Largely absent from the conversation about Israel’s military offensive in Gaza is the question of whether or not Israel is using inherently indiscriminate means and methods of warfare. If so, even if any resulting deaths might be arguably “proportionate” and “incidental,” they could still be considered war crimes.
The atrocities accompanying the Israel-Hamas conflict have led many observers to ask if it makes sense to speak about the laws of war when armed actors seem only too willing to ignore them. But to say that the laws of war are ineffective is to misunderstand how they are meant to work—and do work—even when they seem to be ignored.
Israel’s order for civilians to evacuate northern Gaza ahead of an expected ground offensive has generated severe criticism. But an alternative, legal plan at Israel’s disposal for moving civilians out of harm’s way could, if executed, resolve Israel’s humanitarian dilemma and also yield some strategic side-benefits.