Submission to the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict – Col. Richard Kemp (Col. Richard Kemp)
I was in Israel for much of the summer 2014 Gaza conflict. This submission is based on observations on the ground during the conflict, 29 years’ military experience of conflicts of this type, intelligence work relating to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and knowledge of the IDF and Israeli intelligence services.
In my opinion the actions taken by the IDF were necessary to defend the people of Israel from the ongoing, intensive and lethal attacks by Hamas and other groups in Gaza. There was a sustained assault on the Israeli population from rockets and mortar bombs; attacks on Israeli military posts using tunnels; apparent plans to launch further attacks on Israeli military posts and on civilian settlements also using tunnels; and attempted attacks from the sea.
As the Gaza Strip is effectively a separate state, outside of Israeli control, these actions amounted to an attack by a foreign country against Israeli territory. In these circumstances I know of no other realistic and effective means of suppressing an aggressor’s missile fire than the methods used by the IDF. Nor have I heard any other military expert from any country propose a viable alternative means of defense against such aggression.
It is grossly irresponsible to demand that Israeli control of Gaza’s borders be lifted, when it is clear that Israeli action is necessary to prevent the re-armament that will lead to further attacks by Hamas and other groups. It should be noted that Egypt takes similar preventive action against Gaza extremists for the same reason as Israel.
In my experience the most junior soldiers in the IDF understand the Laws of Armed Conflict and the imperative of adhering to them. I previously commented in relation to the 2008-09 Gaza conflict that no army in the history of warfare had taken greater steps than the IDF to minimize harm to civilians in a combat zone. My observations during the 2014 conflict confirmed this.
I personally observed 19 separate missile attacks, some involving multiple missiles, fired at Israeli population centers. Hamas does not possess the capability to carry out precision attacks using missiles and therefore these attacks were all indiscriminate, and therefore unlawful under the Laws of Armed Conflict, carrying the risk of killing or wounding innocent civilians.
The IDF took exceptional measures to adhere to the Laws of Armed Conflict and to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza. I strongly urge the Commissioners to condemn Hamas and the other groups for their actions during this conflict. Failure to do so would be tantamount to encouraging a repeat of such actions in the future, by Hamas and other Gaza groups and by extremist groups around the world who would wish to emulate the actions in Gaza.
Col. Kemp was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and served in the UK Cabinet Office working on intelligence relating to international and domestic terrorism.
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