Israel is determined to protect its citizens, and will do what it can to keep them safe, but Israel also values life above all else. Israel has been taking rocket hits for the past 10 years, thousands and thousands of them, and only responds when the situation gets so unbearable that they can’t afford not to. This happened in 2008, 2012, and now. And even during operations, Israel is doing everything it can to keep civilians safe. They have escorted Gaza residents with foreign passports to Israel’s main airport in Tel Aviv so they can fly out of there; they also call and send texts to people and they drop leaflets in areas that are about to be attacked waning people to evacuate; and they also drop non-lethal warning shots at buildings they are about to hit which make a loud boom, but don’t destroy anything. They even set up a field hospital inside Gaza to treat innocent Palestinians who have been injured.
Hamas, on the other hand, is telling civilians to go onto rooftops and stay in their homes because they know that Israel won’t attack if there are a significant number of civilians in the area. There are also videos of both Israeli planes diverting attacks to avoid civilians, and also of Hamas telling Gazans to ignore Israeli warnings.
Now why did everything break out this time? It all started with the kidnapping of the 3 Israeli teenagers on June 12th. This kidnapping was planned and executed by Hamas operatives according to Israeli sources, although Hamas has not claimed responsibility for it. This led to Operation Brother’s Keeper, a huge IDF search in and around Hebron, the city where the teens were kidnapped, that basically locked down the city looking for these kids. It was later discovered that the teens were murdered within an hour of being kidnapped when one of them called Israeli Police. In response to the operation, Hamas also started launching a lot of rockets into Israel. The news of the murder of these kids led to riots and calls for vengeance all across Israel, as well as the tragic murder of a Palestinian teen who was killed by 3 Israelis in an apparent revenge attack. This revenge attack led to heightened rage from the Arabs and Hamas, who started firing even more rockets into Israel.
Because of this, the IDF launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8th, which brought with it strategic Israeli air strikes targeted at Hamas compounds, rocket storage facilities, launch sites, and homes of terrorists. Unfortunately, a lot of these places are in close proximity to, or hidden within, civilian areas such as homes, schools, playgrounds, and mosques. As hard as Israel tries, there is no way to avoid civilian casualties and still protect Israeli civilians from Hamas.
On Thursday, July 17th, in the middle of the night, the IDF decided that they can no longer be effective in their operation from the air alone without added risk to civilians. They then decided to put Israeli soldiers in more risk by starting a ground offensive in Gaza in order to help reduce civilian casualties. The mission of the ground operation was to target smuggling tunnels that go from Gaza into Israel used to smuggle terrorists, suicide bombers, and weapons into Israel to cause more damage (several attempts have already been stopped by the IDF, but some have also resulted in Israeli military casualties).
Since then, the rockets have not ceased and the attempts to infiltrate into Israel have only gotten worse as tunnels are being found and destroyed. All this while Israel accepted all 3 ceasefire requests by the international community and Hamas continues to reject all of them.
The disproportionate number of casualties are not caused by indiscriminate killings or targeting of civilians. They are caused by Hamas openly calling for its citizens to put themselves in harm’s way and using them as human shields, women and children included, while at the same time the Israeli military is doing everything it can to protect Palestinian and Israeli civilians from Hamas terror.