Israel’s Unprecedented Measures to Prevent Civilian Casualties in Gaza

While journalists and activists continue to discuss the Gaza war as if it is an unparallelled atrocity, John Spencer—a combat veteran and one of America’s leading urban-warfare experts—concludes that the IDF’s campaign is without parallel for a very different reason.

Israel has taken more measures to avoid needless civilian harm than virtually any other nation that’s fought an urban war. . . . [O]ne of the best ways to prevent civilian casualties in urban warfare is to provide warning and evacuate urban areas before the full combined air and ground attack commences. This tactic is unpopular for obvious reasons: it alerts the enemy defenders and provides them the military advantage to prepare for the attack. The United States did not do this ahead of its initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, which involved major urban battles to include in Baghdad. It did not do this before its April 2004 Battle of Fallujah (though it did send civilian warnings before the Second Battle of Fallujah six months later).

By contrast, Israel provided days and then weeks of warnings, as well as time for civilians to evacuate multiple cities in northern Gaza before starting the main air-ground attack on urban areas. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) employed their practice of calling and texting ahead of an air strike as well as roof-knocking, where they drop small munitions on the roof of a building notifying everyone to evacuate the building before a strike.

No military has ever implemented any of these practices in war before.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Military ethics

 

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy