Gaza Conflict 2021 Assessment: Observations and Lessons

As retired U.S. generals, admirals, and military legal experts, we undertook this study of the May 2021 armed conflict between Israel and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the Gaza Strip to glean legal, strategic, operational, and technological observations about the challenges confronting Israel today and that the United States could face in the future.

Perhaps the most telling feature of the Gaza conflict was the strategy mismatch between Israel’s purely military and operational objectives to degrade Hamas’ military capabilities— assisted by impressive advances in identifying and precisely striking targets—and Hamas’ information-based strategic objectives of delegitimizing the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in global opinion and degrading the IDF’s operational advantage.

Our consensus judgment is that IDF military operations complied with Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and consistently implemented precautions to mitigate civilian risk, some exceeding those implemented in recent U.S. combat operations that we participated in, despite confronting an adversary that often sought to exacerbate that risk deliberately.

Learning from Israel’s experience, the United States should prepare to face future adversaries, from loosely organized terrorist groups to conventional armed forces, that willingly put civilians at risk and blame the other side for it.

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Click here to read the report.

Gaza Task Force

GEN David Rodriguez, USA (ret.)
Former Commander of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)
Gen Charles Wald, USAF (ret.)
Former Deputy Commander of United States European Command (EUCOM)
LTG Robert Ashley, USA (ret.)
Former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
LTG John M. Bednarek, USA (ret.)
Former Senior Defense Official in Iraq; former Chief of Office of Security Cooperation in Baghdad
Lt Gen Jon Davis, USMC (ret.)
Former Deputy Commandant for Aviation
LTG Karen Gibson, USA (ret.)
Former Deputy Director for National Intelligence for National Security Partnerships
LTG Stephen Lanza, USA (ret.)
Former Commanding General of I Corps and Joint Base Lewis McChord
Lt Gen Richard Natonski, USMC (ret.)
Former Commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command
LTG Raymond Palumbo, USA (ret.)
Former Deputy Commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command
Lt Gen Thomas Trask, USAF (ret.)
Former Vice Commander of United States Special Operations Command
RADM Brian Losey, USN (ret.)
Former Commander of Naval Special Warfare Command
LTC Geoffrey S. Corn, USA (ret.)
Former Senior Law of War Expert Advisor for U.S. Army

JINSA Staff Contributors
Blaise Misztal – Vice President for Policy
Jonathan Ruhe – Director of Foreign Policy
Ari Cicurel – Senior Policy Analyst
Erielle Davidson – Senior Policy Analyst
Andrew Ghalili – Senior Policy Analyst
Abraham Katsman – Fellow, Gemunder Center for Defense & Strategy
Samuel Millner – Policy Analyst