Israel Legal Expert Explains How Israel Upholds Laws Of Armed Conflict
RAMAT DAVID, ISRAEL - JULY 12: (ISRAEL OUT) An F16 warplane takes off for a mission in Lebanon from Ramat David air force base on July 12, 2006, Ramat David, Israel. An assault on Southern Lebanon was launched by Israel following the capture of two Israeli soldiers.
Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images.

The former head of the International Law Department in the Israel Defense Forces explained in a recent interview how Israel fights while upholding the laws of armed conflict.

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, who now serves as a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, spoke with Israel National News.

“What Hamas has done are war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly acts that could be considered genocide. It’s hard to believe the level of horrors that keep emerging,” she began.

“Israel is a rule-of-law state and is committed to the laws of armed conflict,” she continued. “Since those laws are intended to protect civilian populations, there is no element of reciprocity involved, as also mentioned by President Biden. In other words, the importance of international support is recognized, but it’s crucial to understand that the laws of armed conflict have evolved over the years as a practice of warring armies, and they are very attuned to the needs of the fighting force. Thus, they are flexible and adaptable to the situation.”

“The main limitation Hamas imposes is that it is forbidden to target civilians, but it is allowed to target military objectives,” she said. “It’s important to understand that a civilian structure, as soon as it serves a military purpose, loses its civilian character and becomes a legitimate military target. What Hamas has done is that they have used all the civilian facilities for their purposes. All their positions and depots are located within or beneath civilian structures. The IDF does not target purely civilian structures. It attacks the military system itself, so these are attacks on legitimate and legal military targets.”

“The second important principle is that even when acting against such targets, the collateral damage to civilians and civilian objects should not be excessive in relation to the military advantage derived from the attack,” Sharvit-Baruch asserted.

The interviewer asked how one can measure if an attack is excessive in relation to that advantage. “There’s no precise answer to that, but Israel has a very strong military argument,” she responded. “In previous operations, they argued with us and claimed that Hamas is not a threat that justifies such extensive damage, but now it is clear that Hamas poses an existential threat to our sovereignty and our ability to exist in the country. It’s a threat we cannot tolerate if we want to continue to exist, so there is a military advantage in dismantling these infrastructures.”

“The world always sympathizes with the underprivileged,” she noted. “After a day and a half of seeing our side, they see Gaza’s civilians whom Hamas uses as human shields.”

“Israel needs to use practical means at its disposal to minimize the harm,” she pointed out. “Israel issues warnings, even if not specific, such as ‘Roof Knocking.’”

“Roof Knocking” is Israel’s practice of dropping non-explosive or low-yield devices on the roofs of targeted civilian homes as a  prior warning of imminent bombing attacks to give the inhabitants time to flee the attack.


“There’s no legal obligation to ‘Roof Knocking,’” she said. “There is an obligation to minimize and issue warnings when possible, and Israel gives warnings so that civilians can leave the area. Hamas prevents them from doing so, which is also a war crime. However, in the proportionality test, the military advantage stemming from the attack must be taken into account.”

She noted of Israel’s constant attempts to minimize casualties in the past: “Israel has gone far beyond what is accepted in other countries because it was in our strategic and operational interest to minimize harm to civilians and to avoid expanding the circle of fighting, and also because it was feasible.”

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Israel Legal Expert Explains How Israel Upholds Laws Of Armed Conflict