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Report: Israel army intentionally reduces fatalities in Gaza protests

September 20, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Palestinians carry an injured man after Israeli forces attacked protesters during the Great March of Return in Gaza on 13 September 2019 [Hassan Jedi/Anadolu Agency]

The Israeli military has changed tactics to reduce fatalities amongst Gaza protesters, in order to reduce the risk of retaliatory rocket fire and escalation, reported Haaretz.

According to the article by the paper’s defence correspondent Amos Harel, the army’s approach to the occupied Gaza Strip is “built on containment and caution”.

“If more Palestinians are killed in the violent demonstrations along the fence, more rockets would be fired at the south of Israel, leading to more air force strikes on the Strip, which would in turn increase the risk of war,” Harel wrote.

Such a conclusion reflects decisions taken by Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, namely to respond to the killing of demonstrators at the fence with projectile fire.

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The Haaretz report reveals that the military’s “rules of engagement on the Gaza border were modified a few months ago”, and that the “current” army activity “is more restrained” than 2018.

Specifically, “commanders have been ordered to deploy forces in bullet proof vehicles a few dozen meters away from the fence, to deter the demonstrators from crossing it… instead of relying only on snipers, who are 300 meters away.”

This change “has resulted in a considerably smaller number of fatalities, as snipers have to shoot less frequently,” the report notes.

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The report claims that the shift exposes soldiers to more “risk”, due to their proximity to the protests, although the article fails to note that under international humanitarian law, armed forces are obliged to take all necessary steps to reduce harm caused to civilians.

Harel stressed that “the tactical risk is intended to serve a strategic goal: restraint in the Strip in hopes that the low number of fatalities will prevent another escalation.”