Home World Understanding the Applicable War Crimes Laws in Israel-Palestinian Conflict: A Simplified Explanation

Understanding the Applicable War Crimes Laws in Israel-Palestinian Conflict: A Simplified Explanation

Understanding the Applicable War Crimes Laws in Israel-Palestinian Conflict: A Simplified Explanation

What Laws Apply to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict?


The recent conflict between Israel and Palestinian forces has resulted in a devastating loss of life on both sides. This article explores the international laws that govern such conflicts and the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in ensuring justice.

International Laws and Treaties

The 1949 Geneva Conventions established internationally accepted rules of armed conflict, which have been ratified by all United Nations member states. These rules are supplemented by rulings from international war crimes tribunals. The “Law of Armed Conflict” or “International Humanitarian Law” governs the treatment of civilians, soldiers, and prisoners of war, including Hamas militants.

The Role of the International Criminal Court (ICC)

The ICC, established in The Hague in 2002, is the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal. It has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in its 123 member states. While major powers like the United States and China are not members, Palestine is recognized as a member state by the ICC. However, Israel rejects the court’s jurisdiction and does not engage with it.

Potential Violations of War Crimes Law

Various acts committed during the conflict could potentially violate war crimes law. Human Rights Watch has cited deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate rocket attacks, and the taking of hostages by Palestinian armed groups as possible war crimes. Israel’s counter-strikes in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians, could also be subject to investigation. The deliberate killings of civilians, hostage-taking, and collective punishment are explicitly banned under the Geneva Conventions.

Application of the Geneva Conventions

U.S. President Joe Biden has emphasized that Israel has the right to respond to the conflict under the rule of law. However, a siege can be considered a war crime if it disproportionately targets civilians rather than undermining Hamas’ military capabilities. International law requires attacks on military objectives to be proportional, avoiding excessive loss of civilian life or damage to civilian objects.

The ICC’s Ongoing Investigation

The ICC has been conducting an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied Palestinian territories since 2021. Although no arrest warrants have been issued, prosecutors have found a reasonable basis to believe that violations have occurred on all sides, including Israeli troops, Hamas militants, and other armed Palestinian groups.

Overall, the Israel-Palestinian conflict falls under a complex international system of justice. While the ICC plays a crucial role in holding perpetrators accountable, domestic courts can also apply universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases. As the conflict continues, it is essential to uphold the principles of international law and work towards a peaceful resolution.