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U.S. Military Chief Defends Israeli Efforts to Limit Gaza Deaths

Dempsey: IDF went to ‘extraordinary lengths’ to avoid civilian casualties

Stephanie Butnick
November 07, 2014
Israeli soldiers return from Gaza on August 3, 2014. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers return from Gaza on August 3, 2014. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

Amid continued criticism of Israel’s tactics during this summer’s Gaza operation, in which more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, the U.S.’s highest-ranking military official defended Israel’s efforts to contain the number of Palestinian civilians killed during the 50-day war. Reuters reports that Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “I actually do think that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.”

“In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticized for civilian casualties,” he said during an event this week at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

Dempsey’s statement follows several high-profile denouncements of Israel’s military actions during the war. A Human Rights Watch report accused Israel of war crimes following three Israeli air strikes in and around U.N. facilities in Gaza, a sentiment echoed by U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

According to Reuters, Dempsey even said the U.S. was trying to glean tips from Israel’s handling of the operation: “Dempsey said the Pentagon three months ago sent a ‘lessons-learned team’ of senior officers and non-commissioned officers to work with the IDF to see what could be learned from the Gaza operation, ‘to include the measures they took to prevent civilian casualties and what they did with tunneling.’”

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.