Ronald Scheinberg

Civilian Casualties

Much has been written on the problems of the veracity of the numbers quoted by the Hamas authorities of civilian casualty figures. What I want to focus on in the blog is the increasing trend of international authorities and the media to condemn any military action that inflicts any civilian casualties at all. As has been repeatedly reported, Hamas embeds itself in the Gazan Palestinian population, where civilian casualties are all but inevitable when Israel takes action against Hamas terrorists. These civilian casualties are an unfortunate byproduct of Hamas’ style of warfare. So long as Israel abides by the rules of conflict – not targeting civilians, utilizing proportionate response protocols, etc. – Israel should not be called out for inflicting civilian casualties. Yet, Israel faces unrelenting criticism for inflicting civilian casualties undertaken for legitimate military action.

Take, for example, Israel’s rescue operation of the four hostages yesterday. Israeli forces necessarily engaged with Hamas terrorists as they carried out their military operation to effect the rescue and extraction of the liberated hostages, coming under heavy fire. The Hamas media office reported that more than 200 Palestinians were killed during this operation. [Mind you, these reported casualty figures are unverified and do not differentiate between combatants and innocent civilians.] Responding to these news reports, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, called the hostage rescue operation carried out by Israeli security forces on Saturday morning “appalling”. Borrell referred to the operation as “another massacre of civilians,” noting that the EU “condemns this in the strongest terms.” The EU representative further called on Israel to “end this bloodbath immediately.” Global media likewise pointedly described this military operation as a “massacre” and a “genocide.

Civilian deaths are an unfortunate consequence of war, especially when an enemy weaponizes such casualties as part of its strategy. So long as a combatant is adhering to the rules of armed conflict, opprobrium necessarily should be visited on the party that embeds itself in the heart of residential neighborhoods – not on the combatant who is rightfully rooting out terrorists and liberating hostages.

About the Author
Brown University, BA 1980 Harvard Law School, JD, 1983 Commercial Aircraft Finance Lawyer Author: The Commercial Aircraft Finance Handbook (2nd ed., 2019)
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