Palestinian perfidy

Louis Rene Beres:

Israel has just completed an essential defensive operation against terrorists in Rafah. Although televised images of this Gaza operation suggested cruelty and indiscriminate action by Israeli forces, exactly the opposite is true. By deliberately placing young Arab children in the front of large mobs that advanced menacingly upon Israeli soldiers, Palestinian leaders openly committed major violations of the Law of War. There is, in fact, a precise legal term for these violations, a term that applies equally to the Palestinian tactic of routinely inserting scores of gunmen among the lines of children. This codified crime under humanitarian international law is called "perfidy."

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Israel has been blamed for blowing up Palestinian houses. These houses are not ordinary residences. Rather, they are critical exit points for smugglers' tunnels that begin in other houses on the Egyptian side. The tunnels are a primary conduit for the growing traffic of arms, heavy explosives, drugs and hostile operatives into Rafah. Left in place, they could soon become the source of chemical and/or biological terrorism against Israel. Indeed, these tunnels could even enlarge the prospect of a "dirty bomb" nuclear assault upon Israeli cities deliveredbyArabsuicide bombers.

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International law is not a suicide pact. Rather, it correctly offers an authoritative body of rules and procedures that always permits states their "inherent right of self-defense." When terrorist organizations openly celebrate the explosive"martyrdom"of Palestinianchildrenand unashamedly seek religious redemption through the mass-murder of Jewish children, they have absolutely no legal right to demand sanctuary anywhere. Under international law they are hostes humani generis, "common enemies of humankind," who must be punished wherever they are found.

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Deception can be legal in armed conflict, but the Hague Regulations disallow placement of military assets or personnel in heavily populated civilian areas. Further prohibition of perfidy is found in Protocol I of the 1977 addition to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and it is widely recognized that these rules also are binding on the basis of customary international law. Perfidy represents an especially serious violation of the Law of War, one identified as a "grave breach" in Article 147 of Geneva Convention IV. The full legal effect of perfidy committed by Palestinian terrorist leaders is to immunize Israel from any responsibility for counterterrorist harms done to Arab civilians.

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