During the operation so far, private property and infrastructure in Gaza were harmed. Over the past several days, several private residences or government buildings suffered damage due to IDF (Zahal) attacks. Why is that?
The answer is simple: Hamas uses civilian buildings in Gaza for military purposes. In order to hide its weapons and protect its operatives, Hamas uses homes, schools, mosques and hospitals as weapons caches and hiding spots for its fighters.
Indeed, many Palestinian neighborhoods are dotted with weapons storage facilities, booby-trapped houses and rocket launching sites. Hamas has a long history of using this “human shield” method, including during Operation Cast Lead in 2009:
As soon as private property is used for military purposes, it becomes a legitimate target, and the IDF (Zahal) has the right to target it. The law in this matter states:
“[…] military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.”
Geneva Convention (Protocol 1), Article 52
PRIVATE PROPERTY DAMAGED UNINTENTIONALLY
When the IDF (Zahal) chooses Hamas targets, it takes into account the existence of sensitive sites such as mosques, hospitals, schools and homes. Sometimes the IDF (Zahal) diverts missiles en route to their target when civilians are spotted in the area.
Even though IDF (Zahal) pilots can single out one target from an entire residential complex, secondary explosions can cause significantly more damage than the initial Israeli Air Force airstrike. These secondary explosions occur when Hamas’ explosives are hit.
Though unintentional, these kinds of secondary explosions are yet another reason that private property was damaged in Gaza.
Despite all precautions, as in any armed conflict, IDF (Zahal) forces may have mistakenly targeted sites that were not being used for military purposes. While many people are involved in making sure that only valid targets are selected that the collateral damage be minimized as much as humanly possible, the situation on the ground does not always allow this. Unlike Hamas, the IDF (Zahal) considers an attack on a civilian target to be a grave error.
Israel is firmly committed — as a matter of both policy and practice — to its obligations as stated by the international law. The IDF (Zahal) will ensure that every allegation of wrongdoing be fully and fairly investigated, though this will happen after the end of the operation.