Proportionate Response to Hamas Rockets

When Hamas shoots rockets from Gaza into Israeli towns, the UN does not charge Hamas with war crimes because Hamas claims that it aims its inaccurate rockets at military targets. However, when Israel strikes military targets in Gaza in retaliation for rocket fire, some civilian casualties are repotted. Since the number of civilian casualties in Gaza caused by Israeli retaliatory strikes dwarfs the number inflicted by Hamas rocket fire into Israel, the UN accuses Israel of using disproportionate force. The IDF gets no credit for its ongoing efforts to avoid harming civilians.

How can Israel use proportionate force to defend herself against rocket fire from Gaza? Numerous ceasefires between Israel and Hamas have been broken by Hamas as soon as Hamas has restocked its arsenal of rockets. Israel eschews a policy of responding to every rocket fired by Hamas into Israel by shooting an equivalent rocket from Israel into Gaza. Israel rejects this policy because, in contrast to Hamas, Israel wants to diminish civilian casualties in densely populated Gaza.

Here is a proposed 4-step procedure intended to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza when Israel responds to rockets fired by Hamas. Israel will count the number of rocket attacks during consecutive one -week periods.

  1. At the beginning of the current week, Israel will announce the number of rockets, denoted by N, launched by Hamas during the previous week.
  2. Israel will multiply this number, N, by a decimal constant, rounding up the result, if necessary, to the next higher whole number, denoted by R. For example, suppose that Hamas fired N = 17 rockets into Israel during the previous week. If Israel chooses a decimal constant of 0.2, then N x 0.2 = 17 x 0.2 = 3.4, which is rounded up to R = 4.
  3. At the beginning of the current week, Israel will publicly identify R specific military targets in Gaza which Israel will promise to strike at the beginning of the following week. By identifying R military targets one week in advance, Israel will give civilians in Gaza ample time in which to evacuate areas close to these military targets. Some of these military targets may be dual use facilities since Hamas stores rockets inside homes, schools, hospitals, and mosques. Civilians in Gaza may be motivated to demand the permanent removal of weapons from such structures.
  4. One week later, at the beginning of the following week, Israel will execute retaliatory strikes against the designated R military targets.

The IDF can inform civilians in Gaza that Hamas gives no advance warning to Israeli civilians who must rely on Israeli rocket sirens to alert them that they have only seconds in which to race to bomb shelters. Residents of Gaza should be advised that any week during which no rockets are launched by Hamas will be followed by a week without retaliatory strikes. Therefore, if Hamas wants to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas will stop shooting rockets into Israel. UN officials critical of the proposed 4-step procedure are invited to reside in Sderot, the Israeli town on the border with Gaza which has been the target of thousands of rockets.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is an emeritus professor of industrial engineering and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, and Jewish Voice.
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