It’s too late to undo the massive propaganda campaign surrounding the 2014 Gaza conflict, which Israel called Operation Protective Edge.

False statistics about civilian casualties were put out by Hamas ministries and then adopted without question by the UN, “human rights” groups, and the media to create the narrative that “most” or “almost all” or the “vast majority” of deaths were civilian.

Critics of Israel have yet to explain how Israel was supposed to stop Hamas from firing rockets, tunneling under the border, or landing commandos by sea without firing into the civilian areas from which Hamas was operating.

During the 2014 Gaza conflict, we covered the deliberate Hamas tactic of firing from civilian areas (including those next to hospitals and apartments,) as well as how Hamas used the main Gaza hospital as a military headquarters. Almost all of this was covered up by the media:

http://youtu.be/Nu-e5qWXx-k

Round two in the propaganda war against Israel will take place this week, when the U.N. Human Rights Council releases its report on alleged Israeli war crimes. The UNHCR is the body completely obsessed with Israel.

In advance of the UNHRC report, an international group of military experts released a report demonstrating that Israel complied with the laws of warfare in its response to Hamas attacks.

UN Watch has the full report.

We were well aware of the allegations made by some governments, the United Nations, human rights groups and the media, that Israel acted outside the laws of armed conflict in Gaza. Some have suggested that the IDF lacked restraint or even deliberately targeted innocent civilians.

Our findings lead us to the opposite conclusion. We examined the circumstances that led to the tragic conflict last summer and are in no doubt that this was not a war that Israel wanted. In reality Israel sought to avoid the conflict and exercised great restraint over a period of months before the war when its citizens were targeted by sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza. Once the war had begun, Israel made repeated efforts to terminate the fighting. The war that Israel was eventually compelled to fight against Hamas and other Gaza extremists was a legitimate war, necessary to defend its citizens and its territory against sustained attack from beyond its borders….

Hamas launched attacks against Israel from the heart of its own civilian communities in Gaza and positioned its munitions and military forces there also, including in schools, hospitals and mosques. As well as carefully documented IDF evidence of this, we have viewed international media footage confirming several cases and are aware of senior Hamas officials’ own claims to have used human shields. A recent report by the UN Secretary General confirmed that in some cases Hamas even used UN facilities for storing munitions and launching attacks….

The Israel Defence Force employed a series of precautionary measures to reduce civilian casualties. Each of our own armies is of course committed to protecting civilian life during combat. But none of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population in such circumstances….

Measures taken to warn civilians included phone calls, SMS messages, leaflet drops, radio broadcasts, communication via Gaza-based UN staff and the detonation of harmless warning explosive charges, known as “knock on the roof”. Where possible the IDF sought also to give guidance on safe areas and safe routes….

Our overall findings are that during Operation Protective Edge last summer, in the air, on the ground and at sea, Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard. We saw clear evidence of this from the upper to the lower levels of command. A measure of the seriousness with which Israel took its moral duties and its responsibilities under the laws of armed conflict is that in some cases Israel’s scrupulous adherence to the laws of war cost Israeli soldiers’ and civilians’ lives.

Israel today released its own report (pdf.) on the conflict, as The Times of Israel reports:

Anticipating the imminent publication of a United Nations report on last summer’s war in Gaza, the Israeli government on Sunday published its own account of the events surrounding the conflict, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

The 275-page report, which officials say has been in the making ever since the war ended in late August 2014, places the blame for the war’s casualties squarely on Hamas and armed factions operating in the Strip.

While Israel has previously published much of the information and many of the arguments provided in the report, it also contains some new data. For instance, it presents for the first time the army’s analysis of the war’s casualties. According to the IDF’s account, 44 percent of the 2,125 Palestinians killed in Gaza were “militants,” and 36% were “uninvolved civilians.” Some 20% of victims have yet to be identified.

I found this chart in the report (p. 54) to be particularly interesting. It details the ceasefires agreed to by Israel, and violated by Hamas. That is a critical fact — Hamas started and continued the war.

2014 Gaza Conflict Full Report - Israeli MFA - p54 Chart Ceasefire Violations

Hamas’ deliberate use of civilian shields also is described:

110. During the 2014 Gaza Conflict, not only Israeli civilians fell victim to Hamas and other terrorist organisations’ deliberately harmful military strategies, but Gazan civilians as well. These terrorist organisations knowingly endangered civilian life and property in the Gaza Strip by locating their military operations and assets within and around civilian buildings in densely-populated civilian areas. These organisations conducted hostilities from built-up civilian areas in order to shield their military objectives from IDF attack, with the knowledge that Israel would take precautions and even call off strikes in order to spare civilian life and property. Thus, Hamas and other terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip launched some 550 rockets and mortars within or nearby “sensitive sites” such as schools, U.N. facilities, hospitals, and places of worship,178 and made extensive use of these and other civilian structures for command and control operations, military communications, sniper posts, weapons storage, and cover for combat tunnels. These organisations further exacerbated harm to civilian life and property in the Gaza Strip by extensive rigging of civilian structures and residential streets with booby-traps and Improvised Explosive Devices (hereinafter: “IEDs”). In deploying these strategies, Hamas and other terrorist organisations not only were directly responsible for the scale of the civilian casualties and property damage in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 Gaza Conflict, but also violated the Law of Armed Conflict and committed war crimes.

