We were about to produce a primer on the law of war framework that governs the ongoing hostilities in Gaza. However, Human Rights Watch has just posted what we think is an excellent primer on the relevant law (and it obviates the need for what we were going to produce). Their product—“Q&A: 2014 Hostilities between Israel and Hamas”—is a very welcome addition to the discussion of these events. We recommend it to anyone grappling with the issues. Here are the fourteen questions that they address:
1. What international humanitarian law applies to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas?
2. Who is subject to military attack?
3. What are the obligations of Israel and Hamas with respect to fighting in populated areas?
4. Should belligerent parties give warnings to civilians in advance of attacks? What constitutes an “effective” warning?
5. What are the legal protections for hospitals, medical personnel and ambulances?
6. May Israel attack mosques in Gaza?
7. Is Hamas’s firing of rockets at Israel lawful?
8. Is it lawful to target leaders of Hamas and their offices and homes?
9. What is meant by “collective punishment” of the civilian population?
10. How must captured combatants and civilians in custody be treated?
11. May Israel attack Hamas radio and television stations?
12. What are Israel’s and Hamas’s obligations to humanitarian agencies?
13. Who can be held responsible for violations of international humanitarian law?
14. Can alleged war crimes be brought before the International Criminal Court?