For 14 years, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations have
targeted Israeli civilians with over 15,000 rocket and mortar attacks.
Israel witnessed a number of escalations in the month prior to Operation Protective Edge
with more than 300 rockets fired on southern Israel in the two weeks
preceding the operation. The latest round of rocket fire from the Gaza
Strip began on 12 June, the day that three Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered
. The rocket attacks reached a peak on Monday July 7, when over 80 rockets were launched at Israeli cities.
Israel showed great restraint and called for the cessation of the
rocket attacks, Hamas continued to fire them intentionally upon Israeli
towns and cities around the country. During the past month, Hamas' and
other Jihadi groups' rockets have reached Israel's largest cities
including Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Israel's capital, Jerusalem. To date, the
vast majority of Israeli civilians, over 6 million civilians, live in
the range of these deadly weapons, which cause deaths, injuries, and
extensive property damage; force businesses and schools to close; and
take a very costly psychological toll on Israeli society.
has both the responsibility and the right under international law - as
does every state - to defend its civilians from intentional and
Although Hamas and these other Jihadi
organizations blatantly disregard international humanitarian law (also
known as the laws of armed conflict), Israel is bound by these laws and,
thus, committed to limiting itself to a lawful response. This means
that, while Hamas uses civilians both as human shields and as targets,
Israel never targets civilians directly, and in all circumstances and
seeks to limit injury to civilians to the greatest extent possible.
law recognizes that civilian casualties and injuries are an unfortunate
outcome even in lawful military attacks. However, in order to minimize
the damage to the civil population and to protect it as much as
possible, international humanitarian law requires each party to
the armed conflict to abide to the fundamental and customary principles
of "distinction", "proportionality", "humanity" and "precaution".
The principle of "distinction" mandates that each party must ensure
that it directs its attacks only against combatants and military
objectives and abstain in all circumstances from targeting civilians or
civilian objectives. Military objectives are those which by their
nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to
military action and whose total or partial destruction offers a definite
The rule of distinction further mandates
that the parties to the conflict refrain from placing military
objectives within or near densely populated areas. If a military
objective, such as a missile launcher or weapons stockpile, is placed in
the heart of a civilian area, it does not cease being a lawful military
objective. The primary responsibility for civilian causalities arising
from such 'shielding' of military objects lies with the party that
deliberately placed civilians at risk.
- Proportionality: International humanitarian
law also requires that any military attack be "proportionate" in the
sense that expected collateral damage to civilians or civilian objects
must not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated
to be achieved as a result of such attack. Note that the test of
proportionality does not consider the actual results of the attack after
the fact; rather, it is a test that looks at expected (not actual)
results, given the anticipated objectives, prior to the execution of the
attack. This is a complex and difficult calculation and international
law relies on the commander in the field in the heat of the conflict to
weigh all relevant considerations, including the security of his own
Israel fully complies with these principles and has
consistently integrated them into its military orders, training, and
- Humanity: Another important principle of
the laws of armed conflict is that of "humanity" which requires the
parties to the conflict both to abstain from inflicting unnecessary
suffering and harm to combatants (through the use of certain weapons)
and to ensure the supply of humanitarian aid to the civilian population.
Yet another principle is that of "precaution", which requires the
attacking party to verify the military character of its targets and to
give prior warnings, to the extent possible, to civilians in the
vicinity of that target.
In its military attacks against Hamas and
other Jihadi groups, Israel is doing everything in its power to adhere
to these principles and thus minimize harm to the civilian population:
Israeli troops use the most sophisticated weapons available today in
order to pinpoint and target only legitimate military objectives and
minimize collateral damage to civilians; advance notice is given to the
civilian population located in the vicinity of military targets; attacks
are called off in cases in which a sudden civilian movement in the
targeted area; and humanitarian aid continues to flow on a regular and
daily basis to the Gaza Strip.
Israel acknowledges that despite
the precautions taken, military operations inevitably lead to a loss of
civilian life and property. Yet civilian deaths and damage to
property, no matter how regrettable and unfortunate, do not necessarily
mean that violations of international law as such have occurred.
In contrast, Hamas
and other terrorist organizations' actions are in clear violation of
the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.
Hamas and the other terrorist groups working out of the Gaza Strip directly target civilians and civil property within the State of Israel.
At the same time they put their own civilian population in Gaza in grave danger
by launching attacks deep within densely populated areas; by using human shields
; and by commandeering sensitive sites such as hospitals
and private homes to serve as command centers and for weapons' stocking and for other terrorist usages. These grave violations amount to war crimes.
Indeed, a cornerstone of Hamas' and other terrorist groups in Gaza's approach is to take advantage of the fact that Israel, as a democratic state, is bound by international law
and to use this fact to their own tactical and military advantage. This
approach undermines the very effectiveness of the laws of armed