Israel’s official rules of engagement permit the IDF to swiftly crush the threat emanating from Hamas-ruled Gaza, but it’s not taking advantage of them.
The residents of southern Israel have long accused the government and military of being reluctant, even afraid, to do what it takes to truly curb the Gaza rocket threat. A senior IDF official recently indicated that those fed-up residents are correct. The Israeli army is capable of defeating the Hamas-led threat, or at least severely damaging and deterring it, but must carefully weigh the consequences of doing so.
Meanwhile, the people, and especially local Israeli children, suffer.
“If we followed the existing open-fire regulations, we’d kill 10-20 terrorists every day,” Lt.-Col. Yoav Schneider, a tank brigade commander positioned on the Gaza border, said in an interview last month with Israel’s Ynet news portal.
But, Schneider revealed in remarks published this week after Gaza-based terrorists again bombarded southern Israel, “there is a disconnect between current policies [be they military or political] and those permissive open-fire regulations.”
The current policy is to allow Hamas militants enough time to evacuate their positions before retaliating.
“I explain to my soldiers that we are allowing these positions to evacuate before damaging them in order to send the message that we will not tolerate such attacks, but that we also don’t want war,” Lt.-Col. Schneider continued. He went on to stress that when it comes to terrorist infiltration attempts along the Gaza border, his troops are free to open fire immediately in order to protect the nearby Israeli villages.
An unnamed military official added in his own remarks to Ynet that every situation is carefully assessed, as are the consequences of different responses, before dispatching orders to the forces on the ground.
There has been mounting concern that the IDF and in particular the commanders and troops engaging the Gaza threat are tying their own hands for fear of being prosecuted over causing collateral damage on the Palestinian side.
“It’s not a sterile situation, and the results of operational activities are not always what you intended,” Schneider noted. Still, the tank commander insisted that he doesn’t feel that anyone is “hovering over me with a magnifying glass.”
Such explanations have not impressed many of those Israelis most affected by the terrorist rocket fire.
Chief among those criticizing the government and military has been Alon Davidi, mayor of the southern town of Sderot, which is situated adjacent to Gaza and is a favorite target of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket crews.
“We live in a difficult reality in which we are constantly scurrying to find the nearest bomb shelter,” Mayor Davidi told Ynet after his town was hit by 10 terrorist rockets over the weekend. “I told the prime minister that there is a terrorist campaign that has been ongoing for 18 years. And even after all that time, the terrorist leaders walk around free, while we Israelis ensure such hardships.”