Former IDF Chief: Civilian deaths illustrate need to update laws of war

IDF Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz

Former Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz (IDF)

Former IDF chief Benny Gantz, speaking at a Israel Law Center conference, said the rules of war must be updated to prevent terrorist use of civilian infrastructure and human shields.

By: Lauren Calin, World Israel News (With files from JNS.org)

Lt. Gen. (res) Benny Gantz, former IDF chief of staff, called for an update to the laws of war in order to prevent the use of civilian infrastructure by terrorist organizations. Otherwise, he predicts, the next round of fighting will be even worse for innocent civilians.

During Operation Protective Edge, Hamas and Islamic Jihad used civilian infrastructure, including UN schools and hospitals, to attack Israel.

Speaking at a two-day Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, Gantz described the “painful experience” of ending his military service by visiting each Israeli family that lost a loved one during last summer’s war with Hamas. “I went and visited the families of civilians who were killed. That includes the family of four year old Daniel Tragerman. I was in the same kibbutz [Nahal Oz] when they shot those mortars from a UN installation in Gaza,” he said.

The UN Board of Inquiry confessed last month that its facilities had been used by terrorists in Gaza for military purposes. Three UN schools were used to store weapons and even to fire at Israel on at least two occasions.

“I am dismayed that Palestinian militant groups would put United Nations schools at risk by using them to hide their arms,” UN chief Ban Ki-Moon stated at the time. “It serves to undermine the confidence that all concerned should have that United Nations premises are civilian objects and may therefore not be made the object of attack.”

The UN has not confirmed that the mortar that killed Daniel was fired from its facilities.

Gantz used Daniel’s death to emphasize the need to update the laws of war. Noting that “the laws of war were meant to limit the bad guys,” Gantz said that they were not adequate to deal with terrorist organizations who hide behind their own civilians in order to murder civilians on the enemy side. In the case of Operation Protective Edge, this included Hamas using human shields at Gaza hospitals for its top leadership and center of operations.

Commenting on the criticism leveled at the IDF over the number of Palestinian civilian casualties, Gantz said that “sometimes the weaker party is not necessarily in the right.”

“Both in Gaza and in Lebanon, the enemy operates from within civilian populations,” he said, Israel Hayom reported. “They turn entire villages into rocket-launching sites. Their guest rooms are made into explosives warehouses. Don’t tell me it’s a kindergarten when I know it’s a rocket warehouse. Don’t tell me it’s a mosque when I know it’s a rocket warehouse. I don’t know of one synagogue in Israel where terrorists meet, or rockets, missiles, and munitions are stored.”

“Let me tell you something. It’s going to be worse next time,” Gantz said, referencing the large number of civilians killed as a result of Hamas’s policy of hiding behind civilians and firing indiscriminately at civilians.