Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Israeli response to Gaza rockets wholly justified

I SUSPECT I'm not alone in deploring the biased letter from Louis Shawcross (July 30). Either he is blissfully unaware of the situation or is deliberately ignoring reality when he writes "incessant rocket attacks from Gaza ignore the 19-month ceasefire preceding Operation Protective Edge – a ceasefire broken by Israel", since these very rocket attacks were a daily fact of life for those Israelis living near Gaza throughout that so-called ceasefire.

The way Hamas has been behaving by locating rocket launchers in heavily populated civilian areas, and using them to randomly target civilians in Israel, is certainly a double war crime for which it should be held to account.

In contrast Israel's response has been extremely measured, especially that it forgoes the tactical advantage of surprise by warning civilians of impending attacks on military targets in their neighbourhood so that they can move temporarily to a safer location.

So his accusation that "Israel is defending itself by killing civilians with sniper fire, blowing up children on a beach, bombing hospitals, etc" is a travesty of the truth. Any such deaths are the unfortunate but inevitable consequence of Hamas' policy.

On July 23, Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of UK forces in Afghanistan, said on the BBC's Moral Maze programme that the (then) 600 Gazan fatalities showed Israel's extreme care in avoiding hitting civilians.

In his opinion, if not for this care, the expected death toll would most likely have been 6,000 or even 60,000. If Israel were deliberately targeting civilians, as Mr Shawcross implies, then the figure would probably be nearer 600,000 so it is clear who is really responsible for the human tragedies in Gaza and it is certainly not a result of any deliberate policy of Israel.

MARTIN D STERN

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