Monday, August 23, 2021

  • Monday, August 23, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon
Today, Human Rights Watch issued yet another anti-Israel report that is long on accusations and very short on facts.

Between May 11 and 15, Israeli forces attacked the Hanadi, al-Jawhara, al-Shorouk, and al-Jalaa towers in the densely populated al-Rimal neighborhood. In each case, the Israeli military warned tenants of impending attacks, allowing for their evacuation. Three buildings were immediately leveled while the fourth, al-Jawhara, sustained extensive damage and is slated to be demolished. Israeli authorities contend that Palestinian armed groups were using the towers for military purposes, but have provided no evidence to support those allegations.

“The apparently unlawful Israeli strikes on four high-rise towers in Gaza City caused serious, lasting harm for countless Palestinians who lived, worked, shopped, or benefitted from businesses based there,” said Richard Weir, crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Israeli military should publicly produce the evidence that it says it relied on to carry out these attacks.”
Note the sequence in the quote: the strikes are "apparently unlawful" but they admit that they don't have any evidence for that.

There are only two alternatives: either the IDF had intelligence indicating that these buildings were valid military targets, or they just decided to go through a highly complex plan involving warning hundreds of people, ensuring not one remained in the buildings, and dropping precision bombs that would not allow the buildings to topple onto civilian buildings nearby - for no military reason. 

Human Rights Watch chooses to believe scenario B, because it is in their DNA to assume Israeli Jews are monsters who destroy buildings for fun.

The entire report is a big "we dunno" shrug, followed by how awful these attacks were to the businesses and residents there. Interviewing people who are frightened to say anything against the dictatorship that can put them in prison for no reason is considered "research." The entire report is filled with irrelevant facts meant to make HRW researchers appear smart but there is nothing behind it. So we read things like 
The size of the blast following the munitions impact and subsequent detonation, as captured in videos either distributed by the Israeli military or circulated online and reviewed by Human Rights Watch, appear consistent with the use of munitions with large high-explosive warheads. 
Oooh, their military experts determined that the IDF used "high explosive warheads!" I had no idea!

Even with their foregone conclusions, sometimes counter-evidence creeps in - evidence that they immediately discount:
The media reported that the [Hanadi Tower] building housed offices of the political leadership of Hamas. A journalist familiar with the tower, who did not wish to be identified, said: “There are political meeting offices for Hamas parliament members and spokespersons in the tower.” While one business owner in the tower said there were Hamas offices in the tower, he was unaware of their purpose.

Hamas, the de facto authority in Gaza, is a group that includes both a political party and an armed wing. Mere membership or affiliation with Hamas is not a sufficient basis for determining someone to be a lawful military target. The laws of war allow the targeting of military commanders in the course of armed conflict, provided that such attacks otherwise comply with the laws that protect civilians. Political leaders not taking part in military operations, as well as civilians, would not be legitimate targets of attack.

HRW is nothing if not consistent: Hamas gets the benefit of the doubt that it a professional organization that cares deeply about human rights law -  it strictly separates its political and terrorist wings, with a firewall separating the two so if a meeting room is used for political reasons the military cannot possibly use it. 

Israel gets no such pass from HRW. The IDF is not assumed to be professional but capricious.  It is assumed to not know the basic laws of war, it has no idea what it is bombing, it recklessly ignores the facts, and the incontrovertible evidence that Israel took great care to avoid a single human casualty in the bombings of four major high rises doesn't shake HRW's convictions that the attacks were random acts of vengeance.

We've recently synopsized exhaustive research in exactly how the IDF gathers intelligence, chooses its targets, double- and triple-checks their information, and goes through multiple layers of legal and military review before an airstrike. Either Human Rights Watch is ignorant about this, or it chooses to ignore it because it contradicts their basic tenet of assuming Israel is guilty before writing the report.

