Scribblings: Children’s Stories
Aug 3, 2023 | Tzvi Fleischer
In the June edition of this column, I noted Israel achieved something remarkable in its war with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in May, known as “Operation Shield and Arrow”. After an initial strike on May 9 which took out three key terror leaders of PIJ, and killed some family members and bystanders, Israel conducted 419 attacks on terrorist targets in Gaza. And despite Gaza’s density and the tendency of groups like PIJ to hide their bases in built-up areas, these strikes apparently were so careful that Israel managed to avoid killing a single Palestinian civilian.
In Israel’s military operation into the West Bank terror haven city of Jenin on July 3-5 – known as “Operation House and Garden” – Israel seems to have repeated this remarkable feat. Twelve Palestinians were killed, and according to the most accurate reports available, every single one of them was an armed militant.
As former British army commander Col. Richard Kemp noted following the operation:
To conduct an operation of such intensity in an urban area without killing any uninvolved civilians at all is a remarkable achievement by the IDF and probably unprecedented in modern warfare. Casualty ratios in most such operations have often been 3 to 5 civilians killed for every fighter, and that is by Western armies that do their best to avoid civilian casualties and adhere to the laws of war.
And yet, despite the IDF’s “unprecedented” success in avoiding civilian casualties, demonstrating extraordinary carefulness, there were still attempts by anti-Israel NGOs, UN bodies and hostile commentators to paint the whole operation as some sort of war crime or human rights violation.
One claim bandied about by both UN bodies and, surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal, was that the operation killed “at least five children.” Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here are images of all of the Palestinian “children” killed (see opposite).
As you can see, every single one of them was a 16- or 17-year-old armed fighter and acknowledged as such by a terrorist organisation that claimed them as a “martyr”. They would not be described as “children” in any other context, but instead “minors” or perhaps “teens”. However, convention often goes out the window when it comes to talking about Israel. The use of emotional language and imagery to score points, even in defiance of reality, often becomes the norm.
It is of course tragic that the lives of these five people were cut short at such a young age – but responsibility for their deaths must be sheeted home to the terrorist groups which recruited them in defiance of all the laws of war. When these armed teen terrorists fired at Israeli troops, were the IDF soldiers supposed to stop and ask them their ages before firing back? That is not required by any of the laws of war – nor indeed common sense.
Another claim that was made was that it was a war crime for Israel to use a bulldozer to tear up the road leading into Jenin as IDF troops came into the city on July 3. But the IDF didn’t do that just for fun, or to harm Palestinian transport infrastructure, as critics implied. It was known that Palestinian militant groups in Jenin had set up Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) under the roads to attempt to kill Israeli soldiers entering – one had disabled an IDF armoured vehicle during a smaller-scale raid in Jenin on June 19.
The bulldozer proved absolutely necessary. Reports say Israeli forces detonated at least 11 IEDs hidden along roads in the Jenin refugee camp during “House and Garden”.
From a security point of view, “Operation House and Garden” was an unequivocal Israeli success.
Israel entered a lawless town that had been the source of dozens of terror attacks over the last six months which had left at least 28 innocent Israelis dead. Once in Jenin, the IDF managed to:
- Seize over a thousand weapons, among them explosive devices, ammunition, guns, dozens of kilograms of chemical materials for making explosives, remotely operated weapons and propane tanks. These weapons were located in a mosque, in pits concealed in civilian areas, in operational situation rooms and in vehicles.
- Close down and dismantle two operational situation rooms used by terrorists in Jenin to plan and coordinate attacks.
- Arrest at least 30 wanted terrorists.
- Facilitate Palestinian Authority forces re-entering Jenin to hopefully restore a measure of law and order and security to a town that had come to be dominated by terror gangs.
There seems little doubt that Israeli security was strongly improved by these achievements – but so was security for Jenin’s civilian residents.
And the IDF did it all without killing any Palestinian civilians, despite the difficult urban environment.
Yet to some, any Israeli military action must always be presented as a war crime – no matter what facts or laws have to be distorted to arrive at this conclusion. Anyone with a working brain should be able to see that the knee-jerk denouncers of everything Israel does only make things worse for Palestinians as much as for Israelis.