War report aims to regain moral high ground for Israel

December 15, 2015
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items:
1) FII: An Assessment of the 2014 Gaza Conflict, Executive Summary by Friends of Israel Initiative;
2) FII: The members of the High Level Military Group;
3) JPost: Security and defence: The IDF’s ‘exceeded standards’ of war rules;
4) Times of Israel: Defence experts back IDF’s 2014 Gaza campaign, claim critics are invoking wrong set of laws;

Links at foot.

The total destruction of the Shujaiyeh district in Gaza on July 26th 2015. No laws of war broken here says the HLMG.

An Assessment of the 2014 Gaza Conflict, pdf file

The High Level Military Group
October 2015

Published  by Friends of Israel Initiative


1. The High Level Military Group (HLMG) was formed in early 2015 with a mandate to examine Israel’s conduct of the 2014 Gaza Conflict, in the context of a larger project seeking to address the implications for warfare where democratic nations are engaged in fighting enemies who disregard the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) but exploit our own nations’ adherence to LOAC for their gain. It is comprised of top-level practitioners from democratic nations whose expertise covers the entire gamut of the conduct of warfare and who are intimately familiar with the battlefield scenarios, operational and legal imperatives, and military and humanitarian duties relevant to the 2014 Gaza Conflict.

2. Between June and August 2015 HLMG members and staff undertook two extensive fact-finding trips and four additional research trips to assess every aspect of Israel’s conduct in the 2014 Gaza Conflict. The State of Israel granted us unprecedented access, undoubtedly in excess of what our own countries would afford in similar circumstances. The Prime Minister, Defence Minister, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at the time of the 2014 Gaza Conflict, all ranks of the IDF, , the Internal Security Agency (ISA), other relevant retired officials, as well as civilians affected by the fighting were made available to us. The necessary absence of some classified material did not impede our ability to form a comprehensive professional assessment in line with our mandate. No topic was off limits and interlocutors gave frank and detailed responses throughout. In addition we were able to draw on a wide range of supplementary expertise, open and closed sources and were supported in our study by a Rapporteur and full staff.

3. The resultant report at hand constitutes our professional assessment as to whether Israel acted as a reasonable country would, within the norms and laws governing warfare, and on the basis of appropriate military conduct in the legal, operational and ultimately moral realm. The conclusions we have arrived at are our own, formed on the basis of only our professional experience and the exhaustive fact-finding we were able to engage in.

Background Israel and Hamas

4. Following Israel’s disengagement in 2005, Hamas, a terrorist organisation proscribed by the United States and the European Union among others, gained full control of Gaza in a violent coup in 2007. Hamas’s charter explicitly obligates the organisation to destroy Israel through Jihad in order to establish Islamic rule. Its military leadership and most of the organisation’s manpower are in Gaza while its political leadership is split between Gaza and Doha, Qatar. External actors play an important role in supporting Hamas, with Iran in particular being responsible for upgrading Hamas capabilities through the supply of weapons and training.

5. The 2014 Gaza Conflict was the third major conflagration between Israel and Hamas in the past decade. The firing of rockets from Gaza started in 2001 and since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, more than 11,000 rockets have been fired at Israel’s civilian population from the territory. In response, Israel has pursued diplomatic efforts, defensive measures short of full military operations, and fought two prior conflicts with Hamas, in 2008/9 and 2012.

Strategic Goals

6. The domestic and geo-political pressures brought on Hamas by the politics of the Arab Spring by the summer of 2014 led it to seek a major violent escalation intended to significantly improve its position vis-a-vis Israel, its relationship with the Palestinian Authority, its external sponsors and its own population. Israel’s objective was the cessation of rocket fire from Gaza and the neutralisation of the threat from Hamas’s extensive network of cross-border infiltration tunnels. It made multiple attempts at de-escalation in the weeks leading up to the fighting and when these failed conceived a limited operation aimed at ending Hamas attacks on Israel and re-establishing deterrence against future aggression from Gaza.

