International defense experts: Israel blameless in Gaza War
The High Level Military Group (HLMG), which is made up of 11 former military and intelligence leaders from five continents, has released a report on Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer, which completely clears Israel of any wrongdoing in the conflict.
“Israel had no choice but to defend its citizens from the rocket assault launched by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups and the threat posed by the cross-border assault tunnels,” according to the report. “The responsibility for the outbreak of the 2014 Gaza Conflict must be squarely ascribed to Hamas, which sought violent confrontation in an effort to seek to improve its strategic situation.”
Some of the experts even opined that the IDF had been too careful in trying to prevent collateral damage in the conduct of the war, and that its practices could hinder future anti-terror operations, if they are adopted as a general norm.
The HLMG report states:
“We can 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, and displaying both a very high level of operational capability as well as a total commitment to the Law of Armed Conflict. It did this under challenging circumstances on a formidably complex urban battlefield. This is not to say that the IDF did not make mistakes, which are inevitable in the context of urban warfare against an enemy such as Hamas, that purposefully hides behind a civilian population.”
“The IDF not only met its obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict, but often exceeded them, both on the battlefield and in the humanitarian relief efforts that accompanied its operation. In many cases where the fighting was concerned, this came at significant tactical cost to the IDF. It fought under restrictive Rules of Engagement and it is obvious that instances existed throughout the conflict where the IDF did not attack lawful military objectives on account of a deliberate policy of restraint. The IDF also used a number of highly innovative tactics over and above the necessities of the precautions required by the Law of Armed Conflict. It further used its formidable intelligence capability in an effort to contain its action as closely as possible to Hamas’s assets and protect the civilian population amid which these were purposely and unlawfully embedded.”
“Hamas 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, putting the civilian population of Gaza at great risk.”
“No country would accept the threat against its civilian population that these rockets present to Israeli population centers. Members of the High Level Military Group, many of whom had never visited the country prior to our fact-finding visits were united in their view that Israel’s efforts were entirely justified, appropriately conceived and lawfully carried out, and necessary in the defense of that country’s national security.”
“Following our professional assessment of IDF conduct, several members of the HLMG expressed strong concerns that the actions and practices of the IDF to prevent collateral damage were so extensive, over and above he requirements of the Law of Armed Conflict, that they would curtail the effectiveness of our own militaries, were they to become constraining norms of warfare enacted in customary law.”
The High Level Military Group (HLMG), which consists of military leaders and officials from NATO and other democratic countries, was formed in early 2015 with a mandate to address the implications for Western warfare in fighting enemies who disregard the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) but exploit the Western nations’ adherence to LOAC for their gain.
Its members are General Klaus Dieter Naumann (Germany), former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr; General Vincenzo Camporini (Italy), former Chief of Defense Staff of Italy; Lieutenant General David A. Deptula (United States), who was the principal attack planner for the Desert Storm coalition air campaign in 1991; Admiral José María Terán (Spain), former Chief of the Joint Staff, who serves in the Office of Strategic Assessment of the Minister of Defense of Spain; Major General Andrew James Molan (Australia), who served as the Chief of Operations for the Headquarters Multinational Force in Iraq; Lieutenant General Kamal Davar (India), who served as the first Director General of the Defense Intelligence Agency of India; Colonel Richard Kemp (United Kingdom), who was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, and six others.