The McGowan Davis/Schabas Inquiry: The UN Legal Pogrom

The Facts from an Accountable Democratic Society:
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Operation Protective Edge

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

""Operation Protective Edge: The Facts"

Events leading up to Operation Defensive Edge: Unprovoked rocket fire at Israel
The current round of hostilities began on Thursday, 12 June, when terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip launched another round of rocket fire, directed primarily at communities in southern Israel. In the 26 days from 12 June to 7 July, about 300 rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Israel acts in response to Hamas aggression
The current operation in Gaza is not of Israel's choosing. Time and again, Israel acted - and refrained from acting - in order to avoid a confrontation. In contrast, Hamas has consistently taken actions designed to inflame the situation further and extend the hostilities.

Israel sought a diplomatic solution
During this time, Israel demonstrated great restraint. Its measured responses were intended to restore calm, without the need for a major military action while Israel concentrated its main efforts on the diplomatic arena.

Hamas is responsible for the current situation
Many of the rockets were fired directly by Hamas terrorists at Israeli civilians. Hamas is also accountable for rockets launched by other terror groups because it has controlled Gaza since 2007. Each launch of these indiscriminate weapons that targets civilians is a war crime.

Millions of Israelis threatened by rockets
Millions of Israeli civilians are under rocket attack. Like all other nations, Israel has the right of self-defense. From 8-17 July, some 1,500 rockets were launched at Israel, 300 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Israeli operation was launched in response to rocket attacks
Operation Protective Edge was launched solely as a defensive response to the increasing rocket attacks directed at Israeli territory from Gaza.

The objective of Operative Protective Edge
The objective of the operation is to restore stability and quiet to the residents of Israel, to damage Hamas's capabilities and to destroy the terror infrastructures directed against Israel and its citizens.

Israel launches first stage of operation: Air attacks
When the attacks reached over 80 rockets a day, Israel had no choice but to take action against the incessant launchings at its civilian population. On 8 July, Israel responded with Operation Protective Edge.

Greater range of the rockets
The vast majority of Israel's population is in range of these missiles, which have targeted villages, towns and major cities such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa as well as the southern cities of Be'er Sheva, Ashdod and Ashkelon.

The Egyptian proposal
On 15 July, Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire and halted all its military activities in the Gaza Strip. Hamas rejected the ceasefire, launching a rocket barrage of 50 rockets at Israeli towns and cities. Only at 15:00 - after six hours of continuous and indiscriminate fire at Israel - did the IDF respond.

Israel accepts ceasefire, Hamas rejects it
Israel did not seek this conflict and repeatedly sought ways to allow for sustained quiet to be achieved diplomatically, accepting every ceasefire offered.

Hamas responsible for consequences
Hamas bears responsibility for the consequences of its rejection of the ceasefire, proposed by Egypt and supported by the Palestinian Authority and the international community: the Arab League, Saudi Arabia and the UN.

Hamas also violated humanitarian lulls
Hamas also continued firing during several humanitarian lulls, including one proposed by the UN to allow Gazans to shop for supplies and receive humanitarian and medical aid.

Stage two: The ground operation
On 17 July, Israel began a ground phase of the operation after Hamas terrorists infiltrated into Israel through a terror tunnel to perpetrate a large-scale attack against Israeli citizens in a kibbutz near the Gaza border.

Objectitve: Strike at terror tunnels
Hamas built an extensive network of elaborate tunnels to carry out terrorist attacks on Israeli communities and bases near the Gaza Strip. The ground operation was ordered to strike at the terrorist tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip to inside Israeli territory.

What exactly is the "tunnel threat"?
Hamas' tunnel network is a vast underground city with dozens of access points located throughout Gaza. Hamas uses these tunnels as weapons caches, bunkers, command centers and a concealed transportation artery for terrorists and weapons, including rocket launchers.

Some of these tunnels lead directly from Gaza to Israeli communities near the border, enabling terrorists to infiltrate, kidnap and attack Israeli civilians. The residents of southern Israel live in constant fear knowing that, at any time, a terrorist could emerge from a tunnel near their house.