Hamas’s Strategic Concept and Battlefield Complexity

7. Hamas’s strategic concept rests in large part on a deliberate unlawful tactic of embedding its military operations deep within the urban civilian infrastructure of Gaza and drawing the IDF into that territory’s urban centres. Hamas thus exploits the advantages of fighting on pre-prepared urban terrain in addition to exploiting the constraints brought about by the IDF’s strict adherence to the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC). Fighting in urban terrain is one of the most complex, dangerous and challenging operations of war. Physical nfrastructure in urban settings conceals an adversary’s operations effectively and allows it to predict and potentially channel the movement of advancing ground forces. Mitigating these advantages necessitates significant firepower while the need to protect civilians hampers the deployment of force and complicates battlefield decision making, in particular in an asymmetric setting where one side deliberately hides among civilians while the other seeks to protect them. Faced with these conditions the IDF showed significant restraint, often accepting higher levels of risk for its own forces with Rules of Engagement that were more restrictive than necessary under LOAC.

Legal Concepts

8. Israel’s adheres to the accepted norms and rules that make up the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), including rules embodied in conventions to which Israel is not party, where these form part of customary international law. Despite debate about these norms in this context, Israel accepts the applicable law related to both international and non-international armed conflicts and further holds that these stipulations are not contingent on Hamas behaving reciprocally. Hamas rejects LOAC by definition based on its charter and modus operandi, which however does not release it from accountability for its violations thereof. The organisation operates a hybrid model, blending traditional means of warfare with the modus operandi of a terrorist movement. It thus incorporates violations of LOAC and the exploitation of Israeli adherence to LOAC as significant enablers in its strategic concept.

9. It is important to note in this context that LOAC does not prohibit all harm to civilians or their property. Where civilians or civilian locations are involved in hostilities they can lose their protected status and subject to the concept of proportionality, become legitimate military targets or, where such persons or objects are not legitimate targets according to the law, become accepted collateral damage. Adherence to these rules cannot be determined by considering the effects of an attack or relative casualty figures between belligerents in a conflict. The legality of military action has to be measured on the full spectrum of contextual understanding existent at the time of decision making and whether a commander made a reasonable judgement based on this information.

The members of the High Level Military Group

General Klaus Dieter Naumann (Germany) is the former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces and served as Chairman of the NATO Military Committee from 1996 to 1999.

General Vincenzo Camporini (Italy) is the former Chief of Defence Staff of Italy. He served as Deputy Chief of Defence General Staff and President of the Italian Centre for High Defence Studies before being appointed Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force and subsequently Chief of Defence General Staff.

Lieutenant General David A. Deptula (United States) was the principal attack planner for the Desert Storm coalition air campaign in 1991, served as Director of the Combined Air Operations Center in Afghanistan and served as the first Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Headquarters Air Force.

Admiral José María Terán (Spain) serves in the Office of Strategic Assessment of the Minister of Defence of Spain. A former Chief of the Joint Staff and Chief of the Strategic Analysis Group, he has also served as Director for Reorganisation of the Spanish Intelligence Service.

Major General Andrew James Molan (Australia) served as the Chief of Operations for the Headquarters Multinational Force in Iraq. He is a former Commander of the Australian Defence College and has served as Adviser to the Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force on Joint
Warfighting Lessons and Concepts.

Lieutenant General Kamal Davar (India) served as the first Director General of the Defence Intelligence Agency of India. A former Director-General, Mechanised Forces at Army Headquarters, he has held a large number of high ranking command posts in the Indian Army and served on the Indian Military Training Team in Iraq.

Brigadier General Alain Lamballe (France) served in the General Secretariat for National Defence as head of the Southeast Asia and Europe sections as well as heading the Central Liaison Mission for Assistance to Foreign Forces. He is the former Director of the Department of Security Cooperation of the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Colonel Richard Kemp (United Kingdom) was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and has served in Iraq, the Balkans, South Asia and Northern Ireland. He has led the international terrorism team at the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee and served as chairman of the strategic intelligence group for COBRA, the UK national crisis management committee.

Colonel Vincent Alcazar (United States) served as a fighter pilot in Operations Desert Storm and Southern Watch as well as various other post 9/11 theatres. He subsequently served in strategic roles at the Pentagon, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and at the U.S. embassy, Baghdad, Iraq.

Colonel Eduardo Ramirez (Colombia) is anAdvisor to the Congress of Colombia who served with the Colombian National Police from 1987 until 2013. He was formerly the Chief of Security Staff for President Uribe of Colombia, as well as Chief of Section at the Judicial and Criminal Directory of the National Police.

Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper (United States) was Ambassador-at-large in charge of the US Secretary of State’s Office of War Crimes Issues. A former Presidential envoy and adviser to the National Security Council he was previously a war crimes prosecutor for the United Nations
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Rafael L. Bardají is the Executive Director of the Friends of Israel Initiative and National Security Advisor to Former President, José María Aznar. He formerly served in the Government of Spain as the National Security Adviser and in leadership positions in the Ministry of Defence.

Davis Lewin is the Rapporteur of the High Level Military Group. He is the Deputy Director and Head of Policy and Research at The Henry Jackson Society, a London based
Foreign and Defence Policy think tank.

Joseph Raskas is a Research Assistant for The Friends of Israel Initiative and a Fellow at The Public Interest Fellowship.

One of many children wounded in Gaza is carried to hospital.

Security and defence: The IDF’s ‘exceeded standards’ of war rules

A member of a group of int’l former chiefs of staff and officers who reviewed the 2014 Gaza op tells ‘Post:’ None of our armies went to the extent that the IDF did to minimize civilian casualities.

By Yaakov Lappin, JPost
December 11, 2015

Israel’s military measures to defend its population during the 50-day clash with Hamas in Gaza last year met, and often exceeded, the expectations of the Laws of Armed Conflict, a group of former international chiefs of staff and senior-ranking commanders has found, following a lengthy examination.

The 14 independent military and security professionals came from around the world to form the High Level International Military Group this year.

They conducted in-depth research into Operation Protective Edge, receiving unprecedented access to the IDF and the government, before releasing their full version of their report this week.

“No country would accept the threat against its civilian population that these rockets and tunnels present to Israeli population centers. Members of the High Level Military Group, some of whom had never visited the country prior to our fact-finding visits, were united in our view that Israel’s efforts were entirely necessary and justified in the defense of that country’s national security,” the report’s executive summary stated.

“We can further be categorically clear that Israel’s conduct in the 2014 Gaza Conflict met and in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations’ militaries. It is our view that Israel fought an exemplary campaign, adequately conceived with appropriately limited objectives, displaying both a very high level of operational capability as well as a total commitment to the Law of Armed Conflict,” the report said. “The IDF not only met its obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict, but often exceeded these on the battlefield at significant tactical cost, as well as in the humanitarian relief efforts that accompanied its operation.

“Where the high standards of conduct the IDF sets for its personnel have not been met, incidents are investigated, including criminal investigations, through an independent mechanism under the oversight of the democratic institutions of the State of Israel. This mechanism clearly meets the requirements of legal recourse, judicial independence and democratic oversight that our own nations set for ourselves,” the authors said.

“Hamas in turn not only flagrantly disregarded the Law of Armed Conflict as a matter of course as part of its terrorist-army hybrid strategic concept, but rather it abused the very protections afforded by the law for military advantage. Embedding its entire military machinery in civilian locations and sensitive sites, including those of the United Nations, Hamas indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilians throughout the conflict with extensive rocket fire and willfully sought to draw the IDF into battle in a prepared urban stronghold amid the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza, for which it located its operational headquarters in Gaza’s main hospital,” they said.

The High Level International Military Group is comprised of top military officials from several democratic states, and the members have had extensive battlefield experience. The group included Gen.

Klaus Dieter Naumann, who was the former chief of staff of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, and served as chairman of the NATO Military Committee from 1996 to 1999.

Other members include Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, who is the former Italian chief of defense, and ex-deputy chief of defense general staff. He later served as chief of staff of the Italian Air Force, as well as chief of defense general staff.

Lt.-Gen. David A. Deptula is a former three-star general in the US Air Force with extensive operational experience. Deptula was the principal attack planner for the Desert Storm coalition air campaign in 1991. He served as director of the Combined Air Operations Center in Afghanistan and as the first deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at Air Force Headquarters.

In addition was Adm. José María Terán, who serves in the Office of Strategic Assessment of the Spanish defense minister. A former chief of the joint staff and chief of the Strategic Analysis Group, he has also served as director for Reorganization of the Spanish Intelligence Service.

Maj.-Gen. Andrew James Molan served as the chief of operations for the Headquarters Multinational Force in Iraq. He is a former commander of the Australian Defense College and has served as adviser to the vice chief of the Australian Defense Force on Joint Warfighting Lessons and Concepts.

