Gaza: Quand médias et terroristes utilisent les mêmes tactiques (Western media and terrorists in Gaza war using lethal new tricks)

Middle east reportingIl est interdit de tuer, blesser ou capturer un adversaire en recourant à la perfidie. Constituent une perfidie les actes faisant appel, avec l’intention de la tromper, à la bonne foi d’un adversaire pour lui faire croire qu’il a le droit de recevoir ou l’obligation d’accorder la protection prévue par les règles du droit international applicable dans les conflits armés. Les actes suivants sont des exemples de perfidie : (…) c) feindre d’avoir le statut de civil ou de non-combattant; d) feindre d’avoir un statut protégé en utilisant des signes emblèmes ou uniformes des Nations Unies (…) 2. Les ruses de guerre ne sont pas interdites. Constituent des ruses de guerre les actes qui ont pour but d’induire un adversaire en erreur ou de lui faire commettre des imprudences, mais qui n’enfreignent aucune règle du droit international applicable dans les conflits armés et qui, ne faisant pas appel à la bonne foi de l’adversaire en ce qui concerne la protection prévue par ce droit, ne sont pas perfides. Les actes suivants sont des exemples de ruses de guerre : l’usage de camouflages, de leurres, d’opérations simulées et de faux renseignements. Protocole additionnel aux Conventions de Genève de 1949 relatif à la protection des victimes des conflits armés internationaux, I, article 37, alinéas 1 & 2, 1977)
Sont interdits les actes ou menaces de violence dont le but principal est de répandre la terreur parmi la population civile. (…) Les personnes civiles jouissent de la protection accordée par la présente Section, sauf si elles participent directement aux hostilités et pendant la durée de cette participation. Protocole additionnel aux Conventions de Genève de 1949 (I, art. 51, al. 2 & 3)
Glaciale insensibilité des dirigeants, tout à leurs calculs militaires, qui décident de bombarder l’une des zones les plus peuplées du monde en sachant pertinemment qu’il est impossible, quelle que soit la précision des frappes, d’éviter les pertes civiles.(…) Le gouvernement israélien le sait bien, qui interdit toute présence journalistique à Gaza. Insensibilité croisée, il faut bien le dire, des chefs de file du Hamas, qui savaient tout autant que leur rhétorique destructrice, combinée avec l’envoi de centaines de roquettes sur les villes du sud d’Israël, ne pouvait rester sans réponse alors même qu’ils sont bien incapables de protéger la population dont ils ont pris la charge par la force. Libération

Tunnels, routes, stations d’essence, écoles, mosquées ou maisons piégés ou minés, dépots de munitions dans les mêmes écoles ou mosquées, centre de commandement dans unbunker nterré sous le principal hôpital de la ville, combattants, policiers et terroristes-suicide systématiquement en civil et se mêlant à la population civile, mannequins-détonateurs ou armes abandonnées reliés à distance à des bâtiments entiers minés, civils forcés à se mettre sur les toits des bâtiments où se cachent les terroristes …

Enième et exemplaire ilustration, dans le NYT de ce matin et au lendemain de nouvelles et lamentables manifestations occidentales pour la bande de terroristes du Hamas, de cette pernicieuse équivalence morale (à la 5 minutes pour Hitler-5 minutes pour les juifs – pour l’équivalent français voir l’éditorial du jour de Libération) à laquelle se réduit de plus en plus la couverture du Moyen-Orient par nos journalistes de chambre d’hôtel ou combattants!

