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.

Read more at Lawfare

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

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy