The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #172831   Message #4186417
Posted By: Lighter
30-Oct-23 - 10:29 PM
Thread Name: BS: Hamas attacks Israel - part II
Subject: RE: BS: Hamas attacks Israel - part II
I'm not a scholar of international law, but it's all more complicated than partisan claims suggest.

White phosphorous is indeed outlawed when used intentionally against civilian targets. Its use for smoke screens, for illumination, in tracer rounds, and against military targets, however, is perfectly legal.

Whether Israel used WP against civilians in Lebanon is disputed. If an international body like the World Court was ever sufficiently persuaded to bring charges, I haven't seen mention of it.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions doesn't "outlaw" cluster bomblets. Their use against certain military targets, in fact, remains legal under international law.

Instead, signatories to the Convention simply pledge not to employ certain munitions of that kind. Israel, however, along with Russia, China, India, the United States, and a few other countries, is not a signatory.

If someone uses cluster munitions against a non-signatory nation, that non-signatory has no ground for protest or action under international law; however, it is not restrained from using such weapons itself when it deems them "necessary."

As for civilian targets in general: it is a war crime to target civilian areas simply to kill civilians or to destroy civilian morale. It's not a war crime, however, if civilians die in attacks on legitimate military targets.

Equally interesting is that it is very much a war crime to place military forces or assets in a civilian area to use the residents as human shields. Such military targets have always been legitimate under international law, and any resultant civilian harm is the responsibility of the defending forces.

When civilians are harmed, defenders can always charge they were targeted intentionally. (The word "genocide" is often bandied about in such cases.)

Current international law requires that reasonable measures be taken to minimize civilian casualties. Of course, what measures are "reasonable" in a given circumstance may be a matter of opinion, and many people don't recognize or won't heed warnings. Moreover, if legitimately targeted enemy forces would be alerted, a warning isn't required.

Stakes are high on the world stage, so both sides exaggerate or lie when convenient. It's often difficult to determine whether a war crime has occurred until there's a verdict by a duly appointed international tribunal.

In 1864 General W. T. Sherman wrote that "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it." Later attempts to mitigate the cruelty have had real but very limited success.