The coming legal battle...
A nice look at the legal battle Israel faces because of the war....but here are some interesting tidbits on how the war was fought....
So what was the IDF's modus operandi? How did it manage to move through the narrow streets and alleyways, the booby-trapped houses and tunnels, with so few casualties of its own? Maj.-Gen. (Res) Doron Almog, a former commander of the southern front responsible for Gaza, puts it down to a combination of high-grade intelligence and a battle plan that took Hamas by surprise at every stage: strategic surprise at the ferocity and duration of the operation; tactical surprise at the timing of the initial air-strike and at the way the IDF found counters to all aspects of a Hamas defense strategy based on human shields, booby-trapped buildings and secret tunnels, and at the modus operandi of the forces on the ground.
"After one swift pincer movement, Hamas fighters suddenly found themselves surrounded everywhere," Almog, now chairman of Aleh Negev, a live-in facility in the south for the mentally disabled, tells The Report. "The IDF soldiers then moved forward behind camera-carrying unmanned aircraft, which located Hamas forces and directed accurate fire from the air and heavy artillery barrages at them. So that even before they engaged in close combat, the Hamas lost dozens of fighters. Many of the dead were company and battalion field commanders. They weren't at the head of their troops, but were deliberately picked out and hit. Through these tactical, targeted assassinations, the chain of command was severely disrupted. If the army hadn't operated in this way, we would have sustained dozens of casualties."
There were other tactical surprises, too - for example, the way the IDF was able to drop a mysterious electronic screen over Gaza. Israelis in the immediate vicinity found they were unable to open their cars by remote control; Hamas militiamen were unable to detonate booby-trapped buildings and other remotely controlled explosive devices.
Had the IDF used less firepower, Almog says, it would have cost it more casualties and greatly undermined the operation's deterrent impact. "Everyone in the region was watching us: Hizballah, Syria and Iran. I think the show of force was very important in creating deterrence, not only vis a vis Hamas, but in the region as a whole," he says.
As they went forward, Israeli troops with cameras fixed to their helmets recorded the web of booby-trapped buildings and tunnels, the way Hamas used civilians as human shields and weapons stored in and being fired from civilian locations. The data will obviously be used by the IDF in analyzing the operation; but it could also be made available if ever legal proceedings are instituted against Israeli soldiers.
Israel's chief argument in justifying and explaining the Palestinian civilian casualties is that the Hamas military machine was totally embedded in the civilian infrastructure. In an interview with The Jerusalem Report, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, a member of the war cabinet, points out that even Qassam missiles were fired from people's homes. "They fired from the roofs of houses, from schools, from shops. The mosques were full of weapons, ammunition, explosives and missiles. After it was hit, the Jabalya mosque kept on exploding for several minutes, explosion after explosion. It was probably one of the biggest arms bunkers in the Middle East, with large numbers of missiles imported from Tehran," says Herzog.
Could Israel have fought the war in Gaza any differently? Military historian Martin van Creveld, who has written about the inherent difficulty modern states have in fighting low intensity asymmetrical guerrilla wars, says there are only two ways of going about it effectively: Occupying the territory for a long time and systematically weakening the enemy, or going in hard and dealing a quick but overwhelming blow. In Gaza, the IDF chose the second option, and therefore, van Creveld argues, it was absolutely right in military terms to use massive firepower. "You must hit hard, move in and out quickly and take the enemy by surprise. And above all, you must not apologize. Because if you do, you demoralize your own side even before you start," he declares.
Van Creveld argues that despite all the criticism, the 2006 Lebanon war was a success, because Hizballah has kept the peace ever since. "In other words, we managed to break Hizballah's will to fight, and I think there is a reasonable chance of achieving the same objective with Hamas in Gaza, where the IDF performance was better and the price lower," he says.