Palestine’s Conflict and Breaches of International Law


By: Qirat Mirza.

Israel depicts the Palestine conflict as a non international conflict between nonstate actor Hamas and State Israel. However, it’s an international dispute involving Occupying forces Israel controlling the territory of Palestine. In 2004 the International Court of Justice stated that Israel was obliged to apply international humanitarian law and international human rights law by its status as occupying power in this territory and Israel unilaterally withdrew its troops from Gaza in 2005, claiming to be free of its obligations, but the blockade it imposed on Palestine in 2007 gave him a status of occupying forces and made obligatory for Israel to abide by all International laws involving International Humanitarian Law, Hague Law, Geneva Convention and Rome statute. Though Israel didn’t sign the International Criminal Court Rome, Palestine signed it in 2011 which gave ICC jurisdiction over the occupied territory of Palestine to investigate the war crimes.

The Geneva Convention, also known as International Humanitarian Law, plays a crucial role in regulating the conduct of armed conflicts with the primary objective of reducing civilian casualties. The Fourth Geneva Convention, in particular, emphasizes that “The occupying power shall not deport parts of its own civilian population into the territory it controls.” In the contemporary context, this principle is relevant to the situation in Gaza, a densely populated area inhabited by 2.2 million people who have been compelled to relocate to the southern region, where they are living in camps situated in desert environments. The issue arises from the provision of settlements to Israeli Zionists in the northern part of Gaza. This has raised significant concerns regarding the displacement of the local population and its implications for their well-being. On October 12, 2023, Stephane Dujarric, the Spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, highlighted that the United Nations considers this development unfeasible due to the potentially devastating humanitarian consequences it may have.

ICC Rome statute of 1999 prohibits the exploitation of starvation as a method of warfare. On 9 October 2023, amid ongoing Hamas-Israel war, Israel levied a complete siege on Palestine. The term siege refers to restricting the movement of people and goods in a specific area involving banning the supply of electricity, food, water and humanitarian aid to force enemy forces to stop fighting.  Even many hospitals in Gaza are running out of fuel, and have stopped supplying medical services to victims. Egypt which is only having a border with Gaza says many trucks carrying humanitarian assistance are waiting on border which is not allowed by Israel. Upon international pressure, only 20 trucks were allowed to enter Gaza. In 2021, the ICC declared its jurisdiction in response to the siege imposed however now ICC hasn’t set up any investigation to identify war crimes.

The Hague Convention’s Article 25 prohibits the bombardment of towns, villages, or buildings that are undefended. This provision is designed to protect civilian populations and their infrastructure during armed conflicts. However, reports suggest that Israel may have disregarded this article by targeting populated areas and structures where civilians reside.

Secondly, the doctrine of proportionality is another crucial aspect of international humanitarian law. It requires occupying  parties to make distinctions between military and civilian targets to minimize harm to civilians and their infrastructure. Furthermore, it emphasizes the issuance of warnings before launching an attack to protect civilian lives. In this context, Israel’s actions have come under scrutiny. They reportedly issued warnings to Palestinians by cutting off communication channels, including internet access, which may not have allowed for adequate warning to be given. Additionally, instead of warnings, ultimatums have been issued to Palestinians to evacuate their homes. The scale of Israel’s military operations is also alarming. Since October 7, Israel has launched approximately 6,000 airstrikes in just six days, a number comparable to the total airstrikes conducted by the entire United States during the Iraq war of 2003. The consequences of such intense military action are substantial, with 23 UN humanitarian agencies, 23 hospitals, 23 ambulances, and residential areas becoming targets. Tragically, this has resulted in a significant number of Palestinian casualties, estimated at around 10,000.

Putting aside International law, it is a part of military strategy to identify the legitimate target and Israel is committing genocide of millions those Palestinians who are noncombatants in the name of Self defense. Under international law, the rules of self-defense mandate that parties engaged in a conflict take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of civilians. This includes distinguishing between combatants and noncombatants and avoiding actions that may result in excessive harm to the latter. Israel’s approach in the current situation has raised concerns about its intent, with some asserting that its actions are in violation of international law and suggest a more alarming goal of eradicating the Palestinian population. Historically, the failure of the League of Nations to enforce decisions and prevent conflicts has left a lasting impact on the international community. In today’s world, despite the existence of various international organizations and countries, there appears to be an inability or reluctance to hold Israel accountable for its belligerent practices. This, in turn, threatens the fragile peace in the region. In light of these developments, there is an urgent need for a ceasefire to halt the ongoing violence and address the humanitarian crisis. All nations must come together to work toward a peaceful resolution to the conflict. This involves not only ending hostilities but also addressing the underlying issues and grievances that have fueled the conflict for decades.

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