Israel, Hamas and the Complex Interplay of International War Laws

TOPIC: Israel, Hamas and the Complex Interplay of International War Laws



As the latest conflict continues a discordance between Israel and Hamas, both the countries have been accused of breaking the international humanitarian law (IHL). The United Nations continues to gather evidence of war crimes against both Israel and Hamas. The latest conflict began on October 7, when Hamas militants launched a cross-border attack into Israel. Consequently, in retribution Israel has implanted Hamas ruled Gaza with airstrikes, blocked deliveries of food, water, fuel and electricity, and told people to leave the northern half of the strip ahead of a possible ground invasion.


The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has profound historical roots, with both the countries claiming the same land as their rightful homeland. The conflict has intensified in the mid-20th century, leading to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and displacement of Palestinian Arabs. The conflict has seen multiple wars and uprisings, with issues including borders, refugees, sovereignty, and the status of Jerusalem remaining contentious.  


The laws of war, also known as international humanitarian law, encompass a set of rules and principles that seek to protect individuals who are not a part of war hostilities or provide measures to limit the method and means of warfare. These laws include the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, which are widely accepted as international norms governing armed conflict. They establish guidelines for the conduct of hostilities, treatment of prisoners of war, and protection of civilians during armed conflicts, whether international or non-international in nature. 

Following are the core principles of laws of armed conflict and how these laws can be navigated in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict: –

  1. Distinction