Wednesday, January 24, 2024

  • Wednesday, January 24, 2024
  • Elder of Ziyon
In the early days of the war, observers noted that there was really only one method for Israel to win the war in a reasonable timeframe: to besiege the areas of Gaza where Hamas is hiding.

As I and others noted in a number of articles in October, a military siege is legal under international law. Moreover, even stopping food and medicines from entering an encircled area can be blocked if there is a significant chance that the enemy would steal the goods and use them first.

The US Department of Defense Manual says this clearly:

5.19.1 Siege and Encirclement Permissible. It is lawful to besiege enemy forces, i.e., to encircle them with a view towards inducing their surrender by cutting them off from reinforcements, supplies, and communications with the outside world.  In particular, it is permissible to seek to starve enemy forces into submission.

5.19.3 Passage of Relief Consignments. Commanders should make arrangements to permit the free passage of certain consignments: 

• all consignments of medical and hospital stores and objects necessary for religious worship intended only for civilians; and 
• all consignments of essential foodstuffs, clothing, and tonics (i.e., medicine) intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers, and maternity cases.

However, allowing passage of these items is not required by the party controlling the area unless that party is satisfied that there are no serious reasons for fearing that: 
• the consignments may be diverted from their destination; 
• the control may not be effective; or 
• a definite advantage may accrue to the military efforts or economy of the enemy.

Since we know from previous wars, as well as this one, that Hamas controls all access to food - at gunpoint - allowing any food into Gaza is giving Hamas a definite advantage, and it is impossible to starve Hamas without also blocking food from the civilian population.  

And what should the civilians do? The customary international humanitarian law from the ICRC quotes Israel's military manual in its Rule 53:
The prohibition of starvation as a method of warfare does not prohibit siege warfare as long as the purpose is to achieve a military objective and not to starve a civilian population. This is stated in the military manuals of France and New Zealand. Israel’s Manual on the Laws of War explains that the prohibition of starvation “clearly implies that the city’s inhabitants must be allowed to leave the city during a siege”.  
The civilians could seek food and shelter elsewhere. Israel's telling them to leave is not only congruent with international law - it is humanitarian. 

If the siege would have been allowed to complete, Gazans could have escaped and Hamas could have been forced to surrender. Perhaps months ago.

Unfortunately, the siege in Gaza was only short-lived - and it was the US that pressured Israel to allow in the food for everyone, including Hamas, after only ten days of war.

That was the first thing the US did to ensure that Hamas could stay underground indefinitely.

But there was a second decision the US made. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that it was U.S. policy to ensure that Palestinians are not "resettled" outside Gaza. But he said this during the same trip where he met with Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has built  huge wall to ensure that Gazans cannot flee to Egypt. 

The US has not said a negative word about this. 

Between those two facts, it is clear that US policy is that Palestinians, unlike every other people who live in war zones, do not have the right to seek refuge in other countries. 

Which means that US policy is that Israel must fight with its hands tied behind its back: it must try to avoid civilian casualties that Hamas has made unavoidable, and it must provide supplies to Hamas to allow it to stay underground and in fighting shape indefinitely.

Neither of these are international law. 

And in fact, both of them are the opposite of humanitarian. More Gazans are dying because the war will be extended for many more months, and because they have nowhere to go. And everywhere they can go, Hamas embeds itself among them.

A third decision by the US this month also effectively helped Hamas. The US signed an agreement with Qatar to extend its use of the Al Udeid air base for another ten years. 

Why didn't it withhold this agreement until all Israeli hostages are freed? Qatar has supported Hamas for many years; it provides Hamas with a great deal of aid ostensibly meant for Gaza. It has influence with Hamas. The US had a bargaining chip and threw it away. One must ask....why?

Hamas' strategy is to keep civilians between it and Israel. The US and the West are doing everything they can to help Hamas in that aim. And when civilians are killed, Israel is blamed. 

For all of the weapons and ammunition that the US is sending Israel, it is not letting Israel win. 

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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