Hamas fighters also disguised themselves as civilians both to create operational hesitation for Israelis, and to inflate the number of “civilians” killed:

171. Disguising Militants As Civilians. During the 2014 Gaza Conflict, militants of Hamas and other terrorist organisations frequently posed as civilians, as confirmed by eyewitness testimony of IDF soldiers as well as foreign journalists. For example, a journalist covering the July 20 battle in Shuja’iyeh reported that at least two militants had been seen disguised as female civilians with their weapons partially hidden beneath long skirts. 310 As reported by another journalist, “You can’t differentiate the fighters from the civilians. They are not wearing uniforms. If there is someone coming into the hospital injured, you can’t tell if that’s just a shopkeeper or if this is someone who just fired a rocket towards Israel.”311

172. The strategy of donning civilian clothes was primarily designed to impede the IDF’s ability to identify militants and to produce significant tactical hesitation amongst IDF troops attempting to comply with the principle of distinction between military and civilian objectives. 312 Aside from demonstrating general disregard for the protection afforded to civilians under the principle of distinction, this tactic often directly violated customary international law. Specifically, where militants feigned civilian status in order to treacherously kill or injure the enemy, as militants of Hamas and other terrorist organisations did regularly, this tactic violated the customary prohibition against perfidy under the Law of Armed Conflict.313

173. Disguising their militants in civilian clothes served another important purpose for Hamas and other terrorist organisations: it deliberately distorted assessments of the legality of IDF activity in the Gaza Strip. Because militants killed by IDF fire were often impossible to distinguish from civilians, these organisations were able to depict these casualties as civilian, intentionally inflating purported civilian casualties for propaganda purposes. Indeed, during the 2014 Gaza Conflict, Hamas’s Ministry of Interior published official guidelines designed to inflate civilian casualty statistics for public consumption, structing social media users: “Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from the Gaza Strip or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.”314

There is an enormous amount of documentation in the report, including charts showing rocket launch locations in relation to civilian infrastructure, and this screenshot of Hamas officials telling people not to leave areas to which Israel had issued warnings (p. 99):

2014 Gaza Conflict Full Report - Israeli MFA - p99 Hamas call on civilians not to leave

The report also contains legal analysis of the law of warfare and international law.  Both those concepts frequently are abused, such as the claim that the disproportionate number of deaths constitutes disproportional use of force in violation of international law (starting at page 137). Here is one example, regarding the targeting of Al-Wafa hospital:

285. Medical facilities and vehicles. Hamas and other terrorist organisations unlawfully commandeered medical facilities and vehicles — including hospitals, clinics, and ambulances — for military purposes. Under the Law of Armed Conflict, medical facilities and vehicles are afforded special (though not absolute) protection from attack. Accordingly, IDF regulations and orders, including those issued during the 2014 Gaza Conflict, strictly limited the circumstances in which such objects could be attacked. Unfortuately on a number of occasions Hamas used medical facilities to endanger IDF forces and the Israeli civilian population, leaving the IDF with little choice but to respond. For example, between July 11 and July 23, Hamas militants repeatedly fired at IDF forces from, and set up military surveillance devices within, the Al-Wafa hospital compound. In response to the shooting, which posed a serious and immediate threat, the IDF returned fire in a precise and discriminating manner that did not cause any harm to civilians. That response was permissible under the Law of Armed Conflict. The IDF repeatedly warned official entities in the Gaza Strip, as well as the Palestinian Authority and international organisations, that military use of the hospital must stop. On July 23, after these warnings went unheeded and militants again fired at IDF forces from the hospital compound — and after confirming multiple times that staff members and other civilians were no longer present and that the hospital was not being used for civilian purposes — the IDF attacked the site.436

It’s worth noting that international anti-Israel activists performed human shield operations at Al-Wafa to protect what was a Hamas firing position.

The UNCHR’s so-called Goldstone Report regarding the 2008-2009 conflict was discredited by Goldstone himself, but not before it did enormous damage to Israel:

We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council [one of the most despicable and implacably anti-Israel entities in the world] that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document….

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy….

Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn’t negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes….

Expect the UNHRC report to be long on misstatements of the law of warfare and false accusations against Israel.

The war the UN, anti-Israel “human rights” groups, and the media are fighting is a propaganda war as part of a broader effort to delegitimize Israel; and in that war, truth is always the first casualty.