Gaza conflict: Who is a civilian?
The BBC reports on Human Rights Watch and B’tselem accounting of Israel targeting a university, schools, mosques, government buildings, and other civilian cites. The article also outlines some of the thorny issue around the question of who is a civilian:
The bloodied children are clearly civilians; men killed as they launch rockets are undisputedly not. But what about the 40 or so young Hamas police recruits on parade who died in the first wave of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza?
And weapons caches are clearly military sites – but what about the interior ministry, hit in a strike that killed two medical workers; or the money changer’s office, destroyed last week injuring a boy living on the floor above?
As the death toll mounts in Gaza, the thorny question is arising of who and what can be considered a legitimate military target in a territory effectively governed by a group that many in the international community consider a terrorist organisation.
This is also the group that won the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006 and a year later consolidated its control by force.
So while it was behind a campaign of suicide attacks in Israel and fires rockets indiscriminately over the border, it is also in charge of schools, hospitals, sewage works and power plants in Gaza.
“Our definition is that anyone who is involved with terrorism within Hamas is a valid target. This ranges from the strictly military institutions and includes the political institutions that provide the logistical funding and human resources for the terrorist arm.”
-Benjamin Rutland, IDF spokesman
“To claim that all of those offices are legitimate targets, just because they are affiliated with Hamas, is legally flawed and extremely problematic.”
-B’Tselem director Jessica Montell