Col. Richard Kemp was commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and has served in Iraq, the Balkans, South Asia and Northern Ireland. He has led the international terrorism team at the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee and served as chairman of the strategic intelligence group for COBRA, the UK national crisis management committee.

Other senior former officers came from India, France and Colombia.

The group made two fact-finding visits to Israel and four more research trips between June and August of this year, and its members said they received “unprecedented access, undoubtedly in excess of what our own countries would afford in similar circumstances,” meeting with all ranks of the IDF, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and members of the IDF’s Military Advocate General’s office and the IDF’s International Law Department.

“Hamas’s strategic concept rests in large part on a deliberate unlawful tactic of embedding its military operations deep within the urban civilian infrastructure of Gaza and drawing the IDF into that territory’s urban centers. Hamas thus exploits the advantages of fighting on pre-prepared urban terrain in addition to exploiting the constraints brought about by the IDF’s strict adherence to the Law of Armed Conflict,” the report said. “Fighting in urban terrain is one of the most complex, dangerous and challenging operations of war.”

Additionally, the group concluded, “Israel adheres to the accepted norms and rules that make up the Law of Armed Conflict, including rules embodied in conventions to which Israel is not party, where these form part of customary international law.”

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post by phone from the US, Deptula said, “I am very familiar with the laws of armed conflict.”

“Clearly, what had happened was that Hamas abused international norms and procedures to obtain goals that otherwise cannot be achieved by political or other military means,” he said. “It used law as a weapon. What is so frustrating is to see international organizations, like the UN, fall into the trap and even giving these heinous terrorists the time of day.”

The international US-led coalition currently engaging the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in an air campaign is facing “the exact same kind of lawfare,” he added. “This is really something that modern, peace-loving nation-states have to be very concerned with.”

In 2014 the IDF went “well beyond what is necessary according to the rule of armed conflict, to assure minimal loss of life and avoid unintentional civilian casualties,” he continued. “I think the IDF showed enormous restraint. It often accepted higher levels of risk for its own forces that were necessary under the laws of armed conflict.”

Measures included calling in warnings to civilian to evacuate a facility “known to be harboring Hamas operations,” dropping warning pamphlets and dropping small charges as warning signs on buildings before actually striking them.

“Hamas understood these actions, and prevented civilians from leaving the area. That is absolutely criminal. If anyone should be taken to the International Criminal Court, it is Hamas,” the lieutenant- general argued.

Addressing the ongoing fight against Islamic State, he asked, “What is the logic of a policy that restricts the use of air power to avoid the possibility of collateral damage while allowing the certainty of the Islamic State’s crimes against humanity?” During their visit, the group met IDF units that uncovered cross-border Hamas attack tunnels.

“We really had unrestricted access, not just to the military, but to the political elements of Israel’s leadership,” Deptula recalled.

Democracies forced to deploy force against terrorist- guerrilla forces “need not to be cowed by information operations and propaganda,” he said. “Using truth as a weapon is very important in many cases.

We’ve ceded the information domain to propaganda and lies.”

Kemp told the Post by phone from Britain, “I think the IDF made many efforts to minimize civilian casualties.”

He added, “None of our armies have gone to this extent. Also, the IDF’s actions went well beyond requirements of the Geneva Convention. The real picture… is totally different from the picture the media presents. That was very striking for all of us.”

Israel’s high level intelligence on Gaza enabled discriminate precision strikes, Kemp said. The approximately 50-percent civilian casualty rate in Gaza is far lower than the civilian casualty rate in Iraq and Syria, he added, because “the West is not trying to deal with the problem of the Islamic State. The majority of the operation in Syria and Iraq is for presentational purposes. No politician can stand up and say we are bombing Islamic State and doing something. They can be extremely selective about what they hit. If there is any chance of civilians near the target, [we] don’t need to do a thing.”

Even mass casualty incidents like the Paris terrorist attacks pale in comparison to the risk posed to Israeli civilians from Hamas, Kemp added.

“Hamas fired barrages of rockets into Israel from a short distance. The problem Israel [is facing] is absolutely immediate. It had to be dealt with effectively.

If not, Israeli civilians would have died, and the government would fall. Israel had to take strong action,” he said. “The other point is that Hamas wanted to get their civilians killed.”

Hamas “deliberately lured Israel into a situation in which it had to kill innocent civilians. Hamas planned operations and positioned forces in every way so that [Gazan] civilians would die.”

Looking ahead at the global effort to engage Islamic State (or lack of it), Kemp said, “I don’t think we’d ever be able to match the intelligence Israel has in Gaza with intelligence we’d have on Syria. I know Israel has much better intelligence than we do on Syria, and that it is sharing it with us, which does help.”

If Western countries ever committed ground forces to destroy Islamic State on the ground, they would not be able to mimic the IDF’s efforts to warn civilians, Kemp said.

“It would be impossible for us to issue the range of warnings that Israel gave to the population in Gaza.

British commanders would not be able to send text messages to people in Raqqa telling them to evacuate their homes – we don’t have their numbers,” he said.

“I didn’t feel that the IDF were running a propaganda operation or spinning things,” he added.” I have 30-years experience, and know when I’m being lied to. The same is true of other officers, some of whom were much senior to me. People will say that Israel knows it’s in trouble. But Israel recognizes that its reputation is on the line, that it has come under heavy criticism and it wants to mitigate that.”

Defence experts back IDF’s 2014 Gaza campaign, claim critics are invoking wrong set of laws

Report by international High Level Military Group blasts UN commission, says Israel set a standard no other army could match

By Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel
December 13, 2015

Armies of the world would be rendered far less effective if they were forced to operate under the same restrictions as the IDF during last summer’s Gaza campaign, a group of former military and defence leaders from nine countries claim in a new report released Friday.

Following a months-long investigation into the 50-day conflict, the High Level Military Group — made up of retired generals and defense officials from Germany, Colombia, India, Spain, Australia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Italy — found that Israel not only abided by the laws of armed conflict, but far surpassed their requirements, despite damning reports by the UN and non-governmental organizations that accused the IDF of potential war crimes.

The group had already defended Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, submitting their preliminary findings to the UN Human Rights Commission’s probe into the operation, but the group’s final 80-page report goes far beyond their initial assessment.

“Our findings were diametrically opposed to the UN report,” Col. Richard Kemp, one of the document’s authors and the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, told The Times of Israel on Thursday, blasting the lack of military expertise by the United Nations commission that investigated the conflict. “The UN report was done too quickly and was done by the wrong people.”

The HLMG, which includes, the former chairman of the NATO military committee, the former chief of staff of the Italian army, a former US ambassador-at-large on war crimes and the former director-general of the Indian Defense Intelligence Agency, was formed by the Friends of Israel Initiative, a group created by former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar in 2010 to fight an “unprecedented campaign of deligitimation against Israel.”

The UN and NGO reports were investigated by human rights experts, and not military personnel who are most familiar with the laws of armed conflict. Without that expertise, the commissions investigating the 2014 Operation Protective Edge arrived at biased and inaccurate conclusions, Kemp said.

The laws of armed conflict
A central issue in all of these reports is that of civilian casualties. One of the problems, the report found, was the UN accepted Hamas’s figures for combatant vs. civilian casualties, which put the ratio at close to 70% non-combatants of the 2,000 or so deaths, compared to the dramatically lower 50% that Israel claims.

The HLMG found Hamas’s numbers to be rife with inconsistencies, such as the “inclusion of duplicate names, incorrect ages, combat-related deaths caused by Hamas or its affiliate organizations, such as in the case of misfired rockets, and deaths not related to the hostilities but classified as such.”

More problematic, however, is that the UN and NGO reports were researched from a human rights standpoint and treated the concept of civilian deaths as inherently wrong, even when those incidents occurred under legally acceptable circumstances, Kemp said.

“Human rights law was not the right set of laws to govern this; the laws of armed conflict are,” he added.

Commissions investigating the conflict should have looked to see that everything feasibly was done to avoid the deaths of non-combatants, not that casualties didn’t happen, as they inevitably will in wartime. That standard of zero civilian deaths is an impossible one, Kemp said.

Nevertheless, the 11 former army and governmental officials found that Israel adopted a far higher level of restraint than other militaries, citing Israel’s now famous “knock on the roof” technique of dropping a non-explosive ordnance to alert residents that their building is about to be bombed, the telephone calls and leaflets dropped warning non-combatants to leave the scene of an impending attack and numerous examples of missions canceled due to potential non-combatant casualties.

