  Period.  That applies no matter where he is.
This is what makes the State Department press release so acutely irresponsible.  The money sentence: ... [See rest at link]
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