More than 14 million civilians were killed during World War II, excluding the millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust. Nazis bombed and pillaged through most of Europe and dropped thousands of bombs in civilian areas in the United Kingdom. Allied bombers were responsible for untold numbers of civilian deaths. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted after the war, 75 years ago, to prevent the intentional killing of civilians during war. Now, Hamas terrorists violate the rules of war by sacrificing their own civilians, using them as human shields.
The Israel Defense Forces follow specific rules of engagement in their battle with Hamas and other terrorists to avoid civilian casualties—a challenge made almost impossible as terrorist infrastructure is embedded in and under residential buildings, schools, mosques and hospitals—all protected by international law. International humanitarian law is being used to subvert the Jewish state’s defense against terrorists seeking to destroy Israel and murder Jews.
International humanitarian law
The governing principles of proportionality, distinction, necessity and humanity constitute the tenets of the rules of warfare. These are key phrases that are regularly manipulated by opponents of Israel and misunderstood by Americans who do not have a detailed understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law published a fact sheet: International Humanitarian Law in Asymmetric Warfare.
The concept of proportionality is often wielded as a weapon against Israel. “Proportionality under international law is not tit for tat.” It bans excessive loss of civilian lives in attacks against military targets. It does not mean that the IDF is using disproportionate force if more Palestinian civilians die than Israelis.
The principle also “does not prohibit attacks resulting in the incidental loss of civilian life infrastructure, often referred to as ‘collateral damage.’ Proportionality refers only to the relationship between the military advantage gained in a strike and the expected collateral harm to non-military targets it causes. The attackers must also take precautions to minimize collateral damage.”
The IDF regularly warns Palestinians ahead of attacks, using phone calls, text messages and leaflet drops. White House National Security Council spokesperson and retired Rear Adm. John Kirby stated: “I don’t know that the U.S. would go so far as telegraphing its punches” to its enemies. Retired British Col. Richard Kemp concurs: “Never in the history of warfare has an army phoned its enemy and told them where they are going to drop their bombs.”
The principle of distinction requires the targeting only of combatants—not civilians—and the separation of armed forces from civilian areas. By placing terror tunnels under apartment buildings, storing weapons in U.N. schools and hiding terrorists in hospitals, international law allows the IDF to take action against Hamas in these locations since they are considered military sites. Also, the principle of necessity allows for attacks against military targets, even if civilians are likely to be harmed.
If Hamas fighters wore uniforms and separated themselves from civilians like Israel does, then the likelihood of Palestinian civilian casualties would decrease dramatically. Hamas leaders know that if its terrorist bases were in open areas located away from cities, it would be much easier for the IDF to respond to attacks. Hamas terrorists also recognize that the world’s perception of Israel will be damaged if it inflicts mass suffering on Palestinian civilians.
Hamas also violates the principle of distinction by intentionally targeting civilians. This was laid bare in the Oct. 7 atrocities committed against Israeli civilians and the thousands of rockets it continues to intentionally launch at Israeli cities.
Hamas Lt. Col. Ahmed Kahlot is the director of a Gaza hospital. He has been a Hamas member for 13 years. The Gaza hospital employed 16 Hamas terrorists—doctors, nurses and paramedics. Several Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists also have been employed at the Jabaliya hospital. The director admitted that Hamas directed terrorist operations from its offices inside the hospital and that the terrorist group operates its own fleet of private ambulances that are used for its mission.
Kahlot describes how Hamas takes advantage of medical facilities: “Hamas brought a kidnapped soldier to the hospital. There is a designated space for interrogations, internal security and special security. They all have private phone lines within the hospital. They hide in hospitals because they believe that hospitals are a safe place. They will not be harmed if they are inside a hospital.”
IDF International Spokesman Maj. Doron Spielman: “The IDF is a moral group of people, and it’s not perfect because this is war. But this is what makes us a Jewish army. It’s trying to balance those things at once. That’s how we are different from the people we are fighting.” Hamas is the polar opposite: “Anyone who dies, but them, is good. An Israeli dies, they celebrate. A Gazan dies, they celebrate.”
Col. Richard Kemp: ‘IDF is the most moral army’
The following are statements made by retired 30-year British veteran Col. Richard Kemp. He commanded U.K. forces in Afghanistan and also served in Bosnia, Iraq, Macedonia and Northern Ireland. He recently visited Israel during Chanukah and was embedded with the IDF troops in Gaza.
The IDF is the most moral army in the history of warfare and has done more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.
I spoke to many Israeli soldiers in Gaza and saw some of them in action. What I found deeply impressed me. The standards of professionalism and battle discipline of these young conscripts are remarkable, especially when you consider that most are straight out of high school.
In almost every alleyway and every other house in Shijaia, the IDF has found explosives, weapons and booby traps, not to mention terror tunnel entrances. I entered one partly destroyed house and saw boxes of Iranian-supplied hand grenades that had been stored in a child’s bedroom.
Hamas wants to maximize the death of its civilian population. The purpose is to get the international community, the United Nations, the United States and other governments around the world to condemn Israel, to vilify Israel, to delegitimize Israel and to undermine the Jewish state in that way.
The protests around the world are designed to intimidate Jews. That’s their purpose. They want to cow the Jewish community in our countries to abrogate any support for Israel.
I told the U.N. Human Rights Council that the Hamas objective is to slaughter and kidnap Israeli civilians. Hamas is the only army in history to deliberately incite its enemy to kill its own people. The United Nations has played straight into the hands of Hamas. The UNHRC has failed to condemn the oppressor of the Palestinian people: Hamas.
When I hear some of the lies, the propaganda and the malice that’s churned out in the international media, universities, high schools and so-called “human rights” groups, I know it’s wrong. I know it’s wrong what’s being said in relation to the IDF.
Points to consider:
- Hamas intentionally commits war crimes; its supporters ignore this fact.
Hamas terrorists target Israeli civilians and celebrate the deaths of Palestinian civilians: this is their official government policy. Hamas intentionally commits war crimes by using civilian infrastructure for military purposes, launching attacks from populated areas and employing tactics that put Palestinian civilians at risk. The actions of Hamas should bring condemnation from countries, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations. Protestors against the war should be laying the blame at the feet of Hamas. Instead, many deny and whitewash the Oct. 7 atrocities because they serve their purpose of harming the Jewish state. The deliberate use of civilians to protect terrorist sites and the targeting of Israeli civilians are clear violations of international law.
- Israel does NOT intentionally target civilians. Hamas does.
Every loss of civilian life is tragic. In Judaism, whoever destroys a single life is considered to have destroyed a whole world. This sanctity of life contributes to the IDF’s ethical code. The Israeli military makes every effort to minimize harm to non-combatants. The IDF directs its actions at legitimate military targets, including Hamas fighters and terrorist infrastructure. When mistakes are made, allegations are seriously investigated. Soldiers are reprimanded or charged if they are found to have acted wrongly.