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Israel’s government has a duty to use every lawful means of warfare to defeat Hamas

Israelis are still burying the 1,200 victims of the Saturday attack on southern Israel by Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that seized power in Gaza in 2007.

As the assault unfolded, terrorists raped women and dragged them through the streets.

They decapitated babies in their cribs.

They slaughtered entire families in their homes.

Hundreds of civilians remain missing or held hostage in Gaza.

The sheer evil of Hamas’ deeds exceeds what can be conveyed in words.

Anything other than an end to Hamas’ rule will leave Israel’s and the world’s citizens unacceptably exposed to savage criminal activity.

Israel’s government has a duty to its citizenry and the world to move rapidly and effectively to use every lawful means of warfare to defeat Hamas; deny Hamas territory in which to operate; and kill or capture all Hamas terrorists.

The defense minister announced a “complete siege” on Gaza, meaning it will receive “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel” from or through Israel.

Since Hamas’ ascent to power, Israel has continued to be the main conduit of trade and supply for the Gaza Strip, providing its own fuel, electricity, water and medical care to Palestinian civilians that Hamas neglects and abuses.

This isn’t viable during the military campaign.

For years, Hamas has exploited these transfers by stealing supplies and penetrating “humanitarian” organizations to mask its terror operations and launder funds.

Hamas’ wartime command-and-control center is located in the basement of Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, where the “humanitarian” supply of power and goods can serve the terrorists’ needs and Palestinian civilians’ misery can make them human shields.

Thus Israel cannot allow Hamas to resupply during the war; a complete siege is needed.

Unsurprisingly, the terrorists’ propaganda machine is working overtime accusing Israel of violating international law.

Hamas-controlled institutions, from the Gaza “health ministry” to Gazan “human rights” organizations, together with their Western allies in the United Nations and European Union, insist Israel has no legal right to besiege Gaza and is legally responsible for the price ordinary Palestinians are paying for Hamas’ actions.

These claims are perverse and without legal foundation.

Sieges are a well-known and lawful method of warfare.

Both the Geneva and Hague conventions include instructions on conducting sieges under international law, recognizing they may be effective tools for bringing a conflict to a rapid and successful end.

The basic rule they outline: Sieges are lawful unless deliberately aimed at starving the local population.

Israel’s aims, repeatedly stated, are to defeat Hamas terrorists by depriving them of resources and to rescue hostages.

International pressure demanding Israel provide terrorists with electricity and other goods is absurd and without basis in international law.

As the besieging state, Israel is not required to fund or assist Hamas’ war effort as it attempts to butcher Jews.

Siege law includes a humanitarian aspect: International law requires that Israel facilitate the passage of food and medicine by third parties, but only if such goods can be reliably delivered without diversion to Hamas and without fear the goods will give Hamas an economic and military boost.

Given Hamas’ 16-year exploitation of humanitarian aid and infiltration of human-rights and international organizations in Gaza, diversion is not merely a possibility — it is a certainty.

So it would be unthinkable for Israel to place humanitarian workers in Gaza or allow aid to reach Hamas. If governments and international organizations are serious about aiding Gazan civilians — to date, such organizations have been more invested in condemning Israel and immunizing Palestinian terrorists from accountability and punishment — they should devote their resources to facilitating the safe and rapid evacuation of Gaza’s civilian population outside the conflict zone.

While this is a heady mission, it is not impossible: Indeed, five times the population of Gaza was evacuated from Ukraine under fire.

Removing Gaza’s civilians will prevent them from being harmed as lawful collateral damage and block Hamas from using them as human shields.

Humanitarian efforts should focus on cooperating with Israel and Egypt to allow Palestinians to surrender at Gaza’s Egyptian border, go through Israeli screening to prevent hostage smuggling or terrorists’ escape and reach safe locations outside the Middle East.

Hamas is telling civilians not to evacuate when Israel warns a strike is coming, so it will be imperative to broadcast messages directly to the people that safety lies outside the Gaza Strip.

In wartime, there are three certainties: Each side seeks victory, innocents will suffer and die, and, if Israel is involved, unfair accusations and wholly unreasonable demands will be made.

After the brutal Oct. 7 attacks, the Jewish state’s opponents will not find many Israelis willing to heed cant, but real humanitarians have a genuine path to offer help. They should take it.

The article was first published in the NY Post (“Israel has the right — and the duty — to besiege Gaza”, October 11,2023)

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  • פרופ' אבי בל, חבר הפקולטות למשפטים באוניברסיטאות בר אילן וסן דייגו, הוא עמית בכיר בפורום קהלת. תחומי העניין האקדמיים שלו כוללים קניין ותיאוריות של קנין, משפט בינלאומי פומבי, משפט ציבורי, הסכסוך הערבי-הישראלי וניתוח כלכלי של המשפט. פרופ' בל נחשב לאחד החוקרים המובילים בישראל בתחום הניתוח הכלכלי של המשפט והוא חבר הן באגודה הישראלית למשפט וכלכלה והן במקבילתה בארה"ב, the American Law and Economics Association. מאמרים שכתב הוצגו בכנסים השנתיים של אגודות אלו וכן ב- International Society for New Institutional Economics ופורסמו בכתבי העת המשפטיים המובילים בעולם, ביניהם: Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review and Columbia Law Review. בל קיבל תואר ראשון ושני מאוניברסיטת שיקגו ודוקטורט מאוניברסיטת הרווארד. הוא שימש כפרופ' אורח באוניברסיטאות פורדהם וקונטיקוט. כמו כן, כיהן בל כמנהל ה-Global Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs וכעמית אורח בפרוייקט על יסודות המשפט הפרטי בבית ספר למשפטים באוניברסיטת הארווארד.

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