“That threshold isn’t something other nations could handle,” Kemp said. “We can’t call everyone in Iraq before a strike.”

This standard, which is already beginning to be applied to other armies besides the IDF, is a hindrance to military expediency, Kemp argued. “You can’t achieve that aim and also be effective. It’s why we’re not being effective,” Kemp said, referring specifically to the current coalition campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Not only does that intense international scrutiny on every civilian death inherently hinder the IDF’s and other militaries’ ability to wage an effective war, it will also ironically endanger more citizens, as each civilian death can be perversely used by Hamas and other groups as a weapon on the public opinion “front,” Kemp claimed.

Anticipating war crimes, finding none
The group met with representatives throughout Israel’s defence and political structure, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to enlisted soldiers who fought in Gaza, while gathering material for their report.

Kemp, who also previously led the UK Joint Intelligence Committee’s international terrorism team, has defended Israeli military actions against Gaza before, testifying before the UN’s Goldstone commission on Israel’s 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead. The rest of the group, however, had only brief or tangential connections with the IDF, and many came in to the group anticipating to find indications of Israeli crimes, Kemp said.

But the HLMG found practically none, laying the blame for the vast majority of civilian casualties — 50 percent of those killed in the conflict, according to some estimates — at the feet of Hamas instead, who they claim instituted a deliberate policy to cause as many Palestinian civilian deaths as possible in order to wage a PR war against Israel. The report lauded not only Israel’s aforementioned operational measures to avoid civilian casualties, but also its overall strategic and organizational structure, which required the constant involvement of Military Advocate General representatives to ensure that the laws of warfare and rules of engagement were respected.

In addition, the report noted that Israel tried multiple times to avoid and end the conflict through diplomatic means, only to be rebuffed by Hamas at every turn.

As all members of the group were retired, they did not represent their home countries, and Kemp explained that the potential for backlash and threat to their professional reputations kept the group independent and objective.

Though there was healthy discussion during the investigation, Kemp said, the group was united in its conclusions. “This wasn’t groupthink. If there was a person with a dissenting opinion, we would have heard about it,” he said.

Hamas PR: Censorship and manipulation
The report decries the terror organization’s use of human shields and confirms many of the allegations levied against Hamas, namely that they used hospitals, UN schools, ambulances and other “sensitive sites” in order to force Israel into compromising positions and bring about international condemnation against the Jewish state.

In addition to the military aspects of last summer’s operation, the HLMG focused considerable attention on Hamas’s manipulation of the media, noting both censorship and “proactive fabrication” as tools in the terror group’s PR arsenal.

Hamas at times forcibly prevented the media from taking and publishing photographs of wounded fighters, only allowing pictures of wounded civilians, the report found. Hamas would also “prepare” the scenes after Israeli strikes, removing weaponry and fighters, before allowing journalists into the area in order to make it appear as though only civilians were hit in the attacks.

The HLMG blamed not only the terror organization for perpetuating these acts of bullying and chicanery, but also the international media for not being more forthright about the clearly distorted and censored view of Gaza that they were reporting. Though some news outlets later admitted to the manipulations, the HLMG found, the damage was already done.

The same, to an extent, can be said of the HLMG report. With reports by the UN, Amnesty International, Israel’s Breaking the Silence, Human Rights Watch and others, the High Level Military Group’s document may be too little too late.

In addition to their public release of the document, the group already has plans to discuss their findings with the US Congress, and members of the HLMG will also speak in their home countries. Though there are not yet official plans in the works, the group also hopes to present their findings to the UN, the International Criminal Court and other global bodies, Kemp said.

While it was important to the former military and diplomatic leaders to defend what the group saw as Israel’s legal and legitimate actions in Gaza out of a moral or ethical obligation, the 11 men also saw it with a sense of self-preservation, as the world changes its expectations of how to fight against terror groups and other non-state actors.

The 2014 Gaza conflict report is just the first in a wider study on modern warfare, Kemp said. “There will be a larger project about what can be done against this kind of insurgency.”

The full report:
An assessment of the 2014 Gaza conflict,pdf file, HLMG, October 2015

The full report by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is The 2014 Gaza Conflict, Factual and Legal Aspects, pdf file

The ‘high level’ men who exonerated Israel

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