NEW YORK– Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have criticized an Israeli report on the country’s 2014 military operation against the besieged coastal enclave. The report was released by Israeli state comptroller Yosef Shapira on Tuesday.
“I understand from the report that Gaza was merely the setting for an Israeli war game, with no objective but to destroy and murder indiscriminately,” said Basman Alashi, executive director of the El-Wafa Medical Rehabilitation and Specialized Surgery Hospital.
The hospital, formerly located in the Shujaya neighborhood by the separation barrier with Israel east of Gaza City, was repeatedly shelled by Israeli forces during the 51-day offensive before it was evacuated under fire on July 17, 2014.
The construction of a new hospital began last month.
“The overall impression it leaves is this: ‘Netanyahu, You didn’t do a good job of destroying Gaza, do it better next time,’” Alashi said of the report.
Others said the document contained useful information about Israel’s behavior during the offensive, even if its conclusions remained incomplete.
“The report shows that Israel follows a systematic policy of humiliating Palestinians, especially through careless targeting of civilians,” said Ramy Abdu, founder and chairman of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
Abdu’s Geneva-based agency has conducted investigations of Israel’s military conduct, including an Oct. 30, 2014 report stating that its forces had “deliberately targeted locations with concentrations of civilians” during operations earlier that year.
“What the report has failed to cover is to cite careless targeting of civilians as a consistent failure of the Israeli forces, with almost no serious actions to do something about it,” Abdu said in regard to the Israeli comptroller’s findings.
Israel Prioritizing Armed Conflict Over Diplomacy
Once the operation began, it said, Israeli forces largely failed to meet their objective of thwarting tunnels dug by Palestinian resistance groups, destroying only half of them over weeks of a bloody ground invasion that produced many casualties.
The comptroller did not appear to consider the goals of an earlier military operation, launched by Israel in the West Bank on June 13, 2014. These goals were to weaken Hamas, obstruct an agreement by Hamas and Fatah to form a unity government across the West Bank and Gaza Strip and recover three young settlers captured by Palestinians.
The resulting deaths, along with the demands of an impoverished population and weeks of Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, ultimately spurred Palestinian resistance groups into action and forced their armed wings to respond.
By the time its guns fell silent on Aug. 26, Israel had achieved the first two of its three goals for its West Bank operation. The third had always been questionable, as Netanyahu knew from the outset that the three settlers were likely dead.
Along with the weakness of Israel’s strategy in the Gaza Strip, where its forces quickly found themselves unprepared to face the threat of resistance tunnels, the mixed results raise questions about which objectives were the real ones.
Military operations in Gaza and the West Bank made 2014 the most lethal year for Palestinians under occupation since 1967, when Israeli forces seized Palestinian enclaves over six days of war with neighboring Arab states.
As the report shows, even senior figures in Israel’s security establishment now acknowledge their government’s responsibility for the loss of life.
After its release, Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Israeli Labor Party head of the opposition Zionist Union, called for Netanyahu to resign over its charges, saying “Netanyahu must draw his conclusions and hand in the keys.”
But Netanyahu’s re-election, along with the seating of an even more right-wing governing coalition only seven months after the Gaza offensive, shows that Palestinian bloodshed is not a liability in Israeli politics, even at the cost of Israeli lives.
Israel’s continued tightening of its Gaza closure, even as the country’s comptroller finds it to have been a key cause of the 2014 carnage, demonstrates that while its government may not seek immediate conflict with the Strip, it does not prioritize its avoidance.
Small Attacks Prelude To Full-Fledged War?
In January alone, data compiled by the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights shows that Israeli forces fired into the Israel-Gaza “buffer zone” 10 times on land and 20 times at sea. They also shelled the former area once, launched four land incursions and detained four Palestinians on land and two at sea, resulting in six injuries and the death of fisherman Muhammad al-Hissi.
“Such attacks have, in the past, been the prelude to wide-scale military assaults,” the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center For Human Rights said in a statement released on Tuesday, a day after Israeli strikes increased across the Gaza Strip.
“As witnessed in the last three Israeli military bombardments, women, children and the elderly bear the brunt of Israel’s lack of respect for the rules of international law—practices which are evidenced in the widely documented targeting of the civilian population and civilian properties,” the statement added.
On Sunday, Israeli tanks and bulldozers launched an incursion, leveling Palestinian farmland by the separation barrier.
While the Israeli government often claims its Gaza operations as responses to small rockets launched by resistance groups, it has shown no interest in alleviating crushing poverty in Gaza. Israel’s comptroller and other senior leaders, along with more than two-thirds of Israelis, agree that poverty provokes such attacks by these groups. Israel has also shown no interest in tempering its own strikes on Palestinians, however predictable the retaliation.
“Netanyahu and other Israelis need to understand that military operations will give no answer but violence, and will fail to achieve protection for Israel,” Basman Elderawi, a Gaza resident employed by the local ministry of health, told MintPress.
It is unknown whether Israel deliberately aims to trigger an eventual escalation in hostilities. But its present course of action seemingly makes one inevitable.
While the comptroller’s report describes some of the factors that have led Israel into repeated conflict, it can do little to change them on its own.
“The report’s writers should have discussed the Israeli policies lying behind the launching of military offensives and behind maintaining the blockade,” Abdu said.
“In essence, unfortunately, the report promotes an opposite point of view, legitimizing such Israeli policies and only superficially criticizing their applications,” he added.
And for those still struggling to recover from the death and destruction inflicted in 2014, the report’s conclusions offer little solace.
“It provides no justice for the Palestinians who lost their lives and properties, and accountability remains elusive,” Alashi said.
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