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Myth:

Israel indiscriminately attacks Palestinian targets in Gaza.

Source:

Mitchell Bard, "Myths & Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict," AICE, 2023.

Fact:

Casualties of war are unfortunate but inevitable. Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties when responding to terror attacks from Gaza. Soldiers drop warning leaflets, use “roof-knocking” rockets and warning shells to alert civilians in buildings, make phone calls to let Palestinians know an attack is coming, maintain lists of protected sites like UN facilities, and fly drones to search targets for civilians before an airstrike.


Palestinian propagandists learned a long time ago that they need only throw a casualty figure out to the media, and it will be published worldwide as fact. In Gaza, the Hamas-run Health Ministry fabricates the number of civilian casualties, and the information is not verified before being disseminated. Hamas is incentivized to falsify the casualty figures because it knows the death of civilians provokes global outrage and prompts accusations that Israel committed “war crimes.”


During Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021, Hamas claimed 248 civilians, including 66 children, were killed by Israel. The Health Ministry does not identify any victims as terrorists or distinguish between civilians killed in Israeli airstrikes and those who died from rockets that misfired or landed inside Gaza. Hamas also counts adolescents as children, some of whom are terrorists.


Consider that Gaza is often said to be one of the world’s most densely populated places and was hit by approximately 680 rockets fired by Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ). How likely is it that a much higher number of casualties were self-inflicted?


Two sources unsympathetic to Israel presented evidence that contradicted the Hamas figures. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that 128, not 248, civilians were killed. Defense for Children International – Palestine reported one case where “a homemade rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group fell short and killed eight Palestinians, including two children.”


The IDF said it killed at least 160 terrorists. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which meticulously examines the identities of the dead, checked 74 names and found that 16 were killed by misfired rockets, and at least 42 were terrorist operatives. Instead of 74 dead civilians, the number was 16.


Similarly, in Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9, Israel was accused of killing more than 1,400 Palestinians. The IDF acknowledged 1,166 deaths, 295 civilians, 709 terrorists, and 162 who could not be identified. Israel was disbelieved, but Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad later admitted it lost between 600 and 700 men.


No one disputes that some civilians were killed during the May 2021 fighting. The highest death toll occurred when Israel bombed the tunnels in one neighborhood, and surrounding buildings unexpectedly collapsed.


While tragic, the number of deaths was remarkably low, considering Israel struck more than 1,500 targets. By comparison, President Obama authorized 542 drone strikes that killed 324 civilians.


The director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) operations in Gaza, no shill for Israel, acknowledged that the IDF’s attacks were precise and directed at military targets. “They did not hit,” Matthias Schmale said, “with some exceptions, civilian targets.”17 He was subsequently pilloried by Hamas, forced to recant, and withdrawn from Gaza in a case study of the consequences of telling the truth. Fear of similar treatment is one explanation for the bias of journalists reporting from Gaza.


No innocent Palestinians would be in danger if the Palestinian Authority took the long-promised steps to stop terrorism or if the international community, especially the Arab world, pressured Hamas to stop attacking Israel. No civilians would be in danger if Hamas terrorists did not deliberately hide among them. Israel would also have no reason to target those areas if peace-seeking Palestinians prevented the terrorists from living in their midst and firing rockets from their neighborhoods

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