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

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid