Hamas’s Balloon Attacks Are War Crimes

In the last week of June alone, incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip started nearly 100 fires in Israel. Such devices, often created from balloons, have destroyed thousands of acres of forest and farmland. After visiting communities in southern Israel most affected by these attacks, and seeing both the weapons and the damage they cause firsthand, Matthew Aiesi concludes that they are violations of the laws of war:

These fire balloons are cheap, simple to mass-produce, and effective in their design and destructiveness. They consist of a bomblet made of a small bag holding an accelerant-soaked roll of gauze (or other absorbent material), connected to a homemade fuse and tied with a string to a balloon (or a condom used as a balloon). The natural and constant breeze off the Mediterranean Sea, which blows from Gaza to Israel, carries these incendiary devices into the civilian communities in Israel, some just a few-hundred meters (or less) away from the border with Gaza. The fuse eventually burns the string that connects the bomblet to the balloon, dropping the bag and remainder of the fuse to start a fire wherever it lands. Not all the fuses stay lit, and sometimes the balloons deflate or get caught in trees. Sometimes they land harmlessly on concrete, but at other times they damage or destroy buildings or acres of farmland, and they can require significant resources to extinguish.

As Hamas has been using them, these incendiary balloon attacks violate numerous rules and customs of warfare—principally concerning the targeting of civilians and the use of indiscriminate weapons. . . . [T]he Israeli communities in the Gaza envelope are purely civilian communities, surrounded by agricultural land. There are no static IDF bases or outposts in the area—certainly not within range of these devices.

By promising to end these attacks [in its negotiations with Israel], Hamas, the de-facto authority in Gaza, demonstrated that it had both knowledge of, and effective control over, the individuals making the incendiary weapons and illegally attacking civilians. This makes the attacks attributable to Hamas and not mere Palestinian civilians or protestors.

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Read more at Lawfare

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israeli Security, Laws of war

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism