Hamas' War Crimes and Israel's Right to Self-Defense

(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Amb. Alan Baker - The success of Israel's "Iron Dome" anti-missile defense system in reducing the threat of over 4,000 rockets fired by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in May 2021 cannot in any way reduce the extent of the Palestinians' criminal liability for severe war crimes in willfully and deliberately directing massive barrages of missiles toward civilian centers in Israel. The deliberate and cynical use by Hamas and Islamic Jihad of their own civilians as human shields, as well as their use of mosques, hospitals, schools, and private houses as weapons storage facilities and firing platforms, are no less severe war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law. The construction of tactical tunnels beneath urban civilian areas, hospitals, public facilities, and urban roads are also war crimes and grave violations of international humanitarian law. The indiscriminate targeting of Israeli cities and civilians practiced by Hamas violates the rule of distinction in international law, which requires combatants to limit attacks to legitimate military targets. Moreover, advocating a religious holy war aimed at creating a regional Islamic entity encompassing the whole of the territory of Israel appears to contravene the provisions of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention of Genocide. For all such crimes, Hamas and PIJ leaders and commanders are accountable and prosecutable under international law. The writer, former legal counsel and deputy director-general of Israel's foreign ministry, heads the international law program at the Jerusalem Center. This article is part of the forthcoming study - The Gaza War 2021: The Iranian and Hamas Attack on Israel.

2021-06-03 00:00:00

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