News / Middle East

    Israel Shows Evidence of Rocket Fire from Gaza Schools

    A Palestinian boy runs on rubble of damaged graves at a cemetery hit by an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014.
    A Palestinian boy runs on rubble of damaged graves at a cemetery hit by an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014.
    Reuters

    The Israeli military has provided its most detailed assessment yet of the conduct and impact of the Gaza war, including photographs indicating that militants stored and fired rockets from schools and a breakdown of the toll inflicted on Hamas.

    In a briefing at its headquarters in Tel Aviv, the Israel Defense Forces presented a minute picture of the structure and capability of Hamas and other militant groups operating in Gaza, an effort to explain the severity of the threat Israel faced and justify Israel's heavy tank shelling and air strikes during the 50-day conflict -- tactics that drew international criticism.

    An Israeli army officer shows journalists a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks from Gaza into Israel, July 25, 2014.An Israeli army officer shows journalists a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks from Gaza into Israel, July 25, 2014.
    x
    An Israeli army officer shows journalists a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks from Gaza into Israel, July 25, 2014.
    An Israeli army officer shows journalists a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks from Gaza into Israel, July 25, 2014.

    Among the evidence laid out by a senior military officer were details of the ranges and number of rockets fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, photographs showing how rocket launchers were hidden in graveyards and a school playground, and how tunnels were used to carry out and escape from the site of attacks.

    One set of photographs showed a school by day, its central yard empty. By night, rockets looked to be stockpiled in the yard. At another school a canopy, where a hole had been torn for a rocket launching, was further frayed after a projectile was fired from underneath, he said.

    “We're dealing with a carefully structured and in many cases well trained terrorist force,” said the general staff officer, who spoke on condition that his name not be used.

    “Hamas has at least 16,000 operatives organized into six brigades across the Gaza Strip, each with its own commander, while (Islamic Jihad) has a similar structure and a total of around 6,000 operatives.”

    The war, the longest Israel has fought since it withdrew from the narrow coastal enclave in 2005, left more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, dead, the Palestinian health ministry said. Israel said 67 of its soldiers and six civilians were killed.

    After two failed attempts, an open-ended ceasefire was struck by Egyptian mediators on Aug. 26. Detailed talks on a longer-term peace are supposed to start in the coming weeks, although already there are doubts about their prospects.

    Civilian deaths

    Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
    x
    Click to enlarge
    Click to enlarge

    On the day before the war began, the IDF said it estimated militants held 10,000 rockets in Gaza, including 350-400 with a range of up to 80 km and a few dozen with a range of 160 km, reaching Jerusalem. On top of that, the intelligence officer said, there were “thousands upon thousands” of mortars.

    Around 4,000 rockets were fired during the conflict and 3,000 destroyed by Israel's operations, leaving between 2,500 and 3,000 in the hands of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups.

    The officer described that as a “major degradation” of the groups’ capabilities, alongside the destruction of 32 tunnels built from Gaza into Israel and steps to hit Hamas's finances.

    He presented figures showing that civilians made up the majority of those killed in the conflict, saying that of 2,127 Palestinian deaths so far verified by Israel, 706 were civilians and 616 militants.

    A further 805 are listed as “unknown”, but the officer said once verification was complete it was likely 40-45 percent of them would be found to be militants and the remainder civilians.

    He said the heavy civilian death toll was the result of Hamas and others conducting operations from densely populated areas or employing “operatives” who may not have had a direct militant affiliation but still participated in some way.

    During the war, at least 6 U.N.-run schools were hit by Israeli artillery, killing at least two dozen people and drawing heavy criticism of Israel. Militant rockets were also found in three empty U.N. schools.

    The pictures shown by the Israeli officer were of other, non-U.N. schools.

    “We're a moral military. We want to learn from our mistakes,” he said, adding that civilian casualties were “a big issue in the world” and one that Israel was keen to address.

    With the war over, various investigations are set to begin, including an internal Israeli military one, another by Israel's government watchdog and a third by the UN's human rights commission, already criticized in Israel.

    While the officer, occasionally sipping tea from a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency cup, said Hamas had not managed to surprise Israel during the war, he acknowledged that an attack by commandos who swam from Gaza into Israel was well planned, used advanced, Western equipment and was carried out by militants who were “in very good shape”.

    Other near surprises were the extent of the tunnel network dug by Hamas and its attempt to use a small drone-like plane, although it carried no weapons or explosives.

    Reconstituting those capabilities would take time, he said, adding that this war had been more successful than previous ones in 2012, 2008-9 and 2006 in knocking Hamas backwards. But he still referred to “the next escalation” with Hamas, seeming to accept that another conflict in Gaza was all but inevitable.   

    You May Like

    No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

    What began as a struggle for dominance in space between two world powers has changed entirely to one of joint efforts

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Move Over Millennials, Here Comes iGeneration

    How the first generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand, might change America

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    British Government to Resettle Unaccompanied Child Refugeesi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    May 06, 2016 9:24 PM
    After criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum, the British government has signaled that it will accept thousands of unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who have fled to Europe. It follows a campaign by a group of former Jewish refugees who were given refuge in Britain from Nazi persecution in the 1930s. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video British Government to Resettle Unaccompanied Child Refugees

    After criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum, the British government has signaled that it will accept thousands of unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who have fled to Europe. It follows a campaign by a group of former Jewish refugees who were given refuge in Britain from Nazi persecution in the 1930s. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Strangers Share Secrets Through Postcards

    Frank Warren owns a million secrets. Strangers from around the world send him postcards with their confessions, their disappointments, and their hopes for the future, all anonymously. He displays his favorites online and in exhibits, and shares them with audiences in sold-out appearances around the globe. As VOA's Julie Taboh reports, what started as a simple social experiment has evolved into a multi-faceted and hugely successful global phenomenon.
    Video

    Video Largest Ground-based Telescope Under Construction

    While NASA's engineers are nearing the final phase of assembling the new James Webb space telescope, scheduled to be deployed in 2018, an international consortium led by the U.S. is laying foundations and building parts for a ground-based telescope, much larger than any other. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora