In both 2008 and 2012, Israel launched military operations in Gaza after it determined it had no choice but to respond to intensifying rocket and missiles attacks launched by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza. Israel's military objective was to end Hamas' ability to launch rockets into Israel, and it was fulfilling its duty and responsibility to protect the people of Israel from deadly rocket assault. In the years leading up to these military actions, Israel demonstrated the utmost restraint in dealing with Hamas's blatant hostility and tried to stop the attacks through a variety of measures including diplomatic and political, but to no avail.
During the 2008/09 Operation Cast Lead, Israel's military took appropriate action against Hamas and its operational infrastructure, most of which were deliberately located in densely populated areas. The targets included Hamas command centers, training camps, rocket manufacturing facilities, storage warehouses and tunnels used to smuggle arms. While every military operation is difficult, the Israel Defense Forces faced particular challenges in Gaza. Hamas deliberately placed its operational centers in densely populated neighborhoods. Hamas leadership headquarters were bunkered beneath a major Gaza hospital. Rockets were launched against Israeli targets from locations near apartment houses, schools, mosques and hospitals. Hamas stashed weapons in houses, schoolyards and mosques. The IDF took serious measures to avoid harming civilians and expressed regret at the Palestinian civilian injuries and death.
In 2012, Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel targeted Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist leadership and rocket launching and storage sites in an aerial operation.
The IDF, following its own internal ethics guidelines and rules of engagement, require its forces to make every effort to limit civilian casualties under these very challenging conditions. In both operations, Israel enacted procedures to warn civilians though leafleting and phone calls, that their neighborhoods and buildings were located in the vicinity of impending military operations and urged them to leave the area.
In an April 2011 op-ed in the Washington Post, Justice Richard Goldstone, the lead author of the infamous Goldstone Report which chastised Israel for its behavior during the 2008/09 Gaza operation, wrote that “the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report…indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”
It should also be noted that while Israel made efforts to limit Palestinian civilian casualties, Hamas rockets aimed to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. As Justice Goldstone wrote in his 2011 op-ed, Hamas “rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets…That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality.”