HRW's ignorance about Israeli methods,  the laws of war  and basic physics reaches absurd points. For example, HRW writes:

Personnel or equipment being used in military operations are subject to attack, but whether that justifies destroying an entire large building where they might be present depends on the attack not inflicting disproportionate harm on civilians or civilian property. The proportionality of the attack is even more questionable because Israeli forces have previously demonstrated the capacity to strike specific floors or parts of structures. However, these attacks completely flattened three of the buildings, evidently by attacking their structural integrity. Regarding al-Jalaa tower, the Israeli military said that because armed groups had occupied multiple floors, the entire tower needed to be destroyed.
Destroying a floor may be acceptable in a building that has four or five floors, but in a high rise, odds are that a major structural component would be damaged that could cause all the floors above to topple over and crash into other buildings, causing far more damage. High rises are not built out of stone.

HRW's pro-Hamas bias is almost comical:

The deployment of Palestinian armed groups in the towers, if true, would go against requirements to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians under their control and to avoid placing military objectives in densely populated areas. Israel has repeatedly accused Palestinian armed groups of deploying among civilians and – without providing evidence, using them as “human shields” – the war crime of intentionally co-locating military forces with civilians to deter targeting those forces.  
Without providing evidence?

There is massive video and forensic evidence of Hams placing rocket launchers, tunnels, weapons caches and militants among civilians - something Hamas itself has admitted!  Even reporters have mentioned Hamas' military headquarters under Shifa hospital - but Human Rights Watch never has. HRW has never accused Hamas of using human shields despite clear proof. By HRW's definition of human shields used here (" the war crime of intentionally co-locating military forces with civilians to deter targeting forces") even Hamas admits that they are guilty of that crime - but Human Rights Watch never says that.

HRW has gone to such lengths to excuse Hamas' use of human shields that they have changed the definition of human shields itself, contradicting the definition used by the ICRC, to exonerate Hamas from that crime. Yet HRW's definition of the term in other conflicts is accurate. 

Only with Hamas - and Hezbollah in 2006 - does this alleged human rights group bend over backwards to avoid protecting civilians from the war crimes of human shielding. That is a pretty damning 

Back to the main point of the report, that Israel is somehow guilty of attacking civilian objects with no military purpose, legal expert Michael N. Schmitt wrote about these very attacks and how they were entirely legal under the laws of armed conflict:
There is some disagreement on whether a building that contains both apartments or offices used for civilian purposes and others that have been converted to military use should be considered a military objective in its entirety or as consisting of separate and distinct entities. The better view, but one that does not appear to have achieved universal consensus, is that if an attacker can surgically strike that aspect of the building used for military ends, harm to the remaining sections must be factored into the proportionality analysis.

In this case, however, there is no indication that the IDF had intelligence indicating precisely which sections of the Al Jalaa Tower its opponents were using or that the IDF fielded weaponry capable of surgically neutralizing those sections and any conflict-related material therein. Therefore, if the Israeli reports of Hamas using the building are accurate, the entire building constituted a single military objective, damage to which did not have to factor into the IDF’s proportionality calculation.

As to the requirement to take precautions in attack, since the building itself housed Hamas’ material and operations, alternative targets were not on the table. Further, there is no indication that different tactics or weapons could have avoided civilian harm. Indeed, in that the building itself qualified as a single military objective and the attack injured no civilians, collateral damage (as that concept is understood in the law of armed conflict) was minimal. Video footage of the attack, which involved dropping a multi-story building in an urban area without significant damage to other structures in the vicinity, confirms that the strike was an impressive example of careful avoidance of collateral damage by the IDF.
A real expert who is willing to put his name on the line says that the IDF did an amazing job avoiding collateral damage. HRW's anonymous "experts," , who have already shown their massive ignorance about both the laws of armed conflict and military matters, claim that Israel could have somehow avoided all collateral damage without exactly explaining how.

Who do you believe? 

Even this report unwittingly shows the care Israel took in destroying these military targets. Here are photos of the Hanadi towers, before and after the airstrikes:

You can see that the Israeli strike mostly pancaked the tower, but the fallen debris leans towards the empty lot next to it - avoiding the buildings and street on the other three sides. If Israel was as callous about collateral damage as HRW claims, then why did they collapse that tower with such incredible precision?

Once you take out everything from the report that is made up, you end up with this: Israel targeted four buildings, warned their residents in multiple ways, destroyed them with the least collateral damage ever done by airstrikes on tall buildings in the history of war, and refuses to share its intelligence behind that decision with an organization that is determined to accuse it of war crimes no matter what the facts are.

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