Israel Reflections–Use of Force & Civilian Targets

Posted on Categories Human Rights, International Law & Diplomacy

In light of the events in Israel earlier this week – Hamas launched a missile attack on an Israeli schoolbus and the Israelis responded with missile attacks into Gaza – one of the speakers from our trip to Israel is particularly on point today.  How do you determine an “appropriate” response to the Hamas attack?  Here are one student’s reflections on our meeting with Roni Lev, the military attorney for the Northern Command of the Israel Defense Forces:

For me, Roni Lev was one of the most interesting speakers we had during the trip. She presented on the operational legal questions she would face in her job as legal adviser to the Northern Command of the IDF. I was most interested in how Israeli law has evolved to address targeting and weighing the risk of civilian casualties. It was fairly clear the Israeli military and legal system had devoted a considerable amount of time to those questions, and that Israeli ethics had weighed heavily in the determination of operational rules. The whole discussion was rounded out nicely by Roni’s father, who provided an anecdote from his Air Force days of an Israeli pilot who received orders to fire but chose not to because of the probability of substantial civilian casualties. The commanding officer expressed his disagreement but respected the pilot’s decision. Overall, it was an interesting look at how the law tries to solve difficult operational questions, but also how the law will never be able to govern the complex situations that confront the Israeli military.

Cross posted at Indisputably.


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