Where does Hamas build these tunnels?
Hamas exploits the Palestinian population of Gaza by building tunnels beneath densely populated areas. Many times, the tunnels' access points are hidden between schools, mosques, hospitals and other civilian buildings. Hamas deliberately embeds its terrorist infrastructure inside civilians neighborhoods, knowing that the IDF is reluctant to strike civilian areas.

How can Hamas afford to build tunnels?
While new houses and other civilian structures go unbuilt, Hamas has invested millions of dollars and other resources in building and operating its massive tunnel network.

Since January 2014, 4,680 trucks carrying 181,000 tons of gravel, iron, cement, wood and other supplies have passed through the Kerem Shalom Crossing from Israel into Gaza. These materials are co-opted by Hamas for tunnel construction. The tunnels cannot be destroyed using air power alone

Hamas uses Palestinian civilians and children as human shields
The fact that Hamas is ready to sacrifice its own children should not be exploited as a moral pretext to prevent Israel from protecting its children and from exerting its legitimate right for self-defense. Hamas takes aid money, and instead of building kindergartens in Gaza, uses it to dig tunnels for attacking kindergartens in Israel.

Hamas is responsible of the destruction of homes in Gaza
Hamas booby-traps private homes in Gaza and uses them as rocket-launching locations, firing positions for snipers, weapon caches as well as using their cellars as entrances to the terror tunnels.

Hamas even uses Gazan mosques as terrorist facilities
Throughout Operation Protective Edge, IDF forces have discovered Hamas terrorists using mosques as terrorist facilities. Hamas exploits the IDF's sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques.

Accusations regarding UNRWA facilities in Gaza
On numerous occasions, senior UN officials and the media have rushed to blame Israel for fatalities in UNRWA facilities. Every time, these accusations were issued just hours after an incident occurred and well before any sort of reasonable inquiry could take place. Israel is a democratic nation and as such does not shy away from accepting responsibility. Yet by blaming Israel before the facts are determined, the international community is playing into the hands of a terrorist organization that intentionally puts civilians in harm's way.

Israel extends humanitarian ceasefire, Hamas fires on Israeli cities
Israel respected the humanitarian ceasefire (26 July) from 8 am to 8 pm, but a few minutes after 8 pm Hamas resumed the rocket barrage at Israel's cities. Israel nevertheless decided to extend the ceasefire until midnight Sunday night (27 July). Hamas continues to fire at Israeli civilians.

For the fifth time since the start of the operation, Israel has accepted and Hamas rejected a ceasefire proposal or humanitarian pause.

Hamas violates humanitarian ceasefires
On August 1, Israel accepted the UN/US proposal for a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire. Hamas violated the ceasefire an hour-and-a-half after it went into effect when, at 09:30, an attack was carried out against IDF forces operating to decommission a terror tunnel.

By repeatedly firing rockets during humanitarian ceasefires, Hamas and the other terrorist factions demonstrated their contempt for human life, including that of Gaza's civilians who are being used as human shields and denied humanitarian assistance.

Israel continues to transfer humanitarian aid to Gaza
Israel will continue its efforts to transfer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, provided the ceasefire is respected and the border crossings that allow for the transfer of goods are not attacked by rockets, as has been the case many times in recent weeks.

Conflict between Hamas and Israel is part of conflict between Islamist extremism and the free world
Like ISIS, Hamas is part of a movement that seeks to violently impose Islamist rule devoid of pluralism and basic human rights, especially those of women, minorities and gays.

There is little difference between Hamas and other Islamist terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, Hizbullah, ISIS, Boko Haram and the Nusra Front. They sanctify death while Israel sanctifies life. They trample human rights while Israel protects democracy and equality.

Hamas' brutality was further exposed with the summary executions (August 22) of at least 18 Palestinian residents of Gaza. The cold-blooded shooting of civilians after being paraded in broad daylight in front of a crowd assembled in a public square bears a chilling resemblance to the executions carried out by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Rehabilitation of Gaza must be linked to demilitarization
The rehabilitation and development of Gaza is linked to disarming the terrorist organizations in Gaza from rockets, tunnels and other threats.

