Wednesday, May 08, 2024

  • Wednesday, May 08, 2024
  • Elder of Ziyon

Israel is giving warnings to some 100,000 civilians in Rafah to leave because of an imminent military operation.

Responding to the Israeli military’s orders for over 100,000 residents, most of whom are internally displaced, to “evacuate” whole neighbourhoods in eastern Rafah amid news its military operations in the area are already underway, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research, Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns said:

“The Israeli army’s latest ‘evacuation’ order, issued just 24 hours before it began a ground incursion into eastern Rafah, comes hot on the heels of intensified bombardment in the southern governorate. It follows months-long threats to launch a large-scale ground operation in Rafah, which will further compound the unspeakable suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.

“In a cruel and inhumane move that already illustrates the disastrous impact of such an operation on civilians, Israeli tanks have launched a ground incursion on the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, blocking a crucial lifeline for humanitarian aid for a population already facing famine and the risk of genocide.
Israel's warnings to the civilians are an obligation under international law. It is meant to save lives. It is the opposite of "genocide." 

Amnesty would rather they stay where they are, to force Israel to allow Hamas to survive and attack Israeli civilians in the future.

So humanitarian!

The Lieber Institute at West Point just published an article by Lieutenant Colonel William C. Biggerstaff, a professor at the US Naval War College, on when an army is obligated to give effective warning to, and even evacuate, civilians ahead of military activity.

A long-observed rule of customary international law is that parties must exercise feasible precautions to minimize the risk of any incidental civilian harm when planning and conducting attacks on otherwise valid military objectives. A corollary to these so-called precautions in the attack (or active precautions) is the more specific obligation to provide effective advance warning of attacks that may cause death or other physical harm to the civilian population, unless circumstances do not permit...

To be effective, an evacuation warning must be communicated at such a time and in such a manner as to provide the affected civilian population with a reasonable opportunity to meaningfully protect itself.

As this implies, the duty to warn is prospective in nature. Effectiveness thus does not turn on whether, or if so how, the civilians in question heed a warning. Their decision to evacuate pursuant to an attacker’s duty to warn is inherently voluntary. Although an effective warning must allow civilians a reasonable amount of time to evacuate a military objective if feasible, they are not obliged to do so. Accordingly, if the civilians refuse to evacuate, they retain their immunity from being made the object of attack and should still be accounted for in determining the proportionality of any collateral damage.
This is an important point. If the civilians refuse to leave, Israel would be hampered in its ability to attack Hamas - it must still try to avoid killing them as much as possible. But their choice to stay does no tmean Israel cannot attack at all, as Amnesty implies. It means they are choosing to put their lives, and the lives of their families, in danger, and even though Israel must do everything it can to avoid civilian casualties, that does not mean it must call off the military operation. Otherwise, using human shields would change from a war crime to be considered as a legitimate military method.

What about forced evacuations? Israel is not considering that now, and in most cases forcibly moving civilians during war is a war crime, but there is an exception:

Under certain circumstances, evacuation is not merely permitted but is in fact required. The duty to exercise precautions by those subject to attacks (or passive precautions) is set forth in treaty form in the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. In relevant part, Article 58 provides that “[p]arties to [a] conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible . . . endeavour to remove the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military objectives.” Although AP I is not universally ratified, this provision is widely recognized as reflecting customary international law applicable to both international and non-international armed conflicts...
This is not possible unless Israel has complete control over the entire territory to be evacuated. But it shows that contrary to what Amnesty is saying, armies with a valid military objective - and destroying Hamas is not just valid but necessary - are sometimes obligated to evacuate civilians.

An earlier article in the same site discussed those who objected to Israel's earlier warning to evacuate Gaza City, and the author - well-regarded expert Michael N. Schmitt - described the choices accurately, and his analysis applies today to Rafah:
Reduced to basics, an assessment of Israel’s warnings to evacuate requires a comparison of two alternatives: an urban assault into an area full of civilians; and evacuation into a place that is not fully prepared to accommodate them. Undoubtedly, residents of Gaza City [Rafah]  and other concentrations of civilians in the north will be at a greater risk of harm staying in place than moving away from the combat zone. Moreover, once the operation starts, fleeing the hostilities will become extraordinarily dangerous, and access to humanitarian assistance will become impossible for those remaining behind. ...The simple fact is that civilians who [leave]  will be safer. Moreover, warning the civilian population makes good sense not only because it protects civilians but also militarily, as U.S. forces learned in Fallujah and Mosul.

Given this reality, it is bewildering that humanitarian organizations are not encouraging the civilian population to move away from what will be a destructive and deadly urban battle, in which telling the difference between fighters and civilians is particularly difficult, especially considering Hamas’s past tactics of operating near civilians, engaging in perfidy, and failing to distinguish themselves from civilians.

Along the same lines, it is mystifying that humanitarian organizations are not condemning Hamas’s efforts to keep the civilians in place. Obviously, this is an attempt to exploit the civilians as human shields to complicate Israel’s operations, for the more civilians in the area, the more complicated Israeli targeting and clearance operations become. And, sadly, the more civilians who tragically will become “collateral damage.”
This is straightforward and obvious - except for those who are rooting for Hamas.

Like Amnesty.

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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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