Oct-02-03 / 6 Tishrei 5764


(IsraelNN.com) While the number of active Israeli pilots signed the letter refusing to bomb terrorist positions in urban settings is small they probably did not see how the actions of the IDF stack up against others. In the recent summer edition of the journal Azure a detailed analysis of Israeli warfare, as conducted last spring in Jenin, is compared to other military conflicts.

The article compares, in detail, the IDF's urban warfare to the Russian army's assault on Grozny, Chechnya; the NATO bombing of Kosovo; and the UN mission in Mogadishu, Somalia. In analyzing the NATO bombing in Kosovo the article states, "NATO forces considering an attack on Serb forces in Kosovo in 1999 went for a "cleaner" approach. The central aim of the operation was to stop Serbian war crimes in Kosovo with the least possible cost to NATO troops. Fearful of becoming mired in heavy fighting on the ground, the allied forces mounted a massive aerial-bombing campaign. The bombers, for the most part, maintained an altitude high enough to avoid anti-aircraft fire-which meant a notable decrease in accuracy and a commensurate increase in the likelihood of collateral damage.

During the eleven-week spring air offensive, NATO bombers deployed 23,000 bombs and air-to-ground missiles in the Kosovo region. Though few of the Serbian army's tanks and armored personnel carriers-the main targets of the attack-were destroyed in the operation, the civilian death toll was at least 460, and some even put the number as high as 1,500 or 2,000-the unfortunate result of bombs that missed their mark. Responding to critics, NATO placed the blame squarely on Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, claiming that he had deliberately placed military targets close to residential areas. Under the circumstances, NATO spokesmen insisted, civilian losses were unavoidable; the bombings were "legitimate" and would continue until the Serbs surrendered. NATO similarly justified its air assault on the Serbian village of Korisa, which claimed the lives of about 100 civilians, by declaring the village "a legitimate military target" because of the presence of Serbian troops and "an armored personnel carrier and more than ten pieces of artillery." In response to another incident in which ten civilians were killed in a bombing of the bridge on which their train was traveling, General Wesley Clark, commander of NATO forces in Europe, blamed the debacle on "how suddenly that train appeared" and described the accident's grim consequences as "really unfortunate." Finally, after a civilian convoy was bombed by mistake, a NATO spokesman explained, "Sometimes one has to risk the lives of the few to save the lives of the many." Government officials in NATO countries supported this position. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, for example, expressed his outrage at the Yugoslavs: "How dare they now produce crocodile tears for people killed in the conflict for which they are responsible?"

There were other such incidents, as well. When cluster bombs landed in residential neighborhoods in the Serbian city of Nis, they killed 14 people and injured twice as many. According to a Serbian source, "the bombs fell on a busy part of town at a time when people were out in the streets and at the market, not protecting themselves in the bomb shelters where they had spent the night." In a NATO press briefing, Major-General Walter Jertz asserted merely that "cluster bombs are used in aerial targets where we know that collateral damage could not occur." In Surdulica, 16 civilians, including 11 children, were killed when NATO jets attacked military barracks in the village. NATO sources acknowledged that a laser-guided bomb had gone astray and missed its target by 500 yards. The NATO statement noted that the organization "does not target civilians, but we cannot exclude harm to civilians or to civilian property during our air operations over Yugoslavia." In another incident in Surdulica about a month later, some 17 people died when missiles hit a hospital-which, according to Amnesty International, was "reported to have been marked on all maps of the area." Colonel Konrad Freytag explained that "NATO aircraft attacked the military barracks and an ammunition storage area in the vicinity of that city. Both these targets were legitimate military targets... All munitions hit the planned aiming points." ... Military experts also defended NATO's claim that the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians were a reasonable price to pay in a campaign against a war criminal. Philip Meilinger, a retired U.S. Army colonel, did not hesitate to assert that the civilian casualties in Kosovo and Yugoslavia were extraordinarily light considering the number of missions and bombings. Like the Russians, NATO members considered injury to the civilian population unavoidable given the scope of the operations in the region."

The full article, highly instructive for reading, can be found at: http://www.shalem.org.il/azure/15-henkin.htm (Morasha News 9/29).

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