Diplomacy & defense

Israeli soldiers celebrate on their Merkava tank as they pull out of the Gaza Strip, on August 3, 2014
Newly forged special relationship with Egypt, weakening of Hamas are two of Israel's achievements in Gaza op

After 27 days and 63 Israeli Defense Forces fatalities, the war is over. At least as far as Israel is concerned. The unilateral withdrawal is a political decision informed by military considerations. The IDF has set up a line of defense within the buffer zone of three kilometers from the Gaza border, parallel with moving its troops out of the Hamas-controlled enclave. Granted, should Hamas keep firing rockets, the IDF will return to operational mode and bomb Gaza from air, with the repeat of the ground incursion very much on the table.

All these moves are coordinated with Egypt. Israel's security coordination with Egypt during the operation has been unprecedentedly close; from Israel's viewpoint, the special relation with the north-African ally is its most important strategic asset in the region, and the main achievement from this war.

The IDF is set to demolish the last of the tunnels on Sunday, meaning 31 Hamas tunnels leading into Israel were uncovered and decommissioned during the operation. These were tunnels intended for attacking Israel, and a huge amount of military equipment was found inside, including motorcycles, bulletproof vests, munitions and rocket launchers, as well as provisions that could last the fighters some time.

The destruction of the tunnels was the stated goal of the IDF at the start of the ground incursion 17 days ago; prior to that, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's motto was "quiet shall be reciprocated with quiet."

What cemented the decision of the members of the government's security cabinet to go ahead with the unilateral retreat was the Friday morning incident, which resulted in the death of Lt. Hadar Goldin and two other soldiers; Thursday night, after consulting with Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen and talks with the Egyptians and the Americans, Israel agreed to the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire during which talks aimed to restore quiet were slated to start. Hamas leadership announced it was prepared to accept the truce that went into effect at 8 AM and lasted 80 minutes. At 9.20 the incident where the IDF soldiers lost their lives had already played out.

That was the straw the broke the back of the camel. Israel realized there's no point in talks, including mediated ones, after the group broke the previous truces. In the cabinet meeting that lasted until 2 AM on Saturday night it was decided to start the unilateral withdrawal, in coordination with Egypt.

A factor that contributed to the decision was the news that tunnels Hamas put five years of work and tens of millions of dollars into were destroyed within two weeks of accelerated activity of the IDF. Additionally, the terror group's rocket stockpiles dwindled from some nine thousand to about 2500. Over four thousand rockets were destroyed in addition to some 2800 that were fired at Israel.

This marks the start of disarmament of Hamas, in the knowledge that in the future Egypt will closely monitor and destroy the tunnels when and if the Rafah border crossing is reopened. According to IDF estimates between 700 and 800 Hamas terrorists and operatives were killed - about 45% of the total Gaza toll. Yet that's a small consolation. A "mere" 800 civilians were killed, including many children. Despite the IDF's efforts to prevent casualties among the civilian population, Israel should be very unhappy with this figure.

The bottom line is that Hamas was severely battered and humiliated, and the heavy toll to the civilian population of Gaza could hurt the organization's image further. No wonder Hamas pleaded for a ceasefire a few days ago, which it then violated. IDF is hoping that this will serve as deterrence to Hamas and bring several years of quiet to Israel's south. One should mention here the Second Lebanon War and its aftermath. What seemed at first like a tactical failure and a Hezbollah victory was a huge strategic achievement by Israel that brought eight years of quiet to its north.

Yossi Melman is an Israeli intelligence and security commentator and co-author of “Spies Against Armageddon, inside Israel’s secret wars."​ He tweets @yossi_melman.


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  • Wim Vincken
    August 07th 2014 - 01:35pm

    Mr. Shein Ariely. Open mind, that's agreed upon. Facts. Those are not facts, which makes the difference.

    According the dictionary, war crimes is declared as "An action carried out during the conduct of a war that violates accepted international rules of war."

    The last part of that statement is the issue here. "... accepted international rules of war."

    "A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians." (Article 8(2)(b)(iv) 1949 Geneva Conventions) That is seen as a war crime.
    To define intentional attacks directed against civilians, the following parts needs to be assessed:

    1. The anticipated damage or injury on civilians
    2. The anticipated military advantage
    3. If the damage on civilians is clearly excessive in relation to the military advantage

    * That means the Hamas attacks with rockets to cause harm to civilians points to exactly that, a war crime. They anticipated damage to civilian without any anticipated military advantage.
    * The case of the Israeli bombardment is more complicated and vague. The Israeli military claim that they had an anticipated military advantage by killing the terrorists, and the anticipated damage on civilians were kept as low as possible (1:1). The Palestinians declared that there were a few combatants between the civilian causalities, but they really don't come forward with any reliable numbers or statistics.

