Colonel Richard Kemp has spent 29 years countering terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Macedonia. He was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003 and fought in the 1990-91 Gulf War and commanded British troops in Bosnia with the UN Protection Force and in Cyprus with the UN Force.
He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen in 1994 for counter terrorist intelligence services and Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2006 also for counter terrorist intelligence services.
He was in Israel during much of last years' Gaza conflict, in direct contact with soldiers in the IDF as well as Israeli political leaders.
The following are excerpts from his submission to the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict, based on his “observations on the ground during the conflict, 29 years’ military experience of conflicts of this type, intelligence work relating to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, knowledge of the IDF and Israeli intelligence services, study of the Israel-Palestine conflict and observations on the ground during the 2012 Gaza conflict.”.
In my opinion the actions taken by the IDF were necessary to defend the people of Israel from the ongoing, intensive and lethal attacks by Hamas and other groups in Gaza. It is the inalienable duty of every government to use its armed forces to protect its citizens and its terrain from external attack.
In this case there was a sustained assault on the Israeli population from rockets and mortar bombs; attacks on Israeli military posts using tunnels; apparent plans to launch further attacks on Israeli military posts and on civilian settlements also using tunnels; and attempted attacks from the sea.
As the Gaza Strip is effectively a separate state, outside of Israeli control, these actions amounted to an attack by a foreign country against Israeli territory. In these circumstances I know of no other realistic and effective means of suppressing an aggressor’s missile fire than the methods used by the IDF, namely precision air and artillery strikes against the command and control structures, the fighters and the munitions of Hamas and the other groups in Gaza. Nor have I heard any other military expert from any country propose a viable alternative means of defence against such aggression.
Colonel Kemp detailed the specific ways Israel minimized civilian casualties, writing about the
procedures that were routinely implemented prior to launching an attack in Gaza, concluding that “the IDF took exceptional measures to adhere to the Laws of Armed Conflict and to minimise civilian casualties in Gaza.”
Before a target could be attacked at least two separate and independent intelligence sources had to verify that it was a legitimate military target. Intelligence includes human sources, aerial surveillance, ground surveillance and communications intercept.
Each separate aerial attack mission had to be personally authorised by the Commander of the Israeli Air Force or one of his deputies, at least one of whom had to be present in the operations centre throughout the conflict. Authorisation was also subject to legal advice.
To confirm whether or not civilians were in the target area surveillance had to be conducted by both manned combat aircraft and unmanned air vehicle (drone), the latter enabling greater visual recognition.
If surveillance or other intelligence sources confirmed the presence of civilians, or the presence of civilians was suspected, one or more of a series of measures was taken to warn the civilians before the attack could go ahead. These measures were:
Broadcast radio message.
Warning via UN.
An additional measure was the use of a specially designed harmless air-dropped munition known as ‘knock on the roof’ which was dropped on buildings to make a loud percussion and to warn those inside of an impending attack.
Further surveillance was then conducted to confirm the civilians had left the target area. If they had not the attack would not be carried out until they had.
Once a pilot was authorised to attack he had authority – and it was his duty – to abort the attack if he had reason to believe civilians were present when he made his attack run.
Pilots utilising lazer-guided munitions were required to identify a safe open area in advance so that if civilians were identified in the target zone even after the missile was launched, it could be diverted in flight to the safe area.
Read Col. Kemps entire submission to the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict here