If the international community launches a war crimes investigation follow the conflict in Gaza, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said, Hamas' leadership would be more likely to be convicted than senior leaders of Israel.
"The party guilty of the war crimes here is Hamas for two reasons: The first is deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians. We saw that at the very beginning of the operation. Even this morning [minutes before the ceasefire took effect/, we saw a barrage of rockets being fired into Israel, one of which landed in a Palestinian town. That is how indiscriminate the rocketing is. The more significant war crime, manifested during the operation, was the deliberate use of civilian population," said IDF spokesman Captain Eytan Buchman in an interview. "There is a list of thousands, thousands of Hamas war crimes."
International observers have routinely condemned Hamas' use of human shields, while criticizing Israel for not doing enough to reduce civilian casualties. According to the United Nations, 1814 people were killed in Gaza, with 72% being civilians, before the ceasefire. The Israelis, who lost 64 soldiers and 3 civilians, refute the percentage of Palestinian civilians lost. The IDF alleges to have killed 900 terrorists (about 50%) while hitting 3834 targets in Gaza. This was in retaliation for the 2909 rockets tht Hamas launched into Israel. These numbers are set to rise dramatically now that the Hamas has broken the ceasefire.
"At the end of the day, Hamas does need to be held accountable for the fact it chooses where to wage its wars," Buchman said. "It chooses to wage within Gaza city rather than in the fields around Gaza city. It puts the IDF in a situation where we can either let them continue to exploit the civilian cover, let them continue to wage their operations from behind civilians or you can try to get them."
Israeli leaders, however, are taking the threat of prosecution seriously. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked a congressional delegation visiting Israel to use its political power to fend off any attempt to bring Israeli leaders up on charges before the International Criminal Court, according to comments Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) made to the New York Post.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has launched an investigation. "There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes," said Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
Buchman argued the entire purpose of the IDF's Operation Protective was safety for the Israeli public. He said in the interview that the tunnels, built with $100 million in cement that the international community gave Hamas to build infrastructure for its citizens, could not have been entirely destroyed without the IDF entering Gaza. The destruction of the working tunnels from Gaza into Israel engendered rare unanimity of support from the entire Israel public due to the fear that Hamas would use them to kidnap Israeli soldiers or civilians.