    Source: http://willemvincken.blogspot.co.il/2014/08/war-crimes-in-gaza.html

    The issue here is also the number of death.
    For example, the following list of killed combatants:

    Gaza Health Ministry: 20%
    PHCR (Palestinian Center of Human Rights): 16%
    UN OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs): 17%
    ITIC (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center): 30.2%
    IDF (Israeli Defense Force): 50.9%
    Average death: 26.82%

    If the percentage of combatants died is low (excessive force used), then that might be a focus point to try for war crimes.

    Source: http://willemvincken.blogspot.co.il/2014/08/number-of-death-in-gaza.html

  • Stewart Oyster
    August 04th 2014 - 03:43pm

    Sadly the world and its logic is so messed up that not even the wisdom of Solomon knows how things will pan out, when, and hopefully soon, the end of the current situation quietens down.

    Hamas declares death to Jews in Israel, then outside Israel after which the USA and West in general. How many of the Palestinians except or are forced to accept this, I don't know, but certainly it seems like the school bully syndrome, were the few control, although interviews with Palestinians would suggest that their ethos does not respect life but death.

    Like it or not, Israel is a front line defence against radical islamist, who are popping up all over the place. For the world to turn against Israel would be a great injustice in itself and in many cases hypocritical.

    So I guess, if the world does turn against Israel, Hamas wins, but watch out the west.

  • Wim Vincken
    August 04th 2014 - 09:58am

    This article is so wrong and it 'smells' so much like propaganda.
    "Israel's victorious withdrawal from Gaza"? To me, it looks like a defeat.

    They didn't destroy all the tunnels. Logic. The rockets are still flying into Israel, the Hamas is still hiding in underground bunkers and tunnels (which Israel supposed to have destroyed), where the rockets are stored.

    Politically, Israel is (going to be) isolated and then the storm starts to hit Israel, because they are going to start investigating if Israel performed war-crimes.
    And you know what? With so many civilians dead and the way they died, they might even have a point. Who, in his right mind, allows to bomb an area with so many civilians, and allow the international press to monitor every aspect? They might have hit a terrorist, but at a price of many civilians. Madness.

    Getting new friends like Egypt is nice, but they lost many current friends.

    The choice of strategy being used to battle Hamas in a densely populated Gaza is also wrong. They had other options, which excluded the destruction of property and lives of civilians in such massive scale, but they chose to ignore that.

    If this is the end of the incursion, just like Lebanon II, this is the biggest defeat.
    In Lebanon II, the political echelon was running the military campaign. It looks like this conflict suffered the same.

    Expectations are not met. The world and the population in Israel expected to end the rockets fired to Israel. They "suddenly" discovered the tunnels (which they knew existed) and claim to have them destroyed. Which is obviously not the case.

    Also prepare for the fall-out after the conflict. If anyone wants to go on vacation in Europe, Far East, Africa, Australia, and South America (almost the whole world), they might get arrested because of suspicion of war crimes, especially the soldiers. The active hate against Israelis all over the world is slowly reaching its boiling point, nowhere Israelis might be safe. The risk that Israel is going to be declared a pariah-state is big. If this happens, Israel can't even buy one bullet and everyone is suffering.

    Then we will have the political fallout. Investigations will start in Israel about the conduct of several parties involved here. This current administration will not survive that fallout. Political sides like "the left" and "the right" will receive the biggest "hits".

    No, when this incursion is indeed ended, the real battle is going to begin. What is so ignored - the Public Relations, the international politics - might be the factor, which will cause chaos and upheaval in Israel and worldwide.

  • James Hazan
    August 04th 2014 - 09:08am

    Mr Reder,We are not Nazis,please compose yourself,

  • Shein Ariely
    August 04th 2014 - 07:26am

    People should rather have a mind opened by facts than closed by lies
    The absurd tragedy!
    Hamas Islamism terrorist using Gaza people as human shield and demand immunity to carry on attacking Israelis.
    Gazaz people put an end the Islamist Hamas terrorists that are responsible for your and our suffering.

    Well document facts:
    1:Hamas military headquarter is located in the basements of Al Shifa hospital in Gaza
    2: TV reporter from Finland’s saw Hamas terrorists launching rockets from the Al Shifa Hospital
    3: Hamas fired from Al-Wafa Hospital in Gaza
    4:Hamas attacked a convoy of 100 trucks and prevent the entry to Gaza from Israel of medical equipment , medicine and food –
    5:Israel open a field hospital near the border to treat Gaza people.
    Hamas open fire on the Hospital while wounded form Gaza received medical treatment as well prevented others people the access to the hospital.

    6: Hamas terrorists are using ambulances and medical workers white coats to move around.

    7:Spanish journalist - off the record - says Hamas launched rockets very closed to the international media hotel, , but if ever we dared pointing our camera on them they would simply shoot at us and kill us."

    8: UN schools are used by Hamas to store rockets and firing mortars.

    9: Hamas tunnels start in Mosques and civilians houses.

    10: Hamas terrorists dressed as women and disguising guns as a baby are walking on the streets.

  • Barry Reder
    August 04th 2014 - 05:19am

    Why does the IDF not pump truck loads of carbon monoxide into the tunnels? Enough might reach central Gaza. Perhaps follow it up with with methane and a match.