Jerusalem-based research group NGO Monitor revealed on Tuesday the fundamental flaws in radical leftist group B'Tselem's report on Operation Protective Edge, and with the release of the report on Wednesday it turned out that the group indeed claimed that Israel deliberately struck Gaza homes – all while minimizing the context of Hamas's terrorist infrastructure.
The report presents 70 airstrikes that affected residential buildings in Gaza, and while B'Tselem called the strikes a policy of Israel, it didn't detail how Hamas embedded its rockets, tunnels and terrorists in the civilian landscape of Gaza, thereby necessitating the strikes.
"A hallmark of the fighting in Gaza this summer was the numerous strikes on residential buildings, destroying them while their occupants were still inside," the 49-page report said, according to AFP.
The report went on to opine that "this aspect of the fighting was particularly appalling," and further claimed it was "the result of a policy formulated by government officials and the senior military command."
B'Tselem reported that in the strikes it focused on 606 people were killed, 70% of whom were under 18 or over 60. According to NGO Monitor, the B'Tselem claims were based on unverifiable "testimony" from residents and Hamas Ministry of Health data.
However, a detailed study after the war proved 49% of the casualties in Gaza were terrorists, meaning the IDF achieved a 1:1 civilian to combatant ratio almost unprecedented in urban warfare.
And yet B'Tselem's research head Yael Stein insinuated that Israel did not go out of its way to prevent civilian deaths.
"You cannot say that the army didn't know or couldn't know how many civilians would get killed during those attacks," said Stein. "You can't maybe (know) on the first day or the second day. But on the 10th day or the 20th day, when you see how many civilians are getting killed…these attacks shouldn't have happened."
She continued, claiming that "they (the Israelis) take international law and stretch it as far as they can, way beyond the acceptable interpretation by international lawyers."
Ironically, in contrast to the IDF's 1:1 civilian to combatant ratio, a report last November revealed that a whopping 96.5% of the casualties from US drone strikes in the Middle East were civilians, after the White House declared last October that its policy banning drone strikes on civilians "does not apply" in its campaign in Iraq and Syria.
Downplaying Hamas's role
B'Tselem also attempted to downplay the culpability of Hamas in civilian deaths; Hamas even actively advocated for civilians to act as human shields and stay in homes that the IDF warned were about to be hit.
"It is true that Hamas and other organizations operating in the Gaza Strip do not abide by international humanitarian law," the report acknowledged, referring to rocket fire from civilian centers on civilian centers. But Israel's blaming of Hamas for all civilian deaths attempts to place "no restrictions whatsoever on Israeli action…no matter how horrifying the consequences," it claimed.
"This policy is unlawful through and through," claimed the report.
Anne Herzberg, NGO Monitor's Legal Adviser, responded to the report the day before it was released, saying "once again, and regardless of the circumstances and available evidence, B'Tselem has contorted the facts in order to pronounce Israel guilty. Contrary to such claims, Hamas is morally and legally responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza."
"Hamas systematically conducts military operations from within civilian areas and stores its rockets in schools, mosques, and private homes," she added.
NGO Monitor further pointed out B'Tselem "notably fails to state that under the laws of war, the presence of civilians does not render military objectives immune from attack. It is clear that B'Tselem, like other politicized NGOs, lacks the necessary information, including military intelligence and command decisions" to make such claims.
B'Tselem receives donations through the New Israel Fund.