Eitay Mack writes in Middle East Eye:
Last October, reports emerged that during an Israeli military operation in Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, ground forces were supported by combat helicopters and armed drones, although the equipment was not used offensively.
While commentators have speculated as to whether this indicates that Israel could start using armed drones extensively in the occupied West Bank, as it does in the besieged Gaza Strip, an understanding of Israel’s mathematical formula for killing Palestinians suggests the chances of this are low.
The deadliest maths is in Gaza, where Israel does not care to count the corpses of the Palestinians who die in its attacks. This indifference is evident in the large numbers of civilians killed, including families slaughtered in whole or in part, and in the extensive destruction of residences, hospitals, health clinics, schools, mosques, and road and power infrastructure, causing great suffering to those who remain alive.
Western media outlets accept uncritically Israel’s assertions that the dead are all ‘terrorists’ or civilians who died as ‘collateral damage’
Apart from empty condemnations that do not translate into action, the international community does not seem to care about Palestinian deaths in Gaza. Many western countries politically and militarily support Israel’s fight against the armed Palestinian groups operating there, while western media outlets accept uncritically Israel’s assertions that the dead are all “terrorists” or civilians who died as “collateral damage”. Even Israel’s destruction in May 2021 of a Gaza tower housing international media outlets has been long forgotten.
None of the reports by UN commissions on Gaza have led to any real consequences or sanctions on Israel. A UN inquiry that investigated the 2018 protests in Gaza found that 183 people were killed by Israeli military live fire and more than 6,000 were wounded by live ammunition, including hundreds of women and children. More than 1,500 others suffered indirect injuries from bullet fragments or shrapnel. But as usual, the report did not have any consequences for Israel.
‘Where every bullet landed’
In response to reports on the massive numbers of casualties during the 2018 demonstrations, the Israeli army asserted – in a tweet and a document that were both later removed from the internet – that the use of live fire was restricted to specially trained snipers.
“Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed,” the tweet noted.
Amid allegations that soldiers had fired explosive bullets, causing severe injuries to many victims after being fired from a short distance, the document stated that they used “industry standard 7.62mm ammunition, in use by many state militaries including NATO members”.
But if so many civilians were directly hit, and the Israeli military was firing accurately and knew exactly where each bullet landed, then must we not conclude that the snipers shot these civilians on purpose, thus violating international law, which requires a distinction between combatants and civilians?
From Israel’s apparent indifference over the victims of its attacks in Gaza, to the deadly technology it employs, extensive “collateral damage” to civilians is a recurring issue. Some might remember the incident in July 2002, when an Israeli Air Force plane dropped a one-ton bomb on Gaza City, killing Hamas military leader Salah Shehadeh and 14 civilians, mostly women and children. The use of such a bomb indicated how little Israel cared about the death toll.
Drones and artillery
During the 2008-09 war in Gaza, the Israeli army made massive use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which, while also deadly to civilians, are considered relatively accurate – and Israel’s exports of UAVs to other countries soared. During the 2014 Gaza war, journalists who managed to enter the besieged territory told me they were surprised to see many incidents of soldiers using artillery shells, a more primitive and inaccurate technology whose use in dense, built-up areas increases the number of victims.