Palestinian Atrocities, Israeli Retaliations and the Law of War

by Prof. Louis Rene Beres

The cycle is familiar. Palestinian terrorists intentionally attack Israeli women and children. Israel, having absolutely no choice, retaliates against PLO infrastructures, aiming exclusively and conscientiously at military targets. But sometimes Israeli fire unavoidably kills and injures Palestinian noncombatants, creating the false impression of lawlessness on both sides. This delusionary view can be compared to an interpretation of current U.S. attacks against al-Qaida fighters which blames this country for harms done to Afghan civilians.

It is important to better understand the profound moral and legal differences between Palestinian terrorism, which is always deliberately barbarous and indiscriminate, and Israeli retaliations, which are always consciously designed to AVOID civilian casualties. From the standpoint of international law, two points must be made. First, the criminal intent of Palestinian terror represents an incontestable violation of humanitarian rules of armed conflict. It is essential, therefore, to distinguish between such terror and Israeli responses to terror, which are never intended to harm innocent parties.

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