In an effort to demonstrate the concerted effort it is investing in avoiding killing Palestinian civilians, the Israel Defense Forces has released two new videos it says shows pilots repeatedly aborting bombing missions when they suspect civilians are in the area.
The first video shows aerial shots of Gaza from the vantage point of Israeli air force pilots who, on at least three occasions in recent days, aborted their attacks after seeing Palestinian civilians nearby.
“We have identified a civilian on the roof. Less than 20 meters [from the target],” one pilot says, after which he was instructed to “move on to the next target.”
In the second excerpt provided by the IDF, a pilot says he sees “people loading a vehicle within 100 meters [of his target]. There are people within 100 meters. Yes, there is a civilian walking in a yard.”
His ground contact responds: “Copy that. We will not strike this target now.”
In the third excerpt, a female IDF soldier says she sees four or five adults.
The pilot responds: “This is a very sensitive target. There are lots of people and children in the area.”
He too is told, “Stop. For now we will not target this location.”
The IDF on Wednesday air dropped thousands of leaflets to homes in the northern part of the Gaza Strip to let residents know they should leave their homes immediately lest they get caught in a bombing attack.
“The purpose of these messages is to minimize harm to civilians before an IDF air strike,” the IDF said in a statement.
The leaflet read in part, “The evacuation is for your own safety” and warned that whoever disregards the instructions “endangers their own lives and their families.”
Despite the safeguards, Israeli strikes have resulted in the deaths of Palestinian civilians. On Wednesday, four Palestinian boys were killed while playing soccer on a beach.
Israel accuses Hamas of hiding its rocket launching sites and weapons depots in heavily populated civilian areas, an assertion that has been bolstered by images emerging from Gaza including a video posted by Fatah’s military wing that showed a militant launching a rocket within yards of a house using a food cart to camouflage his launcher.
Besides dropping leaflets and aborting bombing runs, the IDF said it also carries out a tactic it called “roof knocking” which entails dropping a small but very loud warning strike on a home the IDF plans to target a short time later.
The Hamas Interior Ministry last week instructed Palestinians in Gaza to ignore IDF warnings, according to a report in the Washington Free Beacon. Instead, it appears many Palestinians were ignoring the call of Hamas, an organization the U.S. State Department classifies as a terrorist organization. The United Nations Relief Works Agency reported that thousands of Palestinians had made their way to UN shelters in Gaza after receiving either phone calls or leaflets from the IDF.
The latest videos released Wednesday follow a similar video the IDF circulated over the weekend from the vantage of an Israeli air force pilot who believed that if he dropped his payload, he might kill civilians.
“There are people close to our target,” the unidentified pilot said. “It looks like there are people, possibly children in our targeted area.”
“We are not going to strike this target now,” a ground commander responded. “Let’s move on.”
On Tuesday, Hamas rejected a ceasefire proposal put forward by Egypt, an idea the Israeli government had accepted. There were reports Wednesday that Hamas was proposing its own truce plan, as long as Israel met a long list of demands, in exchange for which it would agree to a 10-year ceasefire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said Israel has the right to pursue its military campaign until it has peace and quiet from Hamas rockets.
“Israel will continue to act thus until peace and quiet prevail in the country; this is our right,” Netanyahu said. “We must reach a situation in which Gaza is disarmed from weapons and missiles.”
This post has been updated.