Sunday, November 25, 2012

Just Sayin'

Be strong and take heart, and have no fear of them: for it is the Lord your G-d who is going with you; He will not take away His help from you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Now that the dust is settling, a few statistics:
Approximately 1,506 missiles were launched from Gaza into Israel during the 8 day period from November 14 to November 20. These included Iranian-produced Fajr-5s, Russian-produced Grad rockets, and Kassam missiles.
Of these missiles:
  • 875 landed in open areas,
  • 421 were shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system (84% accuracy), 
  • 152 landed in Gaza itself
  • 58 landed in urban areas
  • about 30 caused damage including 2 schools, an apartment in Rishon Le’Zion (the first time the Tel Aviv area has sustained rocket damage since the 1991 Gulf War), and an apartment in Kiryat Melachi causing the death of three residents who were unable to reach a safe area in time. Several other houses sustained damage in Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod and other cities.
  • Military targets aimed at – 0
  • Civilian targets aimed at – 1,506

Hamas accuracy in hitting populated areas was less than 7%.
Six Israeli citizens were killed, including four civilians and two soldiers. The soldiers, while on active duty, were not killed in combat, but rather by kassams shot into civilian areas.
The ratio of Israeli civilian to combatant deaths: 2:1 (2 civilian deaths for every combat death).
250 Israeli citizens were wounded, including 10 soldiers, while over a thousand suffered from shock. Tens of thousands will suffer from PTSD, including almost the entire population of whole towns.  
Of the approximately 1600 air raids over Gaza by the Israeli Air Force, 1600 targets were significantly damaged including: 
  • 30 senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists
  • 19 command centers
  • 980 underground rocket launchers
  • 140 smuggling tunnels
  • 66 tunnels used for terrorist operations
  • 42 Hamas facilities
  • 26 weapons manufacturing facilites
  • dozens of long-range rocket launchers and launch sites
  • Military targets aimed at – 1600
  • Civilian targets aimed at – 0
About 177 Gazans were killed and about 1000 were injured. According to the IDF, 120 were Hamas or other terrorist operatives.
The ratio of Gazan civilian to combatant deaths: almost 1:2 (1 civilian death for every two combat deaths).
Approximately 1000 Gazans were injured.
To put the civilian/combat death ratio into proportion:
According to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the civilian to soldier death ratio in wars fought in the last half of the twentieth century has been 10:1, i.e., ten civilian deaths for every soldier death.

What explains the low civilian to combat death ratio in Pillar of Defense? And what could explain the astoundingly low (albeit much much too high) death toll amongst the Israeli civilian population?

The answer to the first question is relatively easy.
1.   Thousands of phone calls and text messages were made by the IDF to warn civilian Gazans to get out of the line of fire.
2.   More than 50,000 leaflets were dropped over Gaza to warn residents “to avoid being present in the vicinity of Hamas operatives”.
3.   The IAF aborted hundreds of attacks due to civilians (especially women and children) being present at the target.
4.   Non-lethal but loud bombs were dropped near buildings as a warning to the residents that the building was a target area due to a Hamas presence, thereby giving residents time to leave.
5.   The IAF has perfected the pinpoint strike, where bombs are precisely dropped on target areas (even going through windows at times) to prevent ‘collatoral damage’.

As for the second questions, the answer is more complex.
In recent years, city councils have cleaned and prepared hundreds of public shelters for the safety of their citizens.
All public and private buildings must, by law, include a ‘safe area’. Many of the older homes and all of the public buildings in a 7km radius of Gaza have received such safe rooms. All new buildings are automatically built with one. The lives of many of the residents whose homes were destroyed by incoming rockets were saved by being in the safe room.
All cities have early warning systems (sirens) to warn the population to take cover during a rocket attack. Some areas have a 15-second warning, other areas, further from Gaza can have up to a full minute.
To minimize targets, at the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense, the Home Front Command of the IDF instructed that schools be closed and all gatherings of more than 100 people were to be cancelled. All businesses within 7 km of Gazan were to close.
The Iron Dome anti-missile battery was designed and created to intercept incoming missiles whose tranjectories can be traced to hit a populated area.
In other words, both local and national government bodies have done the maximum to protect civilian life. 
Hamas, on the other hand, did nothing at all to minimize civilian deaths. On the contrary, they did everything possible to maximize the death toll on both sides. Rockets were launched at Israeli residential areas, from Gazan residential areas, thus creating a target for the IAF. Missiles and launchers were stored in apartment houses, mosques, schools, and hospitals, building on the knowledge that the IAF would not strike these areas so as minimize civilian casualties, while at the same time aiming at Israeli homes, synagogues, schools, and hospitals.

There is one more factor that needs to be stated.

I can’t state this as fact, but apparently the Hamas bosses were not pleased with their foot soldiers for not creating more death and destruction in Israel.
“It’s not our fault, boss,” the soldiers said, “We’re aiming the rockets at the Zionist hospitals and schools but their Allah just keeps knocking them out of the way”.

It can’t be declared, stated, expressed, affirmed, or broadcast often enough or clearly enough. The Hand of G-d was evident from beginning to end of the operation. Entire houses were destroyed but the residents walked out whole and healthy. Cars and buses were destroyed only after the drivers and passengers had left. More than half the rockets launched fell in empty areas. Scores of stories have been heard of “I had been there three minutes before,” or “They had gone to visit relatives in the north, so weren’t home”. Miracles upon miracles prevailed. Even the local press, notorious for being unbelieving or at least skeptical, used words such as ‘miraculous’, ‘wondrous’ and ‘by the hand of G-d’.

Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Jews worldwide prayed for the safety of Israel, its citizens and soldiers. Tehilim were said and prayer vigils were held. Those out of range of missiles reached out to those in range, offering respite, meals, lodging, and support. Soldiers all along the Gazan border were given foods and gifts donated by businesses and organizations, both local and international.

City shelters, Iron Domes, and a strong army (bless those soldiers!!) are essential, but no less is unity and care for one another. The Talmud tells us that Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, all Israel is responsible one for the other. This is the true strength of the Jewish people.

A famous story goes that Kaiser Wilhelm II asked Otto von Bismarck, “Can you prove the existence of God?”, Bismarck replied, “The Jews, your majesty. The Jews.”