What is a war crime and is Israel guilty of it?

A short look at 48 days of deadly violence unleashed against Palestinians
TEHRAN – Despite a 4-day ceasefire holding in Gaza, the unsurmountable grievances and immense suffering inflicted by Israel on the 2.3 million inhabitants of the besieged territory continue to cast a long shadow.

As the 48-day bombing campaign against Gaza comes to a short respite, those who have lost loved ones may finally find a moment to properly grieve the tragic deaths of their family members. The wounded can also, hopefully, now focus on their recovery, with the arrival of desperately needed medical supplies into the region. Meanwhile, those who have lost everything due to Israeli bombardments are left to seek new shelters as they prepare for the potential onslaught of further violence.

Before the truce took effect, Israeli War Minister Yoav Gallant suggested that once the “short” Qatar-mediated truce with Hamas concludes, the regime will resume its attacks with “intensity” over the next two months.

Considering the conduct of the Israeli military in recent weeks, observers are left pondering the regime’s potential plan of action during the upcoming period of conflict. Will the regime concentrate its assault and attempt to minimize civilian casualties, or will it continue to justify the mass killing of civilians as “collateral damage”?

Israel being accused of war crimes is nothing new. The regime has resorted to illegal and inhumane measures since the first day it began to take over Palestinian lands.  However, the recent civilian devastation seen across swathes of Gaza, and Israeli leaders’ growing disregard towards the optics of the conflict, have kept social media and academic circles abuzz with discussions of an unfolding genocide in Gaza.

In this article, we will examine some of the violations of laws of war by Israel since October 7 and explore whether Israeli actions against the besieged territory align with the definition of genocide.

The International Humanitarian Law

The International humanitarian law (IHL), often seen as the guardian of humanity during conflicts, is embedded within the Geneva Conventions. Adopted over a series of treaties between 1864 and 1949, these four core conventions regulate the conduct of armed conflict and strive to mitigate its effects. Over time, three additional protocols have been added to further bolster these treaties. Anyone who violates any of the more than 600 articles designed to protect war victims, is considered to have committed a war crime.

195 countries have ratified the IHL. The Israeli regime has also agreed to the terms.

Israel’s treatment of captured Hamas fighters

A picture shared by some Zionists on social media a day after the October 7 operation by Hamas, showed at least a dozen Hamas fighters stripped naked and lying on the ground with their hands and feet bound. There were visible signs of beating and burns on their bodies and they had all been labeled by numbers painted on their backs in black. Israelis living in the occupied territories, some known to be affiliated with the regime’s military, proudly boasted about torturing the Hamas operatives that had managed to infiltrate Israel.

Israel’s brutal treatment of captured Hamas fighters is in violation of the third Geneva Convention which protects members of the armed forces who have fallen into the enemies’ hands. According to this treaty, prisoners of war must be treated humanely, safeguarded from murder, torture, or sexual violence, and entitled to proper care, including food, water, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. The use of cruel, degrading, or humiliating treatment is also categorically prohibited.

Civilians directly targeted

The Fourth Geneva Convention, crafted in the wake of World War II, primarily seeks to safeguard civilians during armed conflicts. It distinctly delineates between combatants and non-combatants, emphasizing the humane treatment of protected civilians. Crucial provisions within this convention prohibit acts such as murder, torture, and sexual violence, highlighting particular protections for vulnerable groups like women and children. Occupying powers are also mandated to ensure food, medical supplies, and must avoid inflicting collective punishment upon civilians.

It is not difficult to find countless examples of the Israeli military violating the core tenets of this treaty in the past weeks. The death toll in the besieged Gaza Strip has soared, surpassing 14,000 casualties, with over 70% of the deceased comprising women and children. More than 60% of Palestinian homes have been razed to the ground. Furthermore, Israel has imposed a severe blockade, depriving individuals of basic necessities such as water, fuel, medicine, and electricity.

The IHL specifically safeguards hospitals and medical personnel, prohibiting any deliberate targeting of medical facilities. However, Israel’s attack on the Al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza City on October 17 brought to light some of the most tragic developments in recent history. Despite stating that a resistance rocket hit the hospital, numerous investigative reports and subsequent attacks on Palestinian hospitals suggest Israel’s responsibility for this devastating act.

The regime’s raids on multiple hospitals in Gaza, including the cutoff of vital utilities, and the detainment of medical staff, further contradict the regulations outlined in the Geneva Conventions. While Israel has asserted the presence of Hamas tunnels as a justification for its actions, it has failed to provide substantial evidence to support these claims.

Moreover, UN-protected schools have also come under attack and been demolished in recent weeks, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Another article in the Fourth Geneva Convention Israel has violated is one that prohibits the deportation of Palestinians. Israel has been giving evacuation orders while dropping leaflets on Gaza telling people to leave northern areas for the south. It likes to claim that the deportation is lawful as it is asking people to move to a secure place. But it has meanwhile unleashed attacks on the southern Gaza Strip, leaving no safe zones in the territory.

In light of these egregious actions, legal experts have stepped forward to accuse the regime of perpetrating genocide. Citing the UN Genocide Convention of 1948, these experts argue that Israel’s operations in Gaza align with textbook definitions of genocide, as it entails the deliberate targeting and removal of Palestinians as a national, ethnic, and religious group.

Who holds Israel accountable?

The International Criminal Court stands as the designated body to prosecute war crimes. Utilizing the Rome Statute, it defines and punishes violations of international humanitarian law.

Considering the ICC’s recent accusation of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war crime of illegal deportation of children from Ukraine, there’s an anticipation that the court will firmly and impartially address the far more deadly onslaughts and widespread displacements orchestrated by Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet.

While the ICC may face challenges in detaining the Israeli prime minister, such a move could potentially contribute to the restoration of credibility for organizations that have long claimed to champion human rights.

About Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow by Email