Although Hamas has been firing its missiles against Israeli civilians for years, the recent confrontation revealed the full extent of the terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has acquired or produced a huge arsenal of rockets with varying ranges, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), large amounts of explosives, offensive terror tunnels and a great number of light weapons.

In order to prevent the terrorist organizations in Gaza from rearming with even deadlier weapons, which will inevitably result in renewed hostilities, the Gaza Strip must be demilitarized.

Goods entering Gaza must be controlled
The vast terror infrastructure which developed in Gaza in recent years became possible only through the misuse of funds and raw materials that entered the Gaza Strip for civilian use. The extent of Gaza's terror infrastructure confirmed Israel's intelligence assessments and its calls for tightening controls over the import of dual-use goods such as concrete and building materials used to construct terror tunnels and infrastructures.

This is why, paradoxically, the only way to increase the flow of goods into Gaza is by tightening control over what goes in. Better mechanisms have to be put in place to ensure that building materials going into Gaza do not end up being used for the construction of attack tunnels.

Israel accepts the Egyptian ceasefire proposal
On August 5, Israel accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. Exactly three weeks earlier (15 July), three days prior to the start of the ground operation, Israel also accepted the Egyptian proposal. Hamas rejected it outright.

Hamas continued to violate every humanitarian ceasefire, repeatedly resuming the launching of rockets at Israel. After a respite lasting from August 10-19, Hamas once again resumed massive rocket barrages. Israel continues to maintain that it will not negotiate under fire.

Israel left Gaza in 2005 and does not want to return
Israel did not want to re-enter the Gaza Strip. It left Gaza completely in August 2005 in the hope of never returning. Instead of developing the Gaza Strip, the Hamas regime has turned it into a terror fortress and established a fundamentalist dictatorship whose declared goal is the destruction of Israel.

In light of Hamas' rocket attacks, and the dangerous attempts to infiltrate Israeli territory, Israel must defend its citizens and will continue to act as necessary until quiet is achieved.

The appointment of William Schabas to head UN "commission of inquiry"
The appointment of a strongly biased critic of Israel as chairman of the UN Human Rights Council's "commission of inquiry" demonstrates that Israel cannot get a fair hearing from the UNHRC. The Council is once again betraying its own mission when instead of serving human rights, it lends its legitimacy to terrorist groups like Hamas.

Given his outspoken anti-Israeli positions, including previous calls for prosecuting Israeli leaders, Mr. Schabas should have disqualified himself from presiding over the commission. His choice as head of the commission clearly predetermines its outcome and unveils the true intentions of the UNHCR as well as the lack of integrity of Mr. Schabas.

A new diplomatic horizon
Israel looks forward to achieving a new diplomatic horizon and to restarting peace negotiations with a Palestinian government committed to peace, to ending terrorism and to fulfilling previous Palestinian commitments. Israel hopes that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plays a constructive role

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

"Behind the Headlines: Fighting Hamas Terrorism within the Law," August 7, 2014

Israel acknowledges that despite the precautions taken military operations inevitably lead to a loss of civilian life and property. Yet civilian deaths and damage to property no matter how regrettable and unfortunate do not necessarily mean that violations of international law as such have occurred. In contrast Hamas and other terrorist organizations' actions are in clear violation of the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. Their grave violations amount to war crimes.

For 14 years, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations have targeted Israeli civilians with over 15,000 rocket and mortar attacks. Israel witnessed a number of escalations in the month prior to Operation Protective Edge, with more than 300 rockets fired on southern Israel in the two weeks preceding the operation. The latest round of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip began on 12 June, the day that three Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered. The rocket attacks reached a peak on Monday July 7, when over 80 rockets were launched at Israeli cities.

