May 03, 2007

Preserving Humanitarian Principles While Combating Terrorism: Israel's Struggle with Hizbullah in the Lebanon War

From Preserving Humanitarian Principles While Combating Terrorism: Israel's Struggle with Hizbullah in the Lebanon War:

-- Israel's military operations in Lebanon took place in the context of a clear asymmetry with regard to the implementation of principles of international humanitarian law: Hizbullah, in clear violation of these principles, deliberately targeted Israeli civilians, while attempting to use the cover of civilians and civilian structures in order to stockpile its weapons, hide its fighters and fire missiles into Israel. Israel, on the other hand, held itself bound to apply the principles of humanitarian law, even while facing an opponent who deliberately flouted them.

-- In doing so, Israel took pains to ensure that its operations were directed against legitimate military targets and that in conducting its operations incidental damage to civilians was kept to a minimum, both by ruling out attacks which would cause disproportionate damage and by giving advance notice wherever possible. A survey of international practice suggests that the steps taken by Israel to address humanitarian considerations corresponded to, and often were more stringent than, those taken by many Western democracies confronting similar or lesser threats.

-- The suffering of civilians was a tragic reality on both sides of the conflict. Israel made strenuous efforts to reduce this toll, both by protecting Israeli civilians and by seeking to minimize civilian suffering on the Lebanese side. Following the conflict, Israel has also undertaken numerous investigations and analyses with a view to learning lessons from the conflict and to enabling improvements to be made in the future.

-- Israel's efforts in this regard should not, however, diminish the ultimate responsibility of those who callously and deliberately used the Lebanese civilian population as a shield, for the suffering that inevitably resulted from their actions.