Israel's government on Thursday released a 160-page report answering charges by the Palestinians, the UN and human rights groups that its military incursion into the Gaza Strip in late December and early January was characterized by war crimes and other violations of international law.
The report first and foremost served to remind the international community that Israeli forces only entered Gaza in what was dubbed "Operation Cast Lead" after weeks of incessant and escalating Hamas rocket fire on southern Israel. During that period, the world did little or nothing to rein in Hamas and bring an end to the rocket attacks.
When Israeli forces did enter, they were determined to not repeat the mistakes made in southern Lebanon that lead to a large number of Israeli casualties. Warplanes, artillery and tanks were used liberally to ensure the safety of Israeli ground forces, and that use of force resulted in 1,100 Palestinians killed, according to Palestinian sources.
But the report noted that Israel's use of force was by no means disproportionate or unprecedented. When American and other allied forces recently invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, they employed far greater force against civilian areas used as cover by terrorist forces in order to keep their own casualties low.
Indeed, according to the actual international rules of war as contained in the Geneva Conventions, civilian areas are not to be exempt from the use of overwhelming force if they are being used as cover or bases of operations by enemy combatants.
The report flat-out rejected charges that Israeli warplanes and artillery engaged in indiscriminate firing at Palestinian civilian areas or that they intentionally targeted and killed Palestinian civilians.
The government did say that more than a dozen criminal inquiries have been opened against individual soldiers or units for abuses committed during the fighting, but insisted that is by no means an indictment of the entire IDF or the nation of Israel.
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