Intention is important. One can argue whether or not an army deliberately targeting civilians is legitimate in war. The West generally condemns this action as morally wrong. While I am in general agreement with this, one could make an argument that it may be dependant on the choices "enemy" civilians make. But if we accept that intentional targeting of civilians is immoral then those who do so carry the guilt even if they are unsuccessful in their intent. That is, if they miss the target or strike the target but it has been evacuated such that no one is killed, the intent and attempt at civilian death is present. They should be thought of and treated similarly to any other group which accomplishes intentional civilian massacre. The lack of achievement of their goals does not remove their culpability.Addressing civilian deaths in the current conflict,
Both [UN Secretary-General] Ban and the Obama administration took Israel to task for the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza.This is misguided. This is a superficial approach looking at actual deaths and not intent.
Israel targets Hamas rockets thus minimising civilian death of its own population. It also uses various strategies to decrease Palestinian civilian casualties such as warning to stay out on an area, announcing targets ahead of time, using accurate targeting, agreeing to ceasefires for aid.
Hamas policy is to target civilian areas without warning thus attempting to maximise Israeli civilian death. It has also conducted military action in ways that are likely to increase Palestinian civilian casualties or encourage the use of human shields.
The greater number of Palestinian civilian casualties is due to more effective Israeli defence and their greater firepower. Israel is attempting to minimise civilian casualties on both sides and Hamas is attempting to increase civilian casualties on both sides. Ban and the Obama administration's complaints are directed toward the wrong side.