Defending the Fence: Legal and Operational Challenges in Hamas-Israel Clashes, 2018-19
On March 18, the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will hold a hearing and issue a report likely accusing Israel of violating international law through its use of force in response to the March of Return demonstrations on the Gaza border last year. An advance report by a special U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI) claims these events have been “civilian in nature” and that Israel intentionally shot unarmed civilians, “despite seeing that they were clearly marked as such.” Its criticisms of Hamas’ actions are conspicuously far less prominent.
Our Task Force recently visited the Gaza border on a fact-finding mission, meeting with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and commanders, high-ranking Israeli defense officials, U.N. officials, independent media and others.
This brief report is thus an update and addendum to a JINSA-commissioned assessment of Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge against Hamas. It aims to provide crucial context and thereby inform opinion in response to the COI report and UNHRC hearing.
Following our operational and legal review of recent regional conflicts, including the March of Return, this report arrives at very different conclusions than the UNHRC.
Specifically, we assess:
Hamas systematically violated international law by purposely using Gazan Palestinian civilians as human shields for attacking Israel, provoking Israeli actions that would lead to civilian casualties, and attacking Israeli civilians indiscriminately;
Israel’s rules of engagement in addressing the March of Return are consistent with international law and operational practice;
Despite this, Hamas exploited Gazan civilian casualties to propagate a false narrative of illegal Israeli use of force to delegitimize and pressure Israel; and
The COI’s findings reflect the success of Hamas’ tactics, and they encourage Hamas and other militant and terrorist groups to continue such illegal tactics against not only Israel but also the United States – at the direct expense of civilians that will be injured and killed by these actions.
What is the Hybrid Warfare Task Force?
The Hybrid Warfare Task Force was established by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s (JINSA) Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy to articulate how actions taken by U.S., Israeli, and other allied militaries in actual combat situations comply with, and at times exceed, the requirements of the law of armed conflict (LOAC).
It is composed of highly-distinguished senior operational and legal U.S. military officers.
They are supported by the Gemunder Center's excellent and very capable staff.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are those solely of the Hybrid Warfare Task Force. They do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of JINSA, its founders, or its board of directors.