Tuesday, May 21, 2024

How the IDF Saves Civilians - Hugh Fitzgerald


by Hugh Fitzgerald

And - in so doing - puts its own soldiers at risk.


[Order David Horowitz’s new book, America Betrayed, HERE.]

The IDF strives always to warn civilians away from places about to be targeted, even when those warnings remove the element of surprise, which often is the critical element in a military attack. We have seen this yet again in the beginning of the Rafah operation. West Point Professor John Spencer says that Israel has “created a new standard for urban warfare”: “Israel Has Created a New Standard for Urban Warfare. Why Will No One Admit It? | Opinion,” by John Spencer, Newsweek, March 25

These measures were effective. Israel was able to evacuate upwards of 85 percent of the urban areas in northern Gaza before the heaviest fighting began. This is actually consistent with my research on urban warfare history that shows that no matter the effort, about 10 percent of populations stay.

As the war raged on, Israel began giving out its military maps to civilians so they could conduct localized evacuations. This, too, has never been done in war. During my recent visit to Khan Yunis, Gaza, and the IDF civilian harm mitigation unit in southern Israel, I observed as the army began using these maps to communicate each day where the IDF would be operating so civilians in other areas would stay out of harm’s way.

In northern Gaza, the IDF’s warnings emptied much of Gaza City. As instructed, people headed out of the city and south, via Salah al-Din Street, to south of the Wadi Gaza, where they were promised they would. be safe. And they were. Then when the IDF was preparing to move south and attack Hamas inside Khan Younis, it again warned the inhabitants of that city and area, by messaging maps that showed the exact neighborhoods that would be safe from attack that day, and continually updating those messages to reflect where the next targets were to be located.

I saw that the IDF even tracked the population in real time down to a few-block radius using drone and satellite imagery and cell phone presence and building damage assessments to avoid hitting civilians. The New York Times reported in January that the daily civilian death toll had more than halved in the previous month and was down almost two-thirds from its peak.

The IDF is constantly improving its ability to warn civilians, using such innovative devices as the giant speakers dropped by parachutes that, as soon as they hit the ground, immediately begin issuing their pre-recorded warnings.

Of course, the true number of Gaza civilian deaths is unknown. The current Hamas-supplied estimate of over 31,000 does not acknowledge a single combatant death (nor any deaths due to the misfiring of its own rockets or other friendly fire). The IDF estimates it has killed about 13,000 Hamas operatives, a number I believe credible partly because I believe the armed forces of a democratic American ally over a terrorist regime, but also because of the size of Hamas fighters assigned to areas that were cleared and having observed the weapons used, the state of Hamas’ tunnels and other aspects of the combat.

Actually, the IDF estimated the number of Hamas combatants killed to be 13,000 as of late January. In the months that have followed, given the previous numbers — 13,000 killed in 3½ months, or almost 4,000 combatant deaths each month, then there might be as many as 21,000 Hamas deaths —13,000 from October 7 to January 25, and 8,000 from January 26 to March 26. But let’s be conservative, and calculate that the IDF has only managed to kill 1,000 combatants each month. That would mean 16,000 Hamas combatants have been killed as of April 26.

That would mean some 18,000 civilians have died in Gaza, a ratio of roughly 1 combatant to 1.5 civilians. Given Hamas’ likely inflation of the death count, the real figure could be closer to 1 to 1. Either way, the number would be historically low for modern urban warfare.

In fact, my calculation differs from that of John Spencer. I estimate, most conservatively, that not 18,000 but 15,000 Hamas fighters died by the end of March. That number must be subtracted from the total number of those killed. Even if we were to accept Hamas’ figure of 31,000 Gazans dead (Hamas does not offer separate numbers for civilians and combatants), and subtract from that figure the 15,000 Hamas fighters killed, that would mean at most 16,000 civilians were killed. The ratio of civilian-to-combatant deaths in Gaza would be 16:15, or almost 1:1, a figure never achieved anywhere else in the history of warfare. And I have not even deducted, from the figure of 31,000 deaths, the average number of Gazans who die each month from old age, disease, accidents and so on, that has been calculated as 800 a month, or over the six months of war, on average 800 a month.

Hugh Fitzgerald

Source: https://www.frontpagemag.com/the-idf-takes-more-steps-to-warn-civilians-away-from-combat-areas-than-any-other-military/

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