Israel’s Latest Win Against Terrorists Extends Beyond the Battlefield

A rare public relations victory is seen after the IDF quickly managed to release convincing evidence that many of the non-combatant casualties resulted from Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s misfired rockets.

AP/Adel Hana, file
Rockets are launched from Gaza toward Israel August 7, 2022. AP/Adel Hana, file

The Israeli Defense Force scored a rare public relations victory with its Operation Breaking Dawn that concluded Sunday night, but will a repeat be possible with other battles that are sure to come?

Combat victories in Israel’s sysiphean war against terror organizations in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and beyond are bound to be temporary. That said, the latest round against the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad is widely seen as an IDF success on and off the battlefield.  

Consider the score card: The Iranian proxy’s top terror leaders in Gaza are dead; its West Bank operatives have been arrested; Iran-supplied artillery caches are diminished; and a major tunnel meant to infiltrate Israel from the strip is destroyed.

The PIJ is crowing about chasing Israelis into shelters, including in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as it launched 1,100 rockets in three days. Yet the Iron Dome defense system intercepted 95 percent of the rockets. Additionally, according to IDF statistics, nearly 20 percent of the PIJ rockets failed to even reach Israel. 

As a result, more Americans were injured due to the gun violence in Cincinnati over the weekend than Israelis in the three days of the Gaza operation. Not one Israeli was killed. 

In comparison, 46 Gazans were killed in the operation. In addition to 21 PIJ operatives, the casualties include 15 children and four women. Yet — and this is part of the Israeli PR success — the IDF quickly managed to release convincing evidence that many of the non-combatant casualties resulted from misfired PIJ rockets. 

Up to 20 percent of the PIJ rockets landed inside Gaza, killing more innocent Gazans than the IDF did, the army spokesman, Brigadier-General, Ran Kochav, said last night. 

Videotaped footage of one PIJ rocket that fell short and killed at least three children Friday was shared by the IDF minutes after Gaza spokesmen accused Israel of murdering Palestinian children. Another misfire, killing additional children, made the social media rounds yesterday. It was also shown to United Nations reporters this morning by Israel’s ambassador there, Gilad Erdan. 

“The reports of civilian casualties in Gaza are a tragedy, whether by Israeli strikes against Islamic Jihad positions or the dozens of Islamic Jihad rockets that reportedly fell inside Gaza,” President Biden said in a statement this morning in what seemed like a pro forma attempt at even-handedness.

Unlike events such as the much-publicized death of an Al Jazeera reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh — which Israel is yet to conclusively account for — the IDF this time quickly managed to refute spurious accusations that it deliberately targets civilians.

The air force has released cockpit videos of pilots delaying a bombing of a PIJ arms depot because an innocent boy on a is passing by on a bike. Pilots also documented twice aborting a strike on a PIJ commander after they identified children playing near the man’s Gaza hideout. The commander, Khaled Mansour, was killed on the third attempt Sunday morning. 

The Baskerville hounds aren’t even barking: The most vocal anti-Israel lobby in the American Congress — Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the like — are yet to comment on Israel’s Gaza operation. 

Beyond the unprecedented agility of its public diplomats, several factors helped Israel this time. “Much of it had to do with Hamas not being involved,” a researcher for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal, Joe Truzman, says. 

As it hit PIJ targets, Israel telegraphed to Hamas leaders that their group would be spared if they sat out this battle. Hamas did not attack even after dozens of Jews visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Sunday’s Tisha B’Av, even though Jewish presence at the holy site has long been its major cause. 

The PIJ has become a formidable Hamas rival of late, so the group seemingly did not mind Israel clipping its wings. “Any rival group can be a threat to Hamas’s leadership, so Hamas technically benefitted from this,” Mr. Truzman said. 

Prime Minister Lapid and his security cabinet therefore managed to end the operation quickly. “If instead of three days it were to last 10 days, I’m not sure we’d talk today about an IDF PR victory,” the founder of the Israeli think tank ALMA, Sarit Zehavi, told the Sun.

“We can’t get drunk on this success,” Ms. Zehavi said. “Israel made a bet that Hamas would stay out. It was a successful bet, but it won’t necessarily work in the future. After all, we’re talking about unpredictable terrorist organizations that don’t think, act, or fight like us.”

Ms. Zehavi, a former IDF officer, says the next skirmish may well take place near her home near the Lebanon border. “I haven’t seen so much Hezbollah activity here for a long time,” she says, noting that Hezbollah’s chief, Hassan Nassralah, now openly says he would go to “war” over his demand to demarcate the Israel-Lebanon maritime border, where Israel will soon start drilling for gas. 

Tehran’s proxy, the PIJ, suffered a major blow both to its military capabilities and on the public relations front. Yet, if and when the Islamic Republic decides to deploy its most powerful proxy army, Hezbollah, Israel’s battle is bound to be much more difficult. 

The New York Sun

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