After the devasting effects of the Russia-Ukraine war which escalated in 2022,
the world again is witnessing a challenging situation as what started as a land
dispute a long ago has now taken shape of ethnicity dispute with many busy
counting the number of lives lost in the war.
The cowardly multifaceted attack by terrorist group Hamas which took lives of
hundreds of innocents in Israel has now challenged and provoked one of world's
most advanced nations Israel and its entire defence and intelligence system
which used to wear the crown of being undefeated and has now come into questions
with many also raising concerns over the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad's
failure to anticipate the attack.
In the response to above the Israel has officially declared a state of war,
called the attack as their 9/11, compared the Hamas with terrorist group ISIS
and to show the repercussions like never before and to be remembered for decades
While we don't know what Hamas was to achieve with this but one thing it has
been able to is putting the lives of millions of innocent Gaza residents at
stake when they already have got many a other problems to deal with viz. food,
electricity, education, infrastructure etc.
The media around the world is busy covering the bombardment footages of Gaza and
Israel with many busy setting up their studios a war zone covering debates of so
But neither the media nor any prominent personality or a country is asking the
inevitable questions that What will happen to around 2 million people in Gaza? /
Where will they go? and Who's going to take their responsibility?
The answer to above questions is still not clear with UN expressing its
disappointment with Israel calling complete seizure of Gaza and shutting down
supplies of basic necessities like food and electricity.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
As it is said that wars are fought with rules and certainly there are
international rules of war which should at all times be respected and followed
when the war between two nations escalates with probability of humanitarian
The International Humanitarian Law was made with the objective to prevent and
reduce the damage in a war and also to protect the civilian and their objects
before and during a war.
The IHL was made the on the core principles as hereinafter mentioned and which
are complementary to each other:
- Principle of Distinction:
It requires to distinguish between the civilians and the combatants and also between the civilian objects and military objectives. The attack against the military and their objects is not prohibited, and on the other hand the civilian and civilian objects should not be attacked. However, it means that direct attack on the civilians or their objects are prohibited.
- Principle of Proportionality:
It requires that military attacks are prohibited if they are expected to cause loss or injury of civilian life or to their objects or combination of these if it would be more than the expected military advantage.
- Principle of Precautions:
It requires to spare the civilian population, their objects and firm efforts to identify that the targets are possibly military objectives. It also requires to give an advance warning of attacks which could affect the civilians unless it is not possible to do.
Keeping in view the above principles, the nations across the world in 1949 after World War II signed the Geneva Convention to establish the international legal standards for humanitarian treatment in war.
It establishes 4 conventions where:
- The First Convention is for the "Amelioration of the Condition of the
Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field
- The Second Convention is for the "Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick
and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea"
- The Third Convention is for the "Treatment of Prisoners of War"
- The Fourth Convention is for the "Protection of Civilian Persons in the Time of
The above four Conventions have been ratified by 196 nations across the world
which also includes Israel (1951) and the State of Palestine (2014).
Amongst the other the fourth Convention is the major one applicable in the
present scenario in Gaza and which provides for protections such as:
- Humanely treatment without any discrimination on the specified grounds of persons not taking active part in the war.
- Rights of fair and regular trial, as prescribed by Convention, to an individual protected person detained as a spy or saboteur or any other specified grounds.
- Taking measures for treatment of wounded and sick.
- Prohibition on punishment to protected persons for any offense which he or she has not personally committed.
It can clearly be said that all the above conventions clearly prohibit targeted
killings of civilians and those who are not taking part in the war.
The Conventions also emphasizes on keeping the humanity and calls for protection
of basic rights of civilians even in the event of war.
As Israel has also ratified the Geneva Convention, it is also bound by the
provisions of the Convention in a war and that is the reason that Israel has
been saying that they are targeting the Hamas' locations in Gaza and not the
civilian locations because same is against the principles of IHL and of Geneva
Convention, however so far cornering all the provisions and commitments the
Israel is ready for invasion of Gaza which if happens so will ultimately be
fatal to both sides.
In this critical situation between the two countries there has come out another
serious crisis of food, water, electricity in Gaza as Israel has called out for
a total blockade of Gaza and has stopped supplies of necessities with millions
in Gaza now starving for the basics.
The civilians in Gaza are now taking a shelter in the UN run camps with so far
no strong possibility of international aid, the healthcare system of Gaza is on
the verge of collapse whereas the Geneva Convention provides for treatment of
wounded and sick
The above situation has also put up serious questions on the international
communities' stance towards the crisis in Gaza.
It is high time that international community should come forward for the people
of Gaza and ensure that no innocent civilian is harmed who has got nothing to do
with the situation that has arised.
Sources and Credits:
Written By: Manish Dulani
- International Committee of the Red Cross' YouTube channel and the information available thereon
- Ohchr.org (the official website of the UN Human Rights Office)
is a 2nd year LL.B. student at the University Law
College - II, University of Rajasthan, and an active writer on diverse topics of
law which among the others include commercial, corporate, general and personal
laws at various platforms of repute and can be reached out at [email protected]