Thursday, 14 August 2014

Why it's hard to believe Israel's claim it minimized civilian deaths

From - Among the difficult reports streaming in from Gaza over the past few weeks, two especially painful events have captured my attention.

The first was the shelling of a UN school building in Jabaliya, where a number of families that had escaped or been forced to flee their homes had taken refuge. At least 15 civilians were killed, and dozens more wounded. Israel argued they were targeting an area from which fire had been directed at Israeli forces.

The second was the bombing of a bustling market in the Shuja'iya neighborhood. At a time of precious few opportunities for civilians to safely buy food and other vital supplies, 16 people were killed and around 200 were wounded. Shops, stalls and merchandise were burned or destroyed.

Harsh criticism of Israel followed each incident but -- as in the past -- Israel defended its actions, arguing that it was targeting militants and doing its best to avoid civilian casualties.

I served as a crew commander in the Israeli artillery corps at the beginning of the Second Intifada, and I feel compelled to counter this claim from Israel. The images, evidence and army reports from recent operations in Gaza -- of more than 1,900 deaths (a number which will likely increase by the time you read this) and a large amount of the population left without shelter -- show that Israel has deployed massive artillery firepower. Such firepower is impossible to target precisely.

Artillery fire is a statistical means of warfare. It is the complete opposite of sniper fire. While the power of sharpshooting lies in its accuracy, the power of artillery comes from the quantity of shells fired and the massive impact of each one.

In using artillery against Gaza, Israel therefore cannot sincerely argue that it is doing everything in its power to spare the innocent.

The truth is artillery shells cannot be aimed precisely and are not meant to hit specific targets. A standard 40 kilogram shell is nothing but a large fragmentation grenade. When it explodes, it is meant to kill anyone within a 50-meter radius and to wound anyone within a further 100 meters.

Idan Barir served in the Israeli artillery corps during the Second Intifada and is a member of Breaking the Silence more


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