Yesterday my family and I took advantage of the ceasefire. We went out early to a favourite breakfast restaurant, then to the beach and finally to a science exhibition for kids in Jaffa built around the question Why?
We were joined at breakfast by another family whose kids are at school and kindergarten with mine. The father, whilst he has a day job that is pretty much rocket science, has been called back to his old role in the Israeli Air Force. For the last couple of weeks he’s been working night shifts at the command and control centre in Tel Aviv from where Israel’s awesome aerial fire power is precisely directed.
Fortunately there is a long explanation of what goes on there in the Jerusalem Post, I’ll quote from it as I know it has been approved for publication. He hadn’t read the JPost report, but he confirmed everything said there for me.
My friend sits next to one of the Arabic speaking personnel who make the final phone calls on targets that are being warned. Exactly as described here:
This is the Israeli army calling. Am I speaking to Bassem?” The officer spoke Arabic slowly and clearly, using an impeccable Gaza dialect. “Yes,” came the answer.
“Listen to me carefully, Bassem. You have five minutes to evacuate your house because we are going to bomb it.
Do you understand?” The caller was assertive, not aggressive, and his voice was empathetic, even compassionate. When I asked him about this later, he answered: “They are human beings. My job is to do everything I can to save them.”
We watched real-time imagery of the house, as people exited.
“Count them. Each and every one of them,” the commander ordered, a tense expression on his face. “Are they all out?” Someone gave the number and confirmed that the procedure had been completed, but then a major intervened: “Let’s verify this again. If we can save even one person, it’s worth it.”
He did tell me a little bit about the exact munition used for the “knock on the roof” procedure which is the absolute final warning measure they use. Only when the phone call has been made and answered, do they send in a very low power munition. This weapon is similar to the ones used in targeted removal of known terrorists in cars. It has a much smaller payload of explosive than those used in drone strikes by America in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan or Yemen.
Again from the Jerusalem Post piece, this extract rings completely true from what my friend describes:
If passing security and entering the underground facility felt like entering a shrine, visiting the control cells was like entering an inner sanctum. The place was humming with dozens of professionals working in sync. The walls were covered with high resolution screens showing a multidimensional picture of the battle space. From intelligence and operational pictures, to data links from unmanned aerial systems and logistics, the abundance of information was overwhelming.
It is a known phenomenon that inside operational units there is humor that would sound heartless to outsiders. I had prepared myself for this, but to my amazement, I witnessed nothing but reserved and restrained conduct. I could also sense a touch of modesty which I had not seen in the past. It seemed as if the organization had matured. I could tell that the focus was on the mission, not on personal ego.
Frankly, I feared that I might find a bunch of trigger-happy officers, but there was no sign of it. When a bomb hit its target, I could see relief, pride and satisfaction – no cheering or gloating. Everything about the place demonstrated severity and professional conduct.
We also discussed the difficulty of operating now that there are IDF ground forces in the field. The entire IAF command and control system lives on a perpetual knife edge worrying about hitting our own forces. They are supremely careful to avoid Gazan civilian casualties, but the reality is they apply the same methodologies to avoiding inadvertent targeting of our own soldiers.
You can’t throw 1000kg bombs around carelessly at any time if you are the most moral army in the world. Just like the civilians Hamas uses as shields, IDF forces will often be close to Hamas who are attacking. It is obvious they are supremely careful to avoid IDF forces, but the methodology for avoiding them is the same as for the civilians.
I know my friend was working last night while the IDF held it’s fire (despite Hamas firing on the minute at which the ceasefire was due to end). I’m sure they were still busy reviewing strikes to date, planning new ones and working hard to avoid any non targeted casualties.
There are innocent women, children and men dying in Gaza. That is for sure. We can certainly cast huge doubt on the reports coming out of the tightly controlled Gaza strip where Hamas is casually threatening journalist all the time. What I am totally convinced of, however, is that every, single death in Gaza would be avoided if Hamas’s leadership surrendered and ceased their suicidal policy of trying to have us kill as many of their own people as possible.
I’ll finish with Richard Kemp, retired British colonel talking to Channel 2 news reporter Udi Segal on the Israel-Gaza Situation. He knows the truth of exactly what I’ve said above.