Où, après nous avoir décrit par le menu (via les informations de l’Armée israélienne ou un correspondant palestinien ?) l’incroyable perversion des prétendues tactiques de guerre du Hamas, dûment apprises de l’Iran et déjà largement utilisées par leur autre groupe supplétif au Liban il y a deux ans (le Hezbollah) qui se résument en fait à multiplier les pertes civiles de leur propre population (ce qui est formellement prohibé par les conventions de Genève) pour en accuser alors les forces israéliennes …

On nous présente, au nom d’une prétendue objectivité et presque sur l’exact même plan (notamment dans le « les deux côtés » du titre – celui du NYT est légèrement plus ambigu – qui noie largement les quelques rappels des intentions parfaitement opposées des deux camps), les contre-tactiques qu’ont dû développer les Israéliens pour justement limiter au minimum lesdites pertes civiles (avertissements papier, téléphoniques ou par haut-parleur, chiens antiterroristes, démineurs, miniaturisation des bombes, interrogation des prisonniers, ruses de guerre comme missiles désarmés ou faux appels téléphoniques (parfaitement autorisées, celles-là, par les lois de la guerre) …

Both sides in Gaza war using lethal new tricks
Steven Erlanger
The IHT
January 11, 2009

JERUSALEM: The grinding urban battle unfolding in the densely populated Gaza Strip is a war of new tactics, quick adaptation and lethal tricks.

Hamas, with training from Iran and Hezbollah, has used the past two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs. Weapons caches are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership’s war room is a bunker beneath Gaza’s largest hospital, Israeli intelligence officials say.

Unwilling to take Israel’s bait and come into the open, Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes; even the police have been ordered to take off their uniforms. The militants emerge from tunnels to shoot automatic weapons or antitank missiles, then disappear back inside, hoping to lure the Israeli soldiers with their fire.

In one apartment building in Zeitoun, in northern Gaza, Hamas set an inventive, deadly trap. According to an Israeli journalist embedded with Israeli troops, the militants placed a mannequin in a hallway off the main entrance. They hoped to draw fire from Israeli soldiers who might, through the blur of night vision goggles and split-second decisions, mistake the figure for a fighter. The mannequin was rigged to explode and bring down the building.

In an interview, the reporter, Ron Ben-Yishai, a senior military correspondent for the newspaper Yediot Aharanot, said soldiers also found a pile of weapons with a grenade launcher on top. When they moved the launcher, « they saw a detonator light up, but somehow it didn’t go off. »

The Israeli Army has also come prepared for a battle both sides knew was inevitable. Every soldier, Israeli officials say, is outfitted with a ceramic vest and helmet. Every unit has dogs trained to sniff out explosive charges and people hidden in tunnels, as well as combat engineers trained to defuse hidden bombs.

To avoid booby traps, the Israelis say, they enter buildings by breaking through side walls, rather than going in the front. Once inside, they move from room to room, battering holes in interior walls to avoid exposure to snipers and suicide bombers dressed as civilians, with explosive belts hidden beneath winter coats.

The Israelis say they are also using new weapons, like a small-diameter smart bomb, the GBU 39, which Israel bought last autumn from the United States. The bomb, which is very accurate, has a small explosive, as little 27 to 36 kilograms, or 60 to 80 pounds, to minimize collateral damage in an urban environment. But it can also penetrate the earth to hit bunkers or tunnels.

The Israelis, too, are resorting to tricks.

Israelis are telephoning Gazans and, in good Arabic, pretending to be sympathetic Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians or Libyans, Gazans say and Israel has confirmed. After expressing horror at the Israeli war and asking about the family, the callers ask about local conditions, whether the family supports Hamas and if there are fighters in the building or the neighborhood.

Karim abu Shaban, 21, who lives in Gaza City, said he and his neighbors all had gotten such calls. His first caller had an Egyptian accent. « Oh, God help you, God be with you, » the caller began.

« It started very supportive, » he said, and then the questions started. The next call came five minutes later. That caller had an Algerian accent and asked if he had reached Gaza. Shaban said he answered, « No, Tel Aviv, » and hung up.

Interviews last week with senior Israeli intelligence and military officers, both active and retired, as well as with military experts and residents of Gaza itself, made it clear that the battle – among civilians and between enemies who had long prepared for this fight – is now a slow, nasty business of asymmetrical urban warfare. Gaza’s civilians – with nowhere to flee, given that the borders are closed – are « the meat in the sandwich, » as one UN worker said, requesting anonymity.

It is also clear that both sides are evolving tactics to the new battlefield, then adjusting them quickly.

