In Destroying a Building That Housed the Associated Press, Israel Risked Its Own Safety to Protect Civilians

July 14 2021

During the war with Hamas in May, the IDF destroyed the al-Jalaa tower in Gaza, which was home to the central offices of the Associate Press and Al Jazeera in the Strip, as well as a Hamas electronic-warfare base where operatives were developing technology for jamming Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. The IDF warned civilians in advance of the attack, and as a result no one was injured. The attack was nonetheless widely condemned for “targeting journalists.” As a result of the warning, the terrorists were able to rescue some of their equipment prior to the airstrike. Michael N. Schmitt, a scholar of the laws of war at the United States Military Academy at West Point, examines the Israeli decision from a legal standpoint:

Should a media facility be used for military purposes, it may become a military objective. . . . For instance, if a media facility is used to communicate information of military value, it qualifies as a military objective by use and may be attacked. Even if it is not the intended target, an attacker need not consider any incidental harm to the facility in . . . an attack on another military objective.

[Yes], the journalists and their facilities were civilian in character and entitled to all attendant protections, including application of the rule of proportionality and the requirement to take precautions in attack. [But] if the Israeli reports of Hamas using the building are accurate, the entire building constituted a single military objective, damage to which did not have to factor into the IDF’s proportionality calculation.

The IDF’s hour [of advance] warning of the attack was [moreover] a paradigmatic example of an effective warning. If IDF reports that Hamas and Islamic Jihad were able to evacuate the building and remove military material from the facility before it was struck are accurate, the warning appears to have exceeded that required by the law of armed conflict because it involved some sacrifice of military advantage by the IDF.

Counter-allegations that the IDF used the attack as a ploy to end unfavorable media [coverage] are unsupported by the available facts. . . . Based on open-source information presently available, the strike complied with the law of armed conflict.

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Read more at Articles of War

More about: Al Jazeera, Guardian of the Walls, IDF, Laws of war, Media

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