Sunday, 3 August 2014

Rowan Callick: Israel aims to minimise troop casualties

Israel aims to minimise troop casualties

MODERN weaponry, such as that used by Israel in the Gaza conflict, causes fewer civilian ­casualties in the close-in battle, but not the greater distance battle, says a top US military expert.
Former assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs Bing West, today an author on war-fighting and counter­insurgency, told The Weekend Australian“artillery is a distant weapon, and Israel has fired over 30,000 shells. In the April 2004 invasion of Fallujah, the US Marines did not fire one artillery shell.
“New devices, especially GPS and reliable individual radios, en­abled the marines to co-ordinate a street-by-street, house-by-house search without using long-­distance area weapons.
“However, the cost was 27 ­marines killed in face-to-face fights inside houses. The Israelis are unwilling to accept higher ­casualties by using such discrim­inating tactics.”
He said: “It is always — always — morally meaningful to differentiate between civilians and combatants.
“However, as the US and Australia and the entire world showed between 1941 and 1945, when the stakes are national survival, the differentiation blurs to the point that Dresden, Hiroshima, etc. occur.”
In purely military terms, Mr West said, Israel dominated any combination of neighbouring Arab states.
In terms of world opinion, however, “Israel is losing support and sympathy”.
But the critical American contribution to Israeli military equipment retains the support of most of congress, he said.
“Israel’s strategy appears to be to break the political power of Hamas. By causing terrible devastation and demonstrating it can go wherever it wants, the Israeli military is indicating that continued Hamas rule is not in best interests of the population of Gaza.”
And on the other side, “Hamas is a diehard terror organisation that was losing support. By standing up to Israel, Hamas hopes to regain support from Iran,” Mr West said.
Gaza probably makes it easier for the Obama administration to reach a bad deal with Iran, he said, “because Israel has lost leverage in the US due to Gaza”.
And an Iran with thousands of centrifuges guarantees that Saudi, Turkey and Egypt will also become threshold nuclear states, he said. “A Middle East in about 2030 with unstable states and nuclear weapons is a severe blow to stability across the globe.”
In the present conflict, the rockets fired into Israel extract a psychological and financial toll, as does the threat of assassins using tunnels to pop up in Israeli areas, Mr West said.
“The weapon most dangerous to Israel would be a rocket with the range to reach Ben Gurion airport on a regular basis. That would unnerve airlines.”
Fatah on the West Bank, or a similar organisation, is the only hope of the Palestinians to achieve a two-state solution, which is “the only solution,” he said.
“Hamas is blood-chilling to Israelis. The Hamas demand for the destruction of Israel is totally unacceptable.”

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