The War in Gaza: JAC Statement and Background

JAC Position on The War in Gaza
Israel has the right and the duty to defend its citizens from Hamas rocket attacks launched from Gaza at civilian targets. Israel has complied with the Geneva conventions and accepted standards of international law. Hamas has not. Israel has authorized the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza in coordination with international relief organizations. Israel has avoided the targeting of innocent civilians, a task made more difficult because Hamas houses its terrorist infrastructure in densely populated civilian areas. Hamas places ordinary citizens in harm's way by using homes, schools and mosques as launching pads for its military activities. Israel's military operations are removed from civilian population areas, but Hamas targets Israeli civilians anyway. JAC stands in solidarity with Israel which launched attacks in response to Hamas' reign of terror. Would any country, in simlar circumstamces, do any less?

Responding to Hamas Attacks from Gaza - Issues of Proportionality
Background Paper
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

December 2008

Main Points

Israel is in a conflict not of its own making - indeed it withdrew every Israeli soldier and all 8000 Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip as part of its 2005 disengagement initiative. However, Israel has been forced to act in defense of its citizens, who have been and continue to be deliberately attacked by the Hamas terrorist organization.

Although Hamas makes no effort to comply with international law, Israel is committed to limiting itself to a lawful response. This means that, while Hamas uses civilians both as a shield and a target, Israel seeks to limit injury to civilians on both sides.

International law recognizes that civilian deaths and injuries may occur in lawful military operations. For an operation to be lawful it must be directed at a "legitimate military objective" and be "proportionate".

Under the Geneva Conventions, as well as customary international law, if a military objective, such as a missile launcher or weapons stockpile, is placed in the heart of a civilian area, it does not cease being a lawful military objective. The primary responsibility for civilian causalities arising from the 'shielding' lies with the party that deliberately placed civilians at risk.

International law also requires that any military operation be 'proportionate' in the sense that expected collateral damage to civilians and civilian objects must not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated. This is a complex and difficult calculation and international law relies on the best determination of the commander in the field in the heat of the conflict to weigh all relevant considerations, including the security of his own forces.

Israel has adopted these principles of the law of armed conflict, in its military training, its operational planning and in practice. Frequently, proposed operations are canceled because the risk of injury to civilians might not be proportional to the military goals of the operation.

Humanitarian Aid Transfer Authorized by IDF to Enter into the Gaza Strip
29 December 2008
by Rani Sneh

On Monday (Dec. 29), the IDF again authorized the transfer of dozens of trucks loaded with humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip. 63 trucks laden with medical equipment and food passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing to Gaza as part of the IDF's efforts to continually send humanitarian aid to Gazan civilians.

In addition to the supplies, ambulances, which were transferred from Judea and Samaria, were sent on behalf of Turkey to reinforce humanitarian aid efforts. One thousand units of blood were transferred to Gaza along with medical supplies, medical equipment, and basic food, such as flour and sugar brought by the Red Cross Organization, UNRA, World Food Program (WFP) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Similarly, Egypt donated flour and sugar.

The Kerem Shalom crossing was opened on Monday from 09:00 to 16:30. The humanitarian aid transfer occurred in coordination with international organizations in response to the humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip civilian population during Operation Cast Lead.

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