On war crimes in Gaza

Michael Weiss at Jewcy asked me to write on potential war crimes in Gaza, looking at the actions of both Israel and Hamas under the current state of international humanitarian law and the laws of war.

Is Israel committing war crimes in Gaza? Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights thinks it probably is. So do the International Committee of the Red Cross and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

I’m going to examine, as dispassionately as I can, how the fighting between Israel and Hamas — and its extremely high non-combatant casualty rate — fits into the ever-evolving field of international humanitarian law and the jurisprudence governing war crimes. It’s important to note that not all breaches of international humanitarian law are war crimes: shouting at a POW or refusing POWs food and water, for example, is illegal but is not a war crime. War crimes usually demand intent to cause death or injury among non-combatants, actually causing death or injury, or such gross negligence in carrying out military operations that civilian causalities are inevitable. These are all grey areas, open to interpretation, but still some basic lines may be defined.

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