An Israeli tactic deemed “ineffective” at preventing civilian causalities by a United Nations commission has now been adopted by the United States in its fight against ISIS, according to a U.S. military official.
Air Force Maj. Peter Gersten, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the U.S.-led coalition, explained at a press briefing Tuesday that the tactic dubbed “knocking on the roof” was, in fact, used during a strike in Mosul, Iraq against a “major distributor of funds to Daesh fighters.” A woman the military had seen come and go with her children from the building died in the strike—”an unfortunality,” as Gersten called it.
“We went as far as actually to put a Hellfire on top of the building and air burst it so it wouldn’t destroy the building, simply knock on the roof to ensure that she and the children were out of the building. And then we proceeded with our operations,” Gersten said. He went on to say that ISIS fighters are “using the civilian force as human shields.” He said that the military saw the woman and children leave the building. They then “began to process the strike,” but the woman ran back into the building and was killed.
As CNN reported in 2014, “The Israeli Air Force developed the technique in 2009 as a way to warn civilians in Gaza to leave buildings it has identified as locations where Hamas keeps ammunition, a rocket stash or command post. But it is a controversial policy that has been criticized by human rights groups.”
The UN estimated that Israeli strikes during the operation killed over 1,400 civilians—69 percent of the Gaza’s causalities. Those casualties included nearly 500 children and over 250 women. Just months after the campaign ended, as the Jerusalem Post reported at the time, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey sent a team of officers to learn tactics from the Israel Defense Forces during the operation. Dempsey made note of “roof knocking” and praised Israel for taking “extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.”
A UN commission report looking into that conflict criticized the tactic.