Armed Conflict

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Does Israel Have the Right to Defend Itself?

This is a deceptively simple question. It has several possible answers, each of which rests on different (and highly contested) assumptions. In this post I will try to explain what these possible answers are, and what are their implications. I don’t myself know what the ‘correct’ answer here is. It is not my intention to argue for one. I should not be taken as doing so, even implicitly. Rather, my point is simply that, as applied to Israel, Palestine and Gaza, the jus ad bellum is a mess. Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza is not, legally, an open-and-shut, clear-cut situation. We do have such clear situations – it is reasonably clear, in my view, that the US and UK committed aggression when they invaded Iraq in 2003, as it is even clearer that Russia committed aggression against Ukraine. But Gaza is not such a case. There are two further arguments that I want to make. First, that many who think there is a single, clearly correct answer to the question whether…

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Classifying the Gaza Conflict Under International Humanitarian Law, a Complicated Matter

This post examines which potential branch of international humanitarian law (IHL) is applicable to the hostilities that are currently ongoing in Gaza between Israeli armed forces and Hamas military wing: the law of international armed conflicts (IAC) or that of non-international armed conflicts (NIAC). Classifying these hostilities is a complicated matter which, ultimately, depends on whether Palestine enjoys…

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In Defence of Doctrinal Assessments: Proportionality and the 31 October Attack on the Jabalia Refugee Camp

The 31 October attack by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) on the Jabalia refugee camp has understandably generated a significant degree of discussion and commentary, including on these pages. With this post, I join the discussion to defend what I characterize as a doctrinal application of the law of armed conflict (LOAC). From…

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In Defence of Preliminary Assessments: Proportionality and the 31 October Attack on the Jabalia Refugee Camp

Some international crimes require little information to spot, identify and characterize. Others are more difficult to discern because of unclear law, or a need for detailed factual information. While legal commentators can easily make determinations about the former, there is significant debate about the utility of making assessments about the latter during the conflict in Israel/Gaza. For example,…

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A lethal misconception, in Gaza and beyond: disguising indiscriminate attacks as potentially proportionate in discourses on the laws of war

In recent years and, despite the reality, in the last weeks, a trend among laws of armed conflict scholars has consolidated. This trend is in antithesis to the choral denunciation of mass civilian victimization as unlawful and criminal in other conflict theatres (such as, agreeably, in relation to the war against Ukraine). In contrast, bombing campaigns in Gaza…

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