Hamas has been stockpiling weapons in civilian homes. This is against international law, but since I'm no great fan of international law I mention it only to note all the media outlets who aren't mentioning it - the folks who cannot formulate a sentence about Israel's policies without telling about whatever Israel is doing which is illegal. Those hypocrites, you know. But I digress.
According to the laws of war, placing military ordinance in civilian settings is forbidden because it erases the line between civilians and soldiers, and since getting at the soldiers so as to kill them is permitted, civilians will inevitably also be killed. Hezbullah, Hamas, and the Fatah-based Palestinian terrorists never put any store in any of that just-war theory or practice, since in their self understanding they are victims, period, and no matter what they do will always be justified. Their useful idiots in the West parrot this alongside them, thus demonstrating their rejection of the noble heritage of the Enlightenment.
The practice has booby-trapped Israel, of course. If we hit the terrorists along with their civilian shields, we're damned for waging war on civilians. If we refrain, so as not to be damned, the terrorists are safe, and sooner or later they'll kill Israelis.
The advance of technology, however, has created new possibilities. In the week of air-attacks, the IDF proved it had excellent intelligence, and in many cases targets hit from the air kept on exploding for a number of minutes after they were hit, as the ordinance stored there exploded. More significant, the IDF has figured out how to separate the civilians from the weapons: call the neighbors and give them ten minutes warning. The numbers prove how efficient this has been: prior to the ground invasion, more than 600 targets had been destroyed, fewer than 500 Palestinians killed, and fewer than 100 of those were civilians even by Palestinian and UN reckoning. Of course, there remain the pictures of civilians surrounded by devastation, but they're alive, and it wasn't Israel that stacked bombs in their cellars.
Apparently, by Friday Israel had made at least 9,000 (nine thousand) such phone calls.
Here's an American website touching upon the same story.
Alongside the thousands of civilians whose lives have been spared there are hundreds, at least, of armed Hamas fighters, the people who put the explosives in the cellars in the first place: by warning their neighbors, Israel has warned them, too, thus giving them the chance to escape and fight another day: say, tonight, or tomorrow, when they'll still be alive to fight the IDF troops, instead of lying dead under the rubble, as would have been possible had we hit their explosive stashes without prior warning, as any normal army wold have done.
So far this post hasn't said anything new: you knew it all already. Well, in my professional life I deal with complex IT systems, and I've given a bit of thought t this issue seen from that perspective:
First, Israel clearly has created a sophisticated GIS (geographic information system). A system that records tens of thousands of buildings, their location, and their distance from each other. Then there's a database with the names of the tens of thousands of families who live in the buildings, and the phone number of each family. The system has the ability to identify all the families and phone numbers that could be affected by an attack on any given building. Finally, given the numbers involved, there must be a system that automatically makes concurrent phone calls to dozens of families, since everybody has to have the same ten-minute warning.
Ah, and someone put tens of thousands of piece of information into that database.
Such a system costs real money, takes time to set up, and since it is obviously operating close to flawlessly, it was tested, fiddled with, tested, fiddled with, and tested again. The purpose, I remind you, is to save the lives of thousands of Palestinians who happen to have murderous neighbors.
From time to time I claim that the IDF is the most moral army in the world. This drives some people bonkers, and they often go ballistic. Alas for them, and fortunately for many Palestinians, it happens to be the simple truth.