I read the HRW report, and the big problem with it is that there is a total lack of information on their methodology and sources. Just flat assertions.
Given how incredibly wrong many of these types of organizations have been throughout this crisis, and given the incredible amount of dishonesty about what happened by the Palestinians, it really makes you question the accuracy of some of the conclusions.
Palestinians have been repeatedly caught lately ‘staging’ scenes of atrocities. There are reports that they are moving a handful of bodies around as they show investigators different areas, in order to make the attack look more horrific. Apparently, there was even a funeral procession in which the corpse was accidentally dropped - and jumped up and ran away.
Going into an area of heavy military action and trying to figure out what happened when the people who were there are actively feeding you disinformation is incredibly difficult. I’m not saying the reports are false, but simply that I would need to see their evidence rather than just their conclusions. If the ‘evidence’ is what some Palestinian told them, then I would discount it out of hand as the Palestinians have been proven to be completely untrustworthy.
And some of the claims just ring false to me. Like the one about the woman who was killed by an explosion after, apparently, Israeli soldiers planted a bomb in front of her door, rang the doorbell, and ran away. That just doesn’t sound like something the IDF would do. I find it more likely that the door was probably being wired to be blown open, the woman heard heard the activity, and came for to the door, which was blown as she was opening it. Something like that. A tragic accident.
For another example, I read one report which claimed that a man who laid down on the ground and put his hands over his head was shot dead for no reason by IDF forces. But then I read an interview with one of the soldiers who was there, and he said that what happened was that a man started crawling toward the soldiers, was ordered to stop, and continued crawling towards them. When he reached the point where explosives on his body could threaten the soldiers, they shot him dead.
It’s also important to remember a few other things. First, Israel could have flattened Jenin by air without losing a single soldier. Instead, they sent soldiers in to conduct a surgical operation without causing unnecessary civilian casualties.
Second, it’s important to remember that it can be almost impossible to tell who’s a combatant and who isn’t. I just read an interview with a 14 year old Palestinian boy who was bragging that his gang of kids aged between 10 and 15 were given a stockpile of pipe bombs and threw them at Israeli soldiers from windows. Any ‘civilian’, even if it appears that he is unarmed, can be a suicide bomber. In such an environment, mistakes are bound to be made.
Finally, according to HRW only 21 civilians were killed. That is an *astoundingly low number of civilian deaths for this type of military operation. More Israeli soldiers were killed than that. That tells me that Israeli at least tried to go to incredible lengths to minimize civilian casualties. I’m actually shocked that they managed to capture something like 1500 people and destroy the terrorist infrastructure in a crowded, heavily built-up area while only killing 21 non-combatants.
I believe HRW tries to be somewhat fair, but a perusal of their web site turns up an amazing amount of criticism about Israel, including things like educational standards and whether or not Arab children are treated as equals. Given that Israel is a democracy, there seems to be a disproportionate number of anti-Israel reports.