Senior IDF Spokesperson's Unit official: Hamas landed knockout PR blow
2 days after Gaza border protests exact highest Palestinian death toll since Protective Edge, senior IDF officer admits Israel's failure in allowing Hamas to set world narrative; officer, tasked with working with foreign press, adds 'Hamas wanted as many Palestinians killed as possible, photos of hospitals buckling under pressure.'
While Hamas has admitted that most of the Palestinians killed in Gaza border riots Monday belonged to its ranks, the IDF conceded it did not intended to kill all of them, saying, "Some of it is our fault, for not being able to communicate what we were defending."
"The decisive image was attained by the Palestinians in a knockout, and it was a graphic image," Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus, a senior officer in the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, said Wednesday.
Lt.-Col. Conricus, who heads the International Media Branch at the Spokesperson's Unit, spoke to members of American Jewish communities in the US and said, "The amount of people hit did us an immense wrong. It was a difficult story to tell."
The officer's conversation with American Jews came in the wake of intense riots throughout the week near the Gaza border, in which 61 Palestinians were killed and some 1,200 wounded.
While the IDF unequivocally succeeded operationally in preventing a mass crossing into Israel, it suffered something of a PR failure in allowing Hamas to set the narrative in world media—according to which Israel was guilty of a "bloodbath" and "carnage."
"Hamas wanted as many people killed on the Palestinian side as possible," the senior officer said, "as well as photos of hospitals buckling under the pressure, and they had no qualms about sending human shields to the forefront."
"When the dilemma was to defend the Israeli border and our communities near the border on the one hand, or allow rioters to cross over and only have a small number of Palestinian casualties—there was no dilemma at all for soldiers and commanders," he stated.
Conricus said the IDF tried to be as precise and judicious as possible in its use of force, only using sniper rifles loaded with NATO-recognized ammunition. He claimed, "We tried to minimize Palestinian casualties. Did we succeed? Unfortunately not. Were there mistakes? Did bullets miss their marks and hit others? Of course there were, but it's incredibly chaotic near the border.
"There's tear gas, smoke billowing from tires, shouting, loudspeakers and sirens and mostly thousands of rioters trying to dismantle the fence and lobbing grenades and Molotov cocktails."
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit provided an official statement in response, saying only part of Conricus's words were quoted and the quotes were then taken out of context, with the "wider context of his words distorted."
Furthermore, the IDF said, his words did not reflect the spirit of the discourse or the army's stances. It was a "conversation with heads of US Jewish communities, as part of the IDF Spokesperson's Unit attempted calls to action given the world over."
Nevertheless, the IDF disseminated photos of armed terrorists coming up to the border and attacking soldiers on a 24 hour delay, and footage of Palestinian women and children placed at the front of conflagration points was also late coming.
Moreover, press crews—both Israeli and foreign—covering the events on the Israeli side were moved away from the fence and reported from a position preordained by the IDF, which was several kilometers from the fence, meaning they never got a close look at security forces' conduct or the masses of civilians sent by Hamas to clash with them.
Hamas official: 50 of 61 Palestinians killed belonged to HamasOn a related matter, senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil told Palestinian media Wednesday that 50 of the Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip border riots Monday belonged to the terror group's ranks. He spoke in an interview to Baladna TV, a private Palestinian news outlet.
In light of the calm achieved in the area, the IDF has decided to thin out some of the reinforcements it had brought in to assist the Gaza Division this past week.
Israeli assessments now say border confrontations will decrease over the coming days, but smaller reinforcements will nevertheless remain near the border throughout the weekend.
Earlier Wednesday, it was revealed that Hamas refused to allow two IDF Technological and Logistics Directorate trucks bearing hundreds of lifesaving medical equipment items to enter Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing.
The trucks thus returned to Israel, while six other trucks with similar medical equipment sent by UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) and the Palestinian Authority were allowed to enter.
The Israeli medical equipment was intended to assist hospitals in the strip—caught wholly unprepared to handle the throngs of people being brought in from the riots—to cope with the situation.