International Humanitarian Law and Israel’s Al-Shifa seige

New Delhi: The “precise and targeted operation” by the Israeli special forces inside Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital has again drawn criticism from many corners of the world for violating the International Humanitarian Law.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that it found weapons and Hamas assets inside the premises while it interrogated people at the enclave’s largest hospital.

The Israeli military has repeatedly alleged that Palestinian armed groups operate a military compound within and underneath the Shifa Hospital.

Operation by IDF special forces

Israel believes that the Hamas militant group operates a subterranean network of tunnels and IDF special forces backed by additional troops conducted an 18 hour-long operation – which lasted until November 15 evening – against Hamas terror infrastructure at the site.

According to a report, at least five Hamas gunmen were killed by IDF troops during a gun battle outside the hospital and no casualties were reported by Israeli soldiers.

What did Israel find?

The Jewish nation said that it found weapons and Hamas assets inside the hospital and it will share “more and more material” found during the military’s search operation.

It added that the possibility of Hamas terrorists hiding in some areas in the facility cannot be ruled out.

What is International Humanitarian Law?

The International Humanitarian Law (IHL), also known as ‘law of war’, is a set of rules governing conduct of parties involved in armed conflict.

IHL regulates the behaviour of parties once armed conflict has commenced and does not go into question of legitimacy of such a conflict.

Many articles under the Geneva Conventions provide for protection of civilian hospitals and their staff, and call for establishment of hospital and safety zones for groups such as the injured, sick and pregnant women.

“Medical units shall be respected and protected at all times and shall not be the object of attack,” states one of the additional protocols framed under the Geneva Conventions.

“Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected” falls under “war crimes” as per Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, subjected “they are not military objectives”.

Similarly, under the public international law, as per the UN Charter, a state may lawfully resort to armed force against another state only and only under self defence or when authorised by the UN Security Council.

UN Resolution

The UN Security Council has finally adopted a resolution calling for an extended humanitarian pause in the war in Gaza.

The symbolic resolution – as it does not include any penalties for ignoring it – was adopted on Thursday in fifth attempt after the US under growing international dismay at the inaction over the tragedy in the territory withheld its veto.

Russia and the UK joined the US in abstaining from voting on the resolution allowing it to be adopted with the support of the other 12 Council members, including France and China, the other permanent members.

The resolution demands that “all parties comply with their obligations under international law, notably with regard to the protection of civilians, especially children”.

What did Israel say?

Recently, a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mark Regev, told the BBC that “international law specifically says that the minute your enemy uses a humanitarian site like a hospital for its military machine then you can target that site”.

The Israeli army said that the troops conducted a “focused” operation “in a defined area” of the hospital and the military was “not overrunning” the hospital.

It believes that the operation may bring intelligence information about the Jewish captives as some of the 240 hostages captured by Gaza terrorists were housed at the hospital at one time.

What did Palestine and Hamas say?

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza and the hospital’s management have strongly denied Israeli allegations and have called for an independent investigation.

Before the military raid in Al-Shifa, bombardments by the IDF had hit the hospital and damaged parts of it, including the specialised surgeries department, coronary care division and a warehouse.

Senior Hamas member Bassem Naim called the operation “ridiculous and worthless” and told a media house that he could not rule out that the Israeli military “brought weapons and put them in the Al-Shifa complex.”

How did this conflict begin?

On October 7, Hamas attacked Israel that killed about 1,200 people and took about 240 people as hostages.

Israel began its continuing retaliation the next day through relentless bombing and started a ground invasion later.


Comments are closed.