Monday, July 17, 2006

Questions and Answers on Hostilities Between Israel and Hezbollah

There's often a lot of confusion about whether something is or is not permitted under the laws of war. During any war the terms "war crime" and "attrocity" are flung around with abandon by all concerned. Often the answer to whether a particular incident was or was not legal under the laws of war is "it depends." I received via email from Alertnet this article from Human Rights Watch it's an excellent briefing written in laymen's terms on the law governing how parties engaged in armed conflict must conduct themselves during hostilities. The briefing refers to the current hostilities in Lebanon but the principles it outlines and the explanations it gives relate to all armed conflicts. The briefing is in question and answer format and addresses the following questions:

  • What international humanitarian law applies to the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah?
  • What is Hezbollah's status in relation to the conflict?
  • Was Hezbollah's capture of Israeli soldiers lawful?
  • Which targets are Israel and Hezbollah entitled to attack under international humanitarian law?
  • Is Hezbollah's firing of rockets into Israel lawful under international humanitarian law?
  • Does international humanitarian law permit Israel to bomb the Beirut airport?

  • Is Israel entitled to target Lebanese infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and power stations?
  • Is Israel entitled to use military force against the Lebanese population to encourage it to press its government to stop Hezbollah's attacks and rescue Israel's soldiers?
  • Is Israel entitled to bomb the Hezbollah leader's house and office?
  • Can Israel attack neighborhoods that house Hezbollah leaders or offices? And what are Hezbollah's obligations regarding the use of civilian areas for military activities?
  • Can Israel attack Hezbollah radio and television stations?
  • The IDF have dropped leaflets in parts of Lebanon warning residents to evacuate - is this an appropriate precaution?
  • Is Israel's blockade of Lebanon legitimate?

The printer friendly version of the briefing can be found here, the screen version can be found here, I very strongly suggest that you print, read, and keep it for future reference. It's an excellent resource and HRW are to be thoroughly commended for producing it.


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