To that end, Israeli intelligence is detaining large numbers of young Gazan men to interrogate them for local knowledge and Hamas tactics. Last week, Israel captured a hand-drawn Hamas map in a house in Al Atatra, near Beit Lahiya, which showed planned defensive positions for the neighborhood, mine and booby trap placements, including a rigged gasoline station, and directions for snipers to shoot next to a mosque. Numerous tunnels were marked.

A new Israeli weapon is tailored to the Hamas tactic of asking civilians to stand on the roofs of buildings so Israeli pilots will not bomb. The Israelis counter with missiles designed, paradoxically, not to explode. They aim the missiles at empty areas of the roofs to frighten residents into leaving the buildings, a tactic called « a knock on the roof. »

The most important strategic decision the Israelis have made so far, according to senior military officers and analysts, is to approach their incursion as a war, not a police operation.

Civilians are warned by leaflets, loudspeakers and telephone calls to evacuate battle areas. But troops are instructed to protect themselves first, and civilians second.

Officers say that means Israeli infantry units are going in « heavy. » If they draw fire, they return it with heavy firepower. If they are told to reach an objective, they first call in artillery or airpower and use tank fire. Then they move, but only behind tanks and armored bulldozers, riding in armored personnel carriers, spending as little time in the open as possible.

As the commander of the army’s elite combat engineering unit, Yahalom, told the Israeli press Wednesday: « We are very violent. We do not balk at any means to protect the lives of our soldiers. » His name cannot be published under censorship rules.

« Urban warfare is the most difficult battlefield, where Hamas and Islamic Jihad have a relative advantage, with local knowledge and prepared positions, » said Jonathan Fighel of Israel’s International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism. « Hamas has a doctrine; this is not a gang of Rambos. The Israeli military has to find the stitches to unpick, how to counterbalance and surprise. »

Israeli troops are moving slowly and, they hope, unpredictably, trying not to stay in one place for long to entice Hamas fighters « to come out and confront them, » Fighel said. Today, he said, « the mindset from top to bottom is fight and fight cruel; this is a war, not another pinpoint operation. »

Israeli officials say that they are obeying the rules of war and trying hard not to hurt noncombatants but that Hamas is using civilians as human shields in the expectation that Israel will try to avoid killing them.

Israeli press officers call the tactics of Hamas cynical, illegal and inhumane; even Israel’s critics argue that Hamas’s regular use of rockets to fire at Israeli civilians in Israel, and its use of civilians as shields, are also violations of the rules of war. Israeli military men and analysts say its urban guerrilla tactics are deliberate, including the widespread use of civilian structures and tunnels, and come from the Iranian Army’s tactical training and the lessons of the 2006 war between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Hamas rocket and weapons caches, including rocket launchers, have been discovered in and under mosques, schools and civilian homes. The Israeli intelligence chief, Yuval Diskin, in a report to the Israeli cabinet, said the Gaza-based leadership of Hamas was in underground housing beneath the No.2 building of Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza. That allegation cannot be confirmed.

While The New York Times and some other news organizations have local or Gaza-based Palestinian correspondents, any Israeli citizen or Israeli with dual citizenship has been banned from entering Gaza for more than two years, and any foreign correspondent who did not enter the territory before a six-month cease-fire with Hamas ended Dec. 17 has been prevented from entering. Israel has also managed to block cellphone bandwidth, so very few amateur cellphone photographs are getting out of Gaza.

But Israeli tactics have caused episodes of severe civilian casualties that have created an international uproar, both in the Arab world and the West. In one widely reported episode, 43 people died when the Israelis shelled a street next to a UN school in northern Jabaliya where refugees were taking shelter. The Israelis said they returned fire in response to mortar shells fired at Israeli troops, which is legal, but there are questions about whether the force used was proportional under the laws of war, given the danger to noncombatants.

The school attack is just one example where Israel may be able to dismantle Hamas’s military structure while losing the battle for world opinion and leaving Hamas politically still in charge of Gaza. Those, too, are realities and risks of urban warfare.

Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza.

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