And before anyone gets all bouncy about being called a dummy, I consider myself to be a dummy, especially in this regard, International Law has never been my strong suite. So I went digging and downloading, and poring over a document as only an engineer can. Its a curse our breed lives with, the compulsion to analyse a document with a view to building a mental picture of what the writers tried to envisage. Admittedly I have a few modules of a law degree under my belt, the result of youthful ignorance on my part, case law bored the hell out of me, and engineering actually makes sense, whereas the law at times is an ass. One of the modules I completed was “The Interpretation of Statutes”, so I can fumble my way through a legal document.
So I found a scanned copy of an original document written by a team of legal boffins headed by one Jean S. Pictet, a Doctor of Law, who held the title of Director For General Affairs of the ICRC. And I found a more user friendly version also in PDF format. Only 600 pages, quick read, shorter than War and Peace. I also located a website with a full version available online.
After all the hullabaloo by the UNHRC that Israel “may have committed war-crimes” (paraphrased) I found it interesting to note that quite often the treatment of Jews by the Nazis during WW2 gave rise to many Articles that comprise the Convention document, with naming the parties, but clearly alluding to them. But that another story for a another time. To cut to the chase…
Article 28 reads The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.
Not complicated, no law degree required. So Israel cannot be held liable for civilian casualties if Hamas decides to hide amongst them and wage war against Israel.
Now a burning question arises. Who is in control of the area where Israel is waging war? Israel withdrew years ago leaving the area under Palestinian control. And moving along….
Article 29 reads The Party to the conflict in whose hands protected persons may be is responsible for the treatment accorded to them by its agents, irrespective of any individual responsibility which may be incurred.
So telling people not to move when warned of an impending attack, clearly violates this Article. Placing your military equipment stores, or firing rockets from within the area of protected persons also violates this Article.
Article 33 reads No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
Now the death of innocent civilians should not be a punishment, for example for aiding and abetting the enemy, and as such any orders to this end, would be deemed unlawful. Conversely, to prove the intent of collective punishment, the prosecuting authority would be required to prove it, by means of written orders or recorded radio transmissions. It would be expected that a soldier who violates any part of this Convention without orders from a superior, would be disciplined in terms of that soldiers Military Discipline Code of Conduct. I do wonder if Hamas or Fatah or Hezbollah even have such a document or policy?
Article 34 reads The taking of hostages is prohibited.
So I guess that would put a spanner in the works for the Jihadists, assuming they actually bothered with the Geneva Convention.
Down in Annex 1, we find that the subject of hospitals and safe areas is dealt with quite comprehensively.
In particular Article 2 reads No persons residing, in whatever capacity, in a hospital and safety zone shall perform any work, either within or without the zone, directly connected with military operations or the production of war material.
Now in law their is a quaint construction known as “the reasonable man”. What would an average, reasonable person do under certain circumstances. Clearly that leaves a lot of scope for assumption, after all a reasonable (average) Jihadi will have fundamentally differing views on human life, rights and treatment to say, a European, American or Russian, who in turn will not have the same thinking on matters pertaining to human rights.
This short (and horribly simplified) entry is a brief summary of the pertinent points of the Geneva Convention of 1949. It must be pointed that Israel is not a signatory to Protocols I, II, III of the Geneva Convention. There are those who differ with the assessment I have laid out above, and I must admit the erroneous assumption the writer on this piece (The laws of war — Gaza and Israel; Hamas and IDF ) shows how a simple error in outlining the Parties to the Gaza conflict leads the writer to believe that Israel alone, is bound by the Convention as the Palestinian Authority is not attacking Israel. He also says this is a non-international war, yet he at one point refers to the PA as the “State of Palestine”. He also ignores the Hamas/PA “unity government, announced publicly a few days before the 3 lads were kidnapped and murdered. By partnering with Hamas, this means the ruling authority of Gaza is attacking Israel. Not complicated, a simple error, that leads to a totally incorrect assessment.
According to the IDF, they have, as of the evening of Wednesday the 17th of July, struck a total of 2037 targets inside the Gaza strip. According to Palestinian sources cited by western news and Israeli agencies, a total of 249 people have died from these attacks [Haaretz]. These numbers are generally agreed upon by independent sources.
Now if we do the math, 12% of Israeli strikes kill a civilian. This assumes no Hamas misfires, which we know is actually around 10% according to the IDF stats, but lets leave it at 12%, yes, lets blame the Israelis as the world always does. That means around 1 in 8 strikes kill a civilian. Now for the kicker. The date used (17 July) is the date that the first IDF boots went onto Gaza ground. Anybody who suggests the IDF was deliberately targeting civilians, without having to worry about their own troops getting in the way of strikes, clearly underestimates the IDF. The Air Force in particular is one of the best trained in the world with the latest technology at its disposal. Deliberate targeting of civilians would see a kill rate into the 100’s of percent.
In closing, I pray that HaShem will extended his protective hands over the IDF men and women who place their lives in harms way, to ensure the safety and freedom of their families and friends at home in Israel, and also that HaShem take care of the innocents who will find themselves in the middle of this war..