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Why can't everyone condemn Hamas?

Following Hamas' atrocities in Israel, the media are awash with commentary, so I will keep my comments short. I am shocked by the willin...

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Israel IS following rules of war

Widespread claims of war crimes against Israel have been made following Israel's military response to Hamas's unprecedenteed massacre of 1200 Israeli civilians and taking of 250 hostages on Oct 7. Even before Israel had organized any response Israel was being warned by Australia's foreign minister, Penny Wong to 'exercise restraint'. Everyone seems to accept that Israel has a right to self defense but they fall short of allowing Israel to do so unreservedly. Most often they add some qualification, warning Israel to follow the rules of war.  This is despite any evidence of Israel ever having not done so! And adespite Hamas , repeatedly, having broken the rules of war and perpetrating war crimes. 

Few commentators have clarified the rules of war to inform the public.  So any attempt is worth circulating. 
John Spencer is certainly well qualified to assess Israel's compliance with the 'rules of war;. See his bio below.

John Spencer is chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute (MWI) at West Point, codirector of MWI’s Urban Warfare Project and host of the “Urban Warfare Project Podcast.” He served for 25 years as an infantry soldier, which included two combat tours in Iraq. He is the author of the book “Connected Soldiers: Life, Leadership, and Social Connection in Modern War” and co-author of “Understanding Urban Warfare.” 

In his article titled Opinion: I’m an expert in urban warfare. Israel is upholding the laws of war
published on CNN's Website, he covers the core issues.

War Realities:
  • All war involves killing and destruction, with civilians historically suffering the most in conflicts, especially in urban warfare.
  • Urban warfare presents unique challenges, impacting both soldiers and civilians, with noncombatants often constituting the majority of casualties.
  • Approximately 90% of casualties in modern urban wars involve civilians, even when led or supported by Western powers.
War Crimes and Legal Assessments:
  • Destruction and suffering in war don't automatically constitute war crimes; accusations must be assessed based on evidence and armed conflict standards.
  • Hamas violated multiple laws of war, including taking hostages, targeting civilians, and using human shields.
  • Israel's actions are subject to examination based on international humanitarian law principles, including military necessity, proportionality, distinction, humanity, and honour.
International Support for Israel:

President Joe Biden and European countries support Israel's self-defence, recognizing its right to immediate and unilateral self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

Israel's Pledge to International Law:
  • Israel pledged to obey international law, with proportionality as a cornerstone, requiring consideration of civilian harm compared to military advantage.
  • Israel's actions, including targeting a senior Hamas commander, align with military necessity and proportionality principles.
  • IDF implements practices to minimize harm, such as warning civilians before strikes and providing evacuation routes.
Complex Principle of Distinction:
The principle of distinction requires Israel to differentiate between civilians and combatants, aiming to minimize civilian casualties.

Challenges in Urban Warfare:
Emptying a city of civilians before the urban battle is essentially impossible, posing challenges for minimizing harm.

Israel's Efforts and Cooperation:
Israel takes steps to constrain forces, provide safe areas, and cooperate with the US to facilitate humanitarian aid entry into Gaza.

Reality of Pursuing a Terrorist Organization:
Pursuing a terrorist organization in urban areas creates a nightmarish landscape, reminiscent of past campaigns against groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Evidence of Respect for Rules of War:
The visual impact of conflict in Gaza doesn't indicate indiscriminate bombing. Israel's restraint in using full military capacity suggests adherence to rules of war.

Defensive Campaign for Survival:
Israel's actions are framed as a defensive campaign to ensure its survival, challenging the characterization of revenge.

In summary ;

"Like all similar conflicts in modern times, a battle in Gaza will look like the entire city was purposely razed to the ground or indiscriminately carpet-bombed – but it wasn’t. Israel possesses the military capacity to do so, and the fact that it doesn’t employ such means is further evidence that it is respecting the rules of war. It is also a sign that this is not revenge – a gross mischaracterization of Israeli aims – but instead a careful defensive campaign to ensure Israel’s survival."

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