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Report: Gaza war could have been avoided if Israel addressed humanitarian concerns

March 1, 2017 at 1:31 pm

A Palestinian child stands on the destroyed window of her home which was demolished during Israel’s offensive on Gaza [Abed Rahim Khatib/Apaimages]

A new report by the Israeli state comptroller on Israel’s 2014 military campaign against Gaza concludes that war could have been avoided if the Strip’s humanitarian condition was allowed to improve.

The report stated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the defence minister were derelict in their supreme duty, to do everything possible to prevent war. After the war started, the report explained, the same officials, failed in their main task: to seek an end to it quickly, with a minimum of casualties and a decisive outcome.

The 200-page report was released yesterday, about two and a half years after the end of the war in August 2014. It deals both with the decision making process in the security cabinet relating to Gaza before “Operation Protective Edge”, as the war is officially known in Israel, and with issues relating to the tunnels in Gaza. The report does not deal directly with the conduct of the war itself or its results.

Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza was its third onslaught on the Strip in five years. The war killed 2,251 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians according to UN figures, and 74 Israelis, including six civilians. The intense fighting over 51 days also reduced swaths of Gaza to piles of rubble, and displaced 500,000 people.

The long-awaited investigation said that the Israeli government had for months ignored a growing humanitarian crisis inside Gaza and failed to consider diplomatic moves that could have averted the outbreak of hostilities.

The report admitted that both sides – Hamas and Israel – didn’t want a confrontation and, in the end, were dragged into it.

Read: 60% of the homes destroyed in 2014 Israeli offensive have still not been rebuilt

Previous warnings

The report cited Major General Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of Government Activities in the [Occupied] Territories, who at the end of June 2014, weeks before the war broke out, warned that “the Gaza Strip is descending into crisis…which has reached an unprecedented point”.

In other words, it is possible that if the government of Israel understood the severity of the economic and humanitarian crisis in Gaza and acted accordingly, the war was preventable.

The report found that in the run-up to war, as the humanitarian situation in Gaza deteriorated, the security cabinet did not hold a single “meaningful discussion” on the situation, nor had it developed a strategy regarding Gaza.

Commenting on the tunnels, the report confirmed that the tunnels were described as a major threat to Israel and their destruction was seen as one of the main goals of the war. “And yet the actions taken to deal with the threat did not match this definition,” the state comptroller concluded.