Israel’s Crimes in the Context of the International Humanitarian Law


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For an Israeli official or journalist, the question, ‘Why do you bomb and kill the residents in Gaza Strip?’ is an easy question to answer. The official or journalist asked would only have to confidently say, ‘The terrorist group Hamas is mainly responsible for this. They are the ones who hide behind civilians using them as human shields.’ We have heard this justification even in the cases of bombing UN facilities and bases, as well as protected objects, such as hospitals, schools, mosques, and churches. Thanks to the vastly powerful Zionist media machine, both in written and audio/video media, this proclamation is now basically a given for many in the West amid a gaping negligence when it comes to debunking those claims, specifically in English. This also applies to targeting the houses of the Palestinian Resistance’s leaders, as Israeli officials and media figures have continuously asserted the idea that those targets are legitimate targets, to the point that this has become an almost indisputable fact for a wide segment of the Arab and Western world. There is also the bizarre dazzlement at the warnings Israel send before bombardments and destruction operations that even Israel itself seems to brag about this behavior in the investigations they release after their wars.
Civilians and the fallacy of human shields
The armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Resistance, a spectrum that includes Hamas and other factions, is governed by the customary international humanitarian law which is binding to all parties. In addition, Article 3 of Geneva Conventions of 1949 applies to the Palestinian conflict, as well as the rules of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 that tackles occupied territories. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume that Israel’s narrative, that Hamas uses civilians as human shields, is a truth, this doesn’t relieve Israel of its legal responsibilities, and doesn’t make the existence of an individual, or several, in a certain area a sound justification for Israel to exterminate them with their families, or target civilian residents in that area to kill them all. As such, Israel needs to establish, with proofs, reasons for why it has targeted schools, hospitals, or residential houses.
While the international law does indeed prohibit the use of civilians as human shields, and a form of which is taking control of an area and forcing residents to stay there (it hasn’t been proven that the Palestinian Resistance has done that either). Consequently, Israel is burdened with justifying its attacks, rather than the opposite. If Israel’s claims were true, it would have to distinguish in its attacks between civilians and military individuals. Secondly, Israel has to consider the principle of proportionality where it is the belligerent’s responsibility to cancel or suspend the attack if the damage was too excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage. According to International Committee of the Red Cross in this regard, civilians must be protected and civilian objects must be avoided during acts of war. This entails that military necessity is subject to the customary rules pertaining to it. Otherwise, if we were to indulge the Israeli logic that all targets that potentially pose a military threat that is yet to be established must be killed and destroyed, this would constitute a complete disregard for the most prominent principles of the international humanitarian law, not to mention a barbarian justification for killing and destruction.
Nonetheless, all indicators point that Israel does deliberately target civilians, rather than incidentally as many claims, meaning that it is a deliberate and indiscriminate killing and destruction at the same time. In most of the attacks that resulted in civilian deaths, there hasn’t been, to this moment, any solid evidence that proves the existence of forces, or even weapons, for the Palestinian Resistance in that area before or during the attack. Additionally, women and children make up 34% of all deaths (the overall death toll is estimated, at the moment, at approximately 1,850, including 390 children and 210 women), and 47% of the wounded (about 10,000, including 2,830 children and 1,940 women). These figures, released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, cover the period from the 8th of last July to August 4. Israel might have targeted, in its attacks, sites and weapons for the Resistance near residential places, but this high percentage of children and women victims, both deaths and injuries, is a glaring evidence that civilians were deliberately targeted.

This article was published by the New Arab Journal

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