Targeted Killings: Are They Effective?

Over the past two weeks, six IDF helicopter strikes have eliminated 11 Hamas leaders in Gaza.  The latest hit, on Monday (Sept. 1), killed Khader al-Husari, a senior Hamas operative who was at that very moment transferring weapons to be used in attacks against Israel.  The al-Husari strike was the latest application of what Israeli Defense Minister Mofaz has termed “a new chapter” in Israel’s battle against the terrorist organizations: “Since the Palestinian Authority is not acting against these organizations, we will take care of them.”

As frequently noted by HonestReporting, the media regularly construct a gross moral equivalence between these IDF missile strikes and Palestinian terrorists’ indiscriminate murders of Israeli civilians ? the media’s “cycle of violence.”  As a result, IDF strikes are presented as not only unjustified, but also ineffective in achieving their desired goal.

But in fact, recent events indicate that just the opposite is true ? the targeted killings are working. Here’s a summary of their recent effectiveness:

1) Deterrence: Hamas terrorists are now in hiding, rather than openly organizing more bombings of Israeli buses and restaurants. Hamas has released a statement to its members, urging them to turn off cellular phones, stay home, and never travel together. They are even encouraged to wear disguises, since, as the directive states, “you do not know who is following you. It could be the store owner, or your neighbor, or someone in a car.”

2) Requesting another hudna: Over the last few days, Hamas leaders have sent messages to both the PA and Egypt in an effort to revive the hudna (tactical cease-fire). Apparently, only when the terrorists are feeling the heat personally do they weigh the cost of their ongoing terror against Israelis.

3) Separation from PA: Hamas is convinced that the Palestinian Authority assisted Israel in the recent wave of targeted killings – as one Hamas leader said, “It is clear to us that no one in Ramallah [PA headquarters] is crying over what happened in Gaza.”  The targeted killings therefore drive a wedge between Hamas and the PA, which is precisely what is called for in the road map as a positive step toward regional peace.

4) Collateral damage minimized: The unfortunate downside of the targeted killings is the loss of innocent lives, but IDF technology is becoming incredibly sophisticated in order to lessen injury to Palestinian civilians.  Collaborators now dab the terrorists’ vehicles with an invisible dye that is detected by sensors on Israeli helicopters.  The IDF recently stopped using an American missile that caused excessive damage; cameras on the tips of the new, Israeli missiles allow for “real-time” aiming.  As an IDF insider said, “‘We can abort up to a couple seconds before impact. On occasion the terrorist’s face shows up on camera for final confirmation.”

5) Dispelling the great Palestinian illusion: Finally, the targeted killings allow both peoples to pursue a true, lasting peace on the diplomatic level.  As analyst Yisrael Neeman writes, “There are those who claim there is no military solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. There is no exclusively political solution either, but rather a combination of the two. Terror must be defeated and afterwards the political solution can be worked out. Only then will the illusion of defeating Israel disappear, allowing for the Palestinians to negotiate in good faith.”

Yet despite the clear strategic and diplomatic effectiveness of the targeted killings, Associated Press‘ recent assessment (Sept. 2) focused almost entirely on criticism of the approach. The AP title: “Critics: Israeli Strikes Doing More Harm.”

The article quotes six pro-Palestinian spokespersons (and only one pro-Israeli) to repeatedly drive home its point: the IDF anti-terrorist strikes are “counterproductive,” “extremely dangerous,” “provoke more attacks,” “add to resentment among Palestinians,” “escalate [terrorist] responses,” and are a mere “aspirin to cancer.”

Given our five points above, why is the AP article so one-sided in criticizing the targeted killings?

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Michael Eisenstadt of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy summarizes well Israel’s justification for targeted killings:

“Were Israel to use massive force to snatch ‘wanted men,’ the result would undoubtedly be heavy casualties on both sides ? but especially on the Palestinian side. Alternatively, relying only on arrests and passive defensive measures would likely lead to more mass casualty attacks in Israel…Israel’s current approach ? which employs “targeted killings” as part of a comprehensive approach to fighting terror ? has proven reasonably effective, averts escalation, and compared to other options available, entails fewer risks to innocent civilians. For this reason, as long as the PA is not fulfilling its obligation to arrest Palestinians involved in attacks on Israeli civilians, Israel will likely feel compelled to continue such activities.”


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