Israel fought “an exemplary campaign” during the Gaza conflict last year, an independent group of prominent military personnel and a former United Nations war crimes prosecutor has concluded.
A report by the High Level Military Group (HLMG), made up of 11 former military and intelligence leaders from five continents, said Israel operated “within the parameters of the Law of Armed Conflict” and had even “in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations’ militaries,”
The group unanimously agreed that Israel's military response was reasonable.
The report - called "An Assessment of the 2014 Gaza Conflict said that “no country would accept the threat against its civilian population" presented by the rockets fired by Hamas.
“Israel’s efforts were entirely justified, appropriately conceived and lawfully carried out, and necessary in the defence of that country’s national security.”
The study was compiled this summer during six fact-finding and research trips.
The former officers, who held important positions in the US, UK, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Indian, Australian and Colombian defence forces, said they had enjoyed a level of access to military information which was “undoubtedly in excess of what our own countries would afford in similar circumstances.”
The HLMG, including the previous chairman of the NATO Military Committee Klaus Naumann, condemned Hamas for “flagrantly disregarding” international laws and committing “war crimes... such as the summary execution of those it accused of collaborating with Israel”.
They found that “the entire military machinery of Hamas was embedded in civilian locations, private homes and a plethora of sensitive sites such as medical facilities, mosques and schools”, and that this strategy was aimed at damaging Israel’s international reputation.
To this end, “Hamas actively sought the death of its own citizens [and] conducted a highly effective information campaign which included coercion of Gaza-based journalists”.
The group placed blame for the thousands of casualties on Hamas, stating that the “terrorist-army hybrid” formed by the Gazan governing party “broke every single ceasefire during the conflict, whether official or humanitarian”.
“The vast majority of casualties could have been avoided had Hamas heeded Israel’s repeated appeals through third party intermediaries prior and during the conflict to de-escalate.”
HLMG co-ordinator Davis Lewin said many in the group even feared that Israel had created an unrealistically high standard for protecting civilians.
“Some of the precautions were so extensive, they worried about if these became norms in international law in terms of having to fight their own battles elsewhere.
“What could happen to them if Israel went above and beyond with innovations and still got slandered in the international community? They're very concerned that those organisations may one day apply the same standards to them.”
He said that the report, the first of three examining wars between democratic armies and groups which “don’t respect life or armed conflict laws”, showed a path for the nations currently fighting against Daesh.
The group’s assessment finished by stating that “Israel’s experience carries important strategic, tactical and operational lessons for other democratic nations’ armies battling some of the most brutal and dangerous adversaries since the Second World War.”
For more information on the report, please visit http://www.high-level-military-group.org/