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Chairman Says Israel Acted Responsibly in Gaza Operation

By Lisa Ferdinando
Army News Service

Israel went to "extraordinary lengths" to limit civilian casualties during the conflict in Gaza earlier this year, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.

Israel dropped leaflets and did "roof-knocking, to have something knock on the roof" to warn civilians to move out of the area, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said during a forum at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York.

"They did some extraordinary things to try to limit civilian casualties, to include calling out, making it known that they were going to destroy a particular structure," Dempsey said.

The chairman said the U.S. military sent a "lessons learned team" of senior commissioned and noncommissioned officers to work with the Israel Defense Forces about three months ago. The U.S. military members were interested in learning about the measures the Israeli forces took to prevent civilian casualties during the operation and how they dealt with tunnels, he added.

Hamas Poses Significant Challenges

Hamas had become "very nearly a subterranean society," Dempsey said, adding that this has caused Israel some significant challenges.

"The IDF is not interested in creating civilian casualties," the chairman said. "They're interested in stopping the shooting of rockets and missiles out of the Gaza Strip and into Israel."

The civilian casualties are tragic, Dempsey said. "In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you're going to be criticized for civilian casualties," he added.

Dempsey said the Israeli forces "did what they could" to prevent civilian casualties. "It's an incredibly difficult environment, but I can say to you with confidence that I think that they acted responsibly," the general said.