The morality of the IDF....
A recent report by the Israeli government shows the tough decisions that have to be made in the field...
The Al-Maqadmah mosque incident, mentioned in the report, is a case in point. On January 3, 2009, a number of Palestinian civilians were killed by an IDF missile that struck the entrance to the house of prayer in Beit Lahiya. Justice Richard Goldstone’s “Report of the UN Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict” accused Israel of possible war crimes related to these deaths. After an exhaustive investigation, however, the IDF found that the missile strike had been directed at two terrorists observed firing Kassam rockets at Israeli cities in the South. The other casualties were both unintended and unforeseeable.
A number of factors combined to cause these unfortunate fatalities. There was a “ticking bomb” element.
The two Kassam operatives, who originally positioned themselves near a hospital, had to be neutralized before they could escape to launch more rockets at Israeli civilians. IDF commanders who authorized the attack did not know that the building, which had no minaret, was a mosque. An IDF captain who found out that it was, in the brief minutes, if not seconds, after the attack was authorized but before it was carried out, did not say anything and was punished for that failure – being forbidden to continue serving in IDF posts involved in life-and-death decisions. Furthermore, the Israeli command did not know that a door that led into the mosque was open. It was shrapnel from the missile that killed civilians located inside. Finally, two IDF officers selected a more powerful missile than was authorized because the missile that had been approved was not immediately available and, with time running out, no Palestinian civilians could be seen in the area. These officers were punished for that choice as well.
THE AL-MAQADMAH mosque incident, one of 47 criminal investigations conducted by Israel, highlights the thorny moral dilemmas faced by the Jewish state when waging unconventional warfare.
Hamas launches rockets from inside densely populated civilian areas, intentionally and cynically using Gaza’s residents as human shields. Israel is faced with difficult, split-second choices in response.
Launching an offensive against Hamas in Gaza inevitably leads to the unintentional deaths of noncombatants, but refraining from action exposes Israelis to Hamas’s Kassam and mortar fire. Firing long-range missiles at Hamas terrorists embedded in residential areas precludes the need for IDF soldiers to risk their lives entering dangerous areas to eliminate terrorists in a more “surgical” fashion, but increases the chances of unintended civilian deaths.