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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Flying pigs moment: Human Rights Watch says 'Palestinian' civilians can't be human shields, but Israel can't stop them

It's a flying pigs moment: Human Rights Watch has come out against the use of 'Palestinian' civilians as human shields for their terrorist leaders:
Palestinian armed groups must not endanger Palestinian civilians by encouraging them to gather in and around suspected militants’ homes targeted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Human Rights Watch said today.

Calling civilians to a location that the opposing side has identified for attack is at worst human shielding, at best failing to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from the effects of attack. Both are violations of international humanitarian law.

According to media reports, on Saturday the IDF warned Mohammedweil Baroud, a commander in the Popular Resistance Committees, to leave his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp as they planned to destroy it. Baroud reportedly summoned neighbors and friends to protect his house, and a crowd of hundreds of Palestinians gathered in, around, and on the roof of the house. The IDF said that they called off the attack after they saw the large number of civilians around the house. On Monday, the BBC also reported that the IDF had warned Wael Rajab, an alleged Hamas member in Beit Lahiya, that that they were preparing to attack his home, and that a call was later broadcasted from local mosques for volunteers to protect the home.

“There is no excuse for calling civilians to the scene of a planned attack,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Whether or not the home is a legitimate military target, knowingly asking civilians to stand in harm’s way is unlawful.”

Various media have reported that other Palestinian officials and armed groups have voiced support for these tactics. In a visit to Baroud’s house on Sunday, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority reportedly said: “We are so proud of this national stand. It’s the first stop toward protecting our homes ... so long as this strategy is in the interest of our people, we support this strategy.” A spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees was also quoted as saying: “We call upon all the fighters to reject evacuating their houses, and we urge our people to rush into threatened houses and make human shields.”

“Prime Minister Haniyeh and other Palestinian leaders should be renouncing, not embracing, the tactic of encouraging civilians to place themselves at risk,” said Whitson.

On November 3 the BBC also reported that Hamas radio broadcasted an appeal to local women to go to a mosque to protect 15 alleged militants holed up inside from Israeli forces surrounding the building. Many women went to the mosque and reportedly two were killed and 10 more injured when Israeli forces opened fire.

It is a war crime to seek to use the presence of civilians to render certain points or areas immune from military operations or to direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attack. In the case where the object of attack is not a legitimate military target, calling civilians to the scene would still contravene the international humanitarian law imperative for parties to the conflict to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from the effects of attack. In the event that such abuse takes place, however, parties to the conflict remain obliged under international humanitarian law to take precautionary measures and not to target civilians or cause excessive civilian injury or damage in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage.

In other words, while civilians placing themselves in the way of military actions take on heightened risks, they cannot be considered legitimate targets by the opposing force, and parties to the conflict should cancel or suspend attacks where excessive civilian damage is anticipated. Human Rights Watch said that the IDF had properly respected its obligations under international humanitarian law in suspending the attack on the Baroud home that would have caused substantial civilian harm.

Human Rights Watch, however, also reminded the IDF that even in the absence of deliberately orchestrated measures to maximize a civilian presence near its targets, any destruction of civilian property must be done strictly in compliance with international humanitarian law. An ostensibly civilian object such as a home can be the subject of attack only if it is being used for military purposes at the relevant time and its destruction makes a direct and immediate contribution to the fighting.

“The IDF should immediately explain what its military objective is in targeting the homes that it has ordered to be vacated,” said Whitson.
I'm a lawyer, but I am not an expert in the Law of War. If it's a war crime to use civilians to render military targets immune from attack, and the party that 'owns' the military target uses civilians anyway, what's the other party supposed to do under international law? Leave the target alone and continue absorbing attacks on its own civilians originating from the target? That makes no sense! Comments appreciated.

By the way, I deleted three paragraphs of drivel at the end that were an attempt to be 'even-handed.' For those who want to read them, here is the link.

4 Comments:

At 7:48 PM, Blogger realwest said...

Hi Carl! As far as I'm concerned, the IDF gives warnings ahead of time. That's enough. If the human shields insist on being shields,(and I've never seen anything saying they were FORCED to be human shields) so be it; no more prior warnings from the IDF.

 
At 9:16 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

realwest,

Glad to see you figured out how to register.

I agree with you. But Human Rights Watch doesn't agree with us, and they are saying that the 'Palestinians' are wrong, but that we're not allowed to do anything about it. That makes no sense.

 
At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee Carl I thought the human rights watch rule is only Israeli's are allowed to die

 
At 6:18 PM, Blogger hazmaq said...

I can only imagine how many of you hard-line Jews have worked to rob America blind, as well as use our non-Jewish children to die for your unfounded cries of wolf - and then run home like cowards to Israel and live like pigs on our money, while you accuse your darker neighbors of lies.

May you and your children suffer the same fates as those who've dies under the burning flames of your weapons.

 

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