Although Israel showed great restraint and called for the cessation of the rocket attacks, Hamas continued to fire them intentionally upon Israeli towns and cities around the country. During the past month, Hamas' and other Jihadi groups' rockets have reached Israel's largest cities including Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Israel's capital, Jerusalem. To date, the vast majority of Israeli civilians, over 6 million civilians, live in the range of these deadly weapons, which cause deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage; force businesses and schools to close; and take a very costly psychological toll on Israeli society.

Israel has both the responsibility and the right under international law as does every state to defend its civilians from intentional and incessant attacks.

Although Hamas and these other Jihadi organizations blatantly disregard international humanitarian law (also known as the laws of armed conflict), Israel is bound by these laws and, thus, committed to limiting itself to a lawful response. This means that, while Hamas uses civilians both as human shields and as targets, Israel never targets civilians directly, and in all circumstances and seeks to limit injury to civilians to the greatest extent possible.

International law recognizes that civilian casualties and injuries are an unfortunate outcome even in lawful military attacks. However, in order to minimize the damage to the civil population and to protect it as much as possible, international humanitarian law requires each party to the armed conflict to abide to the fundamental and customary principles of "distinction", "proportionality", "humanity" and "precaution".
  • Distinction: The principle of "distinction" mandates that each party must ensure that it directs its attacks only against combatants and military objectives and abstain in all circumstances from targeting civilians or civilian objectives. Military objectives are those which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction offers a definite military advantage. The rule of distinction further mandates that the parties to the conflict refrain from placing military objectives within or near densely populated areas. If a military objective, such as a missile launcher or weapons stockpile, is placed in the heart of a civilian area, it does not cease being a lawful military objective. The primary responsibility for civilian causalities arising from such 'shielding' of military objects lies with the party that deliberately placed civilians at risk.

  • Proportionality: International humanitarian law also requires that any military attack be "proportionate" in the sense that expected collateral damage to civilians or civilian objects must not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated to be achieved as a result of such attack. Note that the test of proportionality does not consider the actual results of the attack after the fact; rather, it is a test that looks at expected (not actual) results, given the anticipated objectives, prior to the execution of the attack. This is a complex and difficult calculation and international law relies on the commander in the field in the heat of the conflict to weigh all relevant considerations, including the security of his own forces.

  • Humanity: Another important principle of the laws of armed conflict is that of "humanity" which requires the parties to the conflict both to abstain from inflicting unnecessary suffering and harm to combatants (through the use of certain weapons) and to ensure the supply of humanitarian aid to the civilian population. Yet another principle is that of "precaution", which requires the attacking party to verify the military character of its targets and to give prior warnings, to the extent possible, to civilians in the vicinity of that target.
Israel fully complies with these principles and has consistently integrated them into its military orders, training, and operational planning. In its military attacks against Hamas and other Jihadi groups, Israel is doing everything in its power to adhere to these principles and thus minimize harm to the civilian population: Israeli troops use the most sophisticated weapons available today in order to pinpoint and target only legitimate military objectives and minimize collateral damage to civilians; advance notice is given to the civilian population located in the vicinity of military targets; attacks are called off in cases in which a sudden civilian movement in the targeted area; and humanitarian aid continues to flow on a regular and daily basis to the Gaza Strip.

Israel acknowledges that despite the precautions taken, military operations inevitably lead to a loss of civilian life and property. Yet civilian deaths and damage to property, no matter how regrettable and unfortunate, do not necessarily mean that violations of international law as such have occurred.

In contrast, Hamas and other terrorist organizations' actions are in clear violation of the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. Hamas and the other terrorist groups working out of the Gaza Strip directly target civilians and civil property within the State of Israel. At the same time they put their own civilian population in Gaza in grave danger by launching attacks deep within densely populated areas; by using human shields; and by commandeering sensitive sites such as hospitals, schools, mosques and private homes to serve as command centers and for weapons' stocking and for other terrorist usages. These grave violations amount to war crimes.

Indeed, a cornerstone of Hamas' and other terrorist groups in Gaza's approach is to take advantage of the fact that Israel, as a democratic state, is bound by international law, and to use this fact to their own tactical and military advantage. This approach undermines the very effectiveness of the laws of armed conflict.