The devastation of Gaza was inevitable

The devastation of Gaza was inevitable

 , Ford International Professor of Political Science at the Security Studies Program, explains that urban warfare has always been brutal for civilians—and the war against Hamas was destined to be an extreme case. An excerpt of the article, originally published in Foreign Policy, is featured below.

February 14, 2024 | Foreign Policy Magazine | Barry Posen
People wander through the devastated area near the al-Maqoussi towers in the aftermath of an Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on Feb. 3
Barry Posen
February 14, 2024
Foreign Policy Magazine

As of the middle of February, the Gaza Health Ministry reported more than 28,000 Palestinians dead in the war precipitated by the murder, rape, and kidnapping conducted during Hamas’s raid on Israeli border settlements and towns on Oct. 7, 2023. Press accounts estimate that in the northern Gaza Strip, almost 80 percent of buildings may be damaged or destroyed. To avoid being caught up in the most intense fighting, according to the United Nations, as many as 85 percent of the 2.2 million people in Gaza may have left their homes as of mid-December. The scale of death and destruction arising from Israel’s legitimate counterattack has precipitated charges of war crimes and genocide against Israel in the International Court of Justice.

The Israeli government has claimed that it is adhering to its well-developed system for assessing combat in light of the laws of war. But if that is the case, then why has the Israeli offensive produced so much damage and death?

One answer is simple. When war is fought among civilians, civilians are killed. Among the most poignant examples is from World War II: the number of French citizens killed by Allied bombing in the months prior to the June 1944 Normandy invasion. The allies bombed lines of communication heavily to prevent the Germans from reinforcing their coastal defenses along the English Channel. Historians suggest that some 20,000 French civilians who had the misfortune of living near ports, bridges, roads, or railroad infrastructure were killed in these attacks and during the subsequent two months of ground and air operations.

Some would say that this is ancient history; we would never do that again. But more recent history suggests that, though modern weapons are considerably more accurate and procedures in Western militaries to avoid collateral damage are more formalized, fighting among civilians, especially in urban areas, always means hell on earth for the civilians who may be trapped there.

Read the rest of the article here.