Like in all operations, the IDF has taken the utmost care to protect uninvolved civilians during Operation Pillar of Defense, even while rockets have continued to fall on Israel. In addition to the large number of flyers the IDF has dropped prior to striking an area, air strikes are often aborted when civilians are found in the area.
Yesterday saw one such occurrence- an air strike on an underground launch site was aborted due to the discovery of civilians in the area.
Since Wednesday (November 14th) afternoon, the IAF has struck ammunition warehouses and rocket launch sites used by terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, all in response to the incessant rocket fire directed at Israel. Yesterday, in the early hours of the morning, a squadron of intelligence collecting aircraft took the sky. Through sophisticated observation equipment and cameras the pilots were able to identify a rocket launch, and Air Force aircraft were sent to strike the area. But things didn’t go as planned. “We saw that innocent civilians were approaching the area of the underground launch site,” said Lt. Omer, a source within the intelligence squadron who took part in the operation. “We immediately contacted the forces and instructed them to abort the strike.”
The strike was aborted immediately, thanks to the experience of IDF forces. This is one of many similar stories from Operation Pillar of Defense. It has long been one of the IDF’s top priorities to minimize civilian casualties during IDF operations.
The task is not an easy one, as Hamas has intentionally used the civilian areas of Gaza as staging grounds for their attacks on Israel. Knowing that the IDF wishes to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas places its own civilians in the line of fire in order to hide and protect its own operations. Women and children, victims of the Hamas human shield tactics, usually ignore warning signals to evacuate buildings prior to an IDF strike. The victims remain in the house with Hamas members, knowing ahead of time that the IDF will not target civilians. Many innocent bystanders are killed as a result of Hamas’ abuse of its own civilians. Instead of keeping its citizens out of harm’s way, Hamas encourages and even forces its population to join the violent resistance against Israel
During Operation Cast Lead, which took place four years ago, a great emphasis was placed on limiting damage to civilian areas, despite the fact that Hamas officials chose to launch rockets from densely populated areas. After Operation Cast Lead, Col. (res.) Udi, a crew member who took part in the operation, said that “avoiding harm to innocents was a top priority for all those who participated in the operation. You can hear it in the conversations between the pilots and headquarters, and in general. The IAF is trying to do as much as possible so as not to hurt those who are uninvolved.