A little over an hour ago, today’s three-hour "humanitarian truce" ended. In case anyone doesn’t know what I am talking about, let me explain. For the past few days (since Tuesday or Wednesday, I’m not sure), Israel has been observing a three-hour truce from 1 pm to 4 pm, in order to enable food, medicines and other essential humanitarian aid, to be delivered to the citizens of Gaza. Hamas has continued to fire rockets at Israeli towns during the truce. The United Nations aid agencies have announced that they will no longer be delivering emergency aid, because their convoys have been fired on. They claim it was Israeli troops who fired on them. What is certain is that at 1 pm today, Israel sent in fifty trucks to Gaza, loaded with food and medicines for the Palestinians (against whom we are fighting, remember) – and that those trucks, loaded with humanitarian aid for their own people, were fired on by Hamas. Under the circumstances, I take leave to question the UN’s claim that it was Israeli troops who fired on previous aid convoys.
Earlier this week, the whole world was horrified by the newsreel footage of a school in Gaza which was fired on by Israeli mortars, leaving over forty dead and many wounded. The school was functioning as a UN refugee centre and, according to the UN, Israel had been informed this was the case. This was the opportunity Hamas had been waiting for. "Israeli Massacre of the Innocents" screamed the international Press.
It was inevitable that something of this kind would happen sooner or later, given the Hamas policy of using the civilian population as human shields for their mortars and rocket launchers. Either way, they score a victory. If Israel refrains from firing back, in order to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas is free to fire on Israeli civilians with impunity, knowing that Israel will not fire back. But if Israel does respond in kind – as she is entitled to do under international law – and civilians are killed or wounded, then Hamas scores a huge public relations victory. The death of their own people is of no import – theirs is a religion that embraces martyrdom, even the unwilling martyrdom of others, that glorifies death. And beyond the public relations victory, pictures of dead and dying Palestinian women and children also has a demoralising effect on the Israeli public – because we Jews have a conscience, we embrace life as God’s most precious gift.
The legal argument, that Israeli troops were returning fire after having been fired upon from the school building, while it would no doubt stand up in any War Crimes trial, pales before the sight of a dead Palestinian baby. And Hamas has counted on this from the very start.
Let me tell you, my friends – my heart bleeds at the sight of dead Palestinian women and children. There have indeed been war crimes committed in the course of the current conflict. And the world should certainly demand a reckoning. Those responsible should be put on trial and made to answer for what they have done. So let’s start with the deliberate firing of Kassam rockets, over a period of eight years, on Israeli towns and villages (a manifestly civilian target) by Hamas. The deliberate targeting of civilians is prohibited both by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and by the 1977 Protocols which extended the protection of the original conventions to civilians and applied them also to non-international conflicts and to so-called "wars of national liberation".
I therefore call for the Hamas leaders who ordered the deliberate bombing of Israel’s civilian population, to be put on trial for war crimes.
Hamas deliberately used Palestinian civilians as human shields in order to hide their weaponry. They placed their rocket launchers in schools and refugee centres, they stockpiled weapons in mosques and hospitals, thus turning these places into legitimate military targets. Article 51(7) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions provides:
"The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points
or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield,
favour or impede military operations."
I therefore call for the Hamas leaders who turned their own non-combatants into military targets, to be put on trial for war crimes.
Hamas terrorists fired on trucks carrying essential food and medical supplies being delivered to their own civilian population by Israel. I therefore call for the Hamas leaders, who denied emergency humanitarian aid to the civilian population of Gaza, to be put on trial for war crimes.