Crisis in Gaza
Sir, – Hamas began its present rocket offensive against Israel on June 12th, the first day of the search for three murdered Israeli teenagers. This massive and indiscriminate bombardment had reached the level of approximately 1,200 rockets by last Sunday.
Israel did not ask for this war. However, no country could allow its citizens to be attacked in this way without responding. Hamas is guilty of a double war crime. First, by deliberately attacking Israel’s civilians, it violates the principle of distinction embodied in the 1979 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. Article 48 requires that parties to a conflict “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants . . . and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” Article 51 requires that “the civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack”. Second, Hamas deliberately puts the Palestinian civilian population in danger by launching attacks from within densely populated areas, deploying weapons storage sites and command centres in residential homes and commandeering hospitals, private homes, schools and mosques for terrorist use.
It is clear that this violates Article 58: “The parties shall, to the maximum extent feasible endeavour to remove the civilian population ... under their control from the vicinity of military objectives, and avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.”
Even worse, Hamas directly and cynically promotes the use of its civilians as human shields, ordering them to ignore the warnings given by the Israel Defence Forces to leave buildings targeted for air strikes, and even calling on them to gather on the rooftops of such buildings.
Such a tactic contravenes Article 51(7): “The parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.”
The difference between Israel and Hamas boils down to this: we are using bomb shelters and the Iron Dome system to protect the residents of Israel against Hamas missiles, while they use the residents of Gaza to protect arsenals of missiles. We invest huge sums of money in protecting our civilians and in maximising our accuracy in fighting Hamas, while they spend huge sums building an infrastructure of terror and trying to kill as many civilians as possible on both sides.
Israel is a democracy that is fighting unbridled terrorism in a legitimate, responsible and level-headed manner. No country in the world would do any less than we have been doing to protect our citizens. – Yours, etc,
Ambassador of Israel,
Sir, – Israel has an army, navy and air force, highly trained and equipped to the highest standards and with the backing of one of the world’s superpowers. Gaza has no protection against this onslaught.
Now the Israeli army is poised for a ground offensive. No tanks will resist their tanks, no aircraft will attack their aircraft and no ships will interfere with their shelling of Gaza from the sea.
What the world is witnessing is a war crime – and history will judge it to be that.
And no “Iron Dome” system will save the reputations of those inside and outside Israel who stand by and do nothing while it happens. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is all very well for us to wring our hands in condemnation of the Israeli bombing and killing of innocent children in Gaza. All violence is wrong. Israel will only behave if its economy suffers. Why can we not begin by boycotting its goods? – Yours, etc,