IDF soldiers in Jenin
IDF soldiers in JeninIDF Spokesperson

Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of the British military forces in Afghanistan, spoke to Israel National News - Arutz Sheva on Sunday about Operation Home and Garden and the condemnation Israel has received internationally over the operation in Jenin despite the military action resulting in no civilian fatalities.

According to Col. Kemp, the complete avoidance of civilian fatalities over two days in Jenin constitutes a "remarkable achievement by the IDF," which is "probably unprecedented in modern warfare."

"To conduct an operation of such intensity in an urban area without killing any uninvolved civilians at all is a remarkable achievement by the IDF and probably unprecedented in modern warfare. Casualty ratios in most such operations have often been 3 to 5 civilians killed for every fighter, and that is by Western armies that do their best to avoid civilian casualties and adhere to the laws of war," he explained, adding: "I doubt any other army in the world would be able to achieve what the IDF did in Jenin."

Col. Kemp noted that avoiding civilian casualties in a terrorist stronghold such as Jenin "is even more remarkable given that the terrorists in Jenin hid behind the civilian population, used human shields and deliberately tried to lure the IDF into killing civilians in order to attract world condemnation."

Not everyone agrees with Col. Kemp's assessment of the IDF's performance last week. One such critic of the operation is UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who told reporters at the UN that Israel used “excessive force” in Jenin and that "the use of air strikes is inconsistent with the conduct of law enforcement operations."

To this, Col. Kemp responded: "Guterres is wrong to accuse the IDF of using disproportionate force as the facts very clearly show. Proportionality in warfare only refers to the killing and wounding of innocent civilians in relation to the military objective. No innocent civilians were killed. We don’t know how many uninvolved civilians were wounded by IDF fire, but the death rate strongly indicates that IDF action was the opposite of disproportionate."

"Guterres is also wrong to say that the use of air strikes is inconsistent with this type of operation. This was not what Guterres might see as a traditional law enforcement operation. Jenin was a war zone full of terrorists heavily equipped with arms and explosives, many supplied by Iran to kill Israelis. The IDF chose to use drone strikes because they calculated that this would be the most effective way of dealing with the threat while minimizing civilian casualties, and again, in this case, the facts proved them right and Guterres wrong," he said.

Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff, the European Union (EU) representative to Palestinian Authority-assigned territories, went even further than the UN Secretary-General, calling the operation a "violation of international law." Like Guterres, Burgsdorff also criticized the choice of weaponry the IDF used in Jenin, saying that "We are concerned about the deployment of weaponry and weapons systems which question the proportionality of the military during the operation."

In response to Burgsdorff's accusation, Col. Kemp said: "Burgdsdorff needs to explain which international laws were violated by the IDF. The IDF used no weapons or tactics in Jenin that are banned under international law. Nor is it against international law for a country to use force to protect its citizens from a violent threat which has seen many Israelis murdered in recent months, provided that force is proportionate, which in this case it very clearly was by any calculation."

When asked why Guterres and Burgsdorff would make such criticisms despite the stunning lack of civilian fatalities, Dol. Kemp explained: "Israel’s critics will condemn Israel, whatever it does to protect its citizens. This criticism is not about Israel’s military action but about Israel’s right to operate in Judea and Samaria at all. These people have bought into the propaganda campaign that says Israel is illegally occupying this territory which is not the case. This is Israeli sovereign territory that is disputed. Until and unless that dispute is resolved, Israel is obliged to exercise law enforcement in these areas because the Palestinian Authority security forces, which are supposed to deal with these threats, will not or can not do so despite millions of dollars invested in them. Israel does not just have the right to act with force to protect its citizens, it has a duty to do so, as would every other country in the world. All of these accusations against Israel show the double standards that are consistently applied."

"International leaders like Guterres and Burgdsdorff need to be more careful about what they say as false and unjust comments such as the ones they have made against the IDF in Jenin incite violence against Israelis and Jews around the world. They also encourage Palestinian terrorists and their Iranian sponsors who can see that their tactics intended to vilify and isolate Israel are working," he concluded.