On July 8, the IDF initiated Operation Protective Edge in order to restore security to Israel’s civilian population under constant rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. During the operation, the IDF has struck a number of houses throughout Gaza that were being used for military purposes.
It is essential that those observing and commenting on the military conflict between Israel and Hamas understand that according to the most widely recognized corpus of law governing military conflicts, the use by Hamas of human shields and the placement of their fighters and weapons in residential areas is a flagrant violation of international law.
Hamas conducts its military activities from deep within residential areas in Gaza. By doing so, it exploits the IDF’s desire and efforts to avoid harm to Palestinian Arab civilians. In many cases, Hamas uses its commanders’ own homes, where their families and other civilians may be residing, for military purposes.
Some of these houses are used for weapons storage, command and control centers, or communications.
Watch in this video when after the IDF’s initial strike on a target in a residential area, the explosion is followed by massive secondary blasts. Those “after blasts” reveal that the terrorists in Gaza had stored a large cache of weapons right next to homes of ordinary Gazan civilians.
The IDF aims its attacks against legitimate military targets as defined under the relevant rules of international law.
For example, Article 58 of the Fourth Geneva Convention requires that combatants “endeavour to remove the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military objects” and “avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.”
And Article 51 provides even more authority proving the terrorists in Gaza are the ones in this conflict who are violating international law, not the Israel Defense Force:
The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.
While neither Israel or Hamas are signatories to the Geneva Conventions, that has never stopped Israel’s critics from excoriating the Jewish State for its alleged violations of that military and legal set of rules.
In order to accurately determine military targets, the IDF employs advanced methods, including multiple levels of intelligence, the provision of legal advice, and extensive prior training provided to operational commanders.
Even when a house is considered a lawful military target, the IDF makes great efforts to minimize potential harm to the surrounding civilian population. For example, the IDF may use real-time visual coverage in order to assess the civilian presence at a target. The IDF also carefully chooses weaponry and ammunition that will help to minimize any harm to civilians. In certain instances, the IDF also provides advance warning before striking a target.
Many of the IDF’s efforts in this regard go beyond its legal obligations and the accepted practice of other militaries operating in urban areas. Hamas, however, exploits these humanitarian attempts by the IDF to provide advance warning by using civilians as human shields in order to deter attacks.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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