Israel: Guilty of War Crimes?

Manal Tellawi makes the case, but others say Hamas is to blame

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 4, 2014 6:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Israel's attack on Gaza—which has reportedly killed more than 1,500 civilians—was indeed a war crime that flagrantly violated rules of international law, writes Manal Tellawi at Salon. Three of his main arguments:

  • While Article 51 of the UN Charter allows for self-defense, Israel can't make that case regarding an occupied territory. Israel's supporters say the country doesn't occupy Gaza—it pulled out 8,000 settlers in 2005—but Tellawi notes that Israel "maintains control over its borders, water sources, electricity, [and] population registry."
  • A protocol of International Humanitarian Law states that a military can only fire on military targets, or occasionally civilian establishments being used by the military. "In violation of this article," Israel has attacked churches, mosques, homes, and residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, "one of the most densely populated places on Earth."
  • As per a Geneva Convention protocol, warnings to civilians "must be clear, credible and allow [a] reasonable amount of time," writes Tellawi, but witnesses to one Gaza attack say people who fled were at times arrested or blocked by IDF tanks.

Among those who disagree are Israel's former UN ambassador Dore Gold, who argues in the LA Times that the Shajaiya neighborhood targeted by the IDF is full of underground bunkers and tunnels that "allow Hamas to cross under the border fence and penetrate Israeli territory to carry out attacks on civilians." Meanwhile, human-rights defenders are gathering information in Gaza for a possible war-crimes case at the International Criminal Court—but the US and Israel will oppose such a move, and the AP notes that if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas makes the case, he could "expose Hamas ... to the same charges."

An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour, Friday, July 25, 2014, of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza Border.
An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour, Friday, July 25, 2014, of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza Border.   (AP Photo/Jack Guez, Pool)
A Palestinian woman passes by rescuers inspecting the rubble of destroyed houses following Israeli strikes in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014.
A Palestinian woman passes by rescuers inspecting the rubble of destroyed houses following Israeli strikes in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014.   (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
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