In the recent fierce exchange of fire between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas, two accounts have been circulating on mainland microblogs: “The Israeli Air Force, before striking with precision, telephoned the manager of the building to tell him how long it would take to fire the missiles and how long he had to organize the evacuation of people.” The first is that “the decision on the target of the strike is sent to a lawyer specializing in international law to assess its legality and the lawyer gives his nod of approval before it is put into action.”
The first statement has been reported many times in various media. For the second claim, it now appears to be well documented as well.
Israel’s Ynet news network reported that during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in July 2014, the IDF’s military legal advisory team, which was on hand to advise commanders on the possible legal implications of the operation The IDF’s military legal advisory team was on hand to advise commanders on the legal implications of the operation.
According to Wang Shuming of the Institute of International Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, in an article published in 2019 titled “The War on Terror and the Transmutation of Israeli Military Ethics,” there is a “Military Advocate General Corps (MAG)” within the IDF. In 2007, the IDF established the Military Advocate General Corps (MAG), which serves as a military judicial and legal advisor, and is professionally guided by Israel’s Supreme Attorney General, who reviews its decisions. In 2007, the IDF established the Military Advocacy for Operational Affairs (MAOA), a subdivision of the IDF, to deal with violations of the laws of war.
According to the article, the Israeli Supreme Court and the Knesset have also increased their attention to the IDF’s compliance with international law since the beginning of the 21st century. The Knesset has implemented biennial hearings, inviting the “Military Legal Advisory Panel” and relevant NGOs to participate in the hearings, among others. The Supreme Court has issued a number of important decisions on appeals by human rights organizations related to military counterterrorism operations.
Photo: F-15s are often used to “knock on the roof” to avoid harming civilians.
The Jerusalem Post reported in a March story that the IDF knows that Hamas stores its weapons in homes and apartment buildings, as well as schools, mosques and hospitals, and that if war breaks out, Israel must find a way to attack its targets while reducing civilian casualties and collateral damage.
To reduce civilian casualties, Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch headed the international law section of Israel’s Military Legal Advisory Corps while Operation Cast Lead was still in the planning stages, and almost every target was submitted to her for approval.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Colonel Sharvit-Baruch recalled that in discussions with combat troops, she emphasized two reasons why this new tactic was vital to Israel.
The first reason was a moral obligation. She affirmed that Israel would not mercilessly attack civilians when it could spare them.
The second reason is of political and diplomatic significance. She said, “Many civilian deaths worsen the conflict, creating diplomatic international pressure to continue it. This undermines our interests.” Ben-Ami agreed, saying, “Whether we like it or not, that’s who we are, that’s how we do things,” he explained.” There is no plan that doesn’t take civilians into account. That’s who we are.”