Ariel Center for Policy Research (ACPR)

ACPR Research – Summary


Endangering IDF Soldiers in Order to Avoid Harming Enemy Civilians
in the Wake of Operation “Defensive Shield”

Eliav Shochetman

Policy Paper No. 151 (Hebrew), 2004

Operation “Desert Shield”, upon which Israel embarked in order to rout the terrorist infrastructure and strike at the terrorist organizations, which have long been perpetrating the systematic massacre of men, women and children, placed several questions on the public agenda, among them those relating to military morality and purity of arms in Israel.

This paper is devoted to one of those questions and the relevant facts for our purposes are the following: In the framework of Operation “Protective Shield”, (Spring 5762/2003), IDF forces entered Arab cities in Judea and Samaria in order to apprehend fugitives and liquidate terrorist infrastructures. Among other places, the IDF also took action in the city of Jenin, including the refugee camp located therein, from which several of the perpetrators of the most severe catastrophes, which befell Israel in the wake of the recent suicide bombings, had embarked. After most of the residents of the refugee camp heeded the IDF call to evacuate the area, IDF commanders requested authorization to bomb a certain defined area in the camp from the air, in order to avoid inevitable casualties among the ground forces.  Authorization was not granted and as a result, on April 9, 2002, a ground operation was initiated, in the course of which, 13 IDF soldiers were killed. The IDF Commander of the Central Command, when asked why the site had not been bombed from the air, responded that it stemmed from the desire to avoid civilian casualties. A senior officer in the combat force said, that he “prefers that a soldier be killed rather than a Palestinian woman".1 In a newspaper interview, the then Defense Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, confirmed that it was he who had ordered the ground operation, in order to avoid bombing from the air – which was liable to cause civilian casualties among the refugee camp residents who remained at the site.2

  1. HaZofeh, 25 Nisan, 5762.

  2. Maariv, 20 Sivan 5752 (An article by Sari Makover, “I Will Be Prime Minister”, “Weekend” supplement, p. 18). See also the articles by Danny Shalom, HaZofeh, 2 Tammuz 5762, and Assaf Buznak, Tel Aviv Magazine, August 2, 2002. Further expression of this policy was also given in the ruling of the Supreme Court, H.C. 4/02-3116, Bracha v. Defense Minister and Others; Tibi v. Prime Minister and Others; Adallah – The legal Center for the Rights of the Arab Minority in Israel and Others v. The Commander of the IDF Forces in the West Bank, P.D. 56(3) 11, which dealt with a different aspect of the Jenin battle in question, in which it said that “the army fought from house to house and not by dropping bombs from the air, in order to prevent possible civilian casualties.”

For the complete article (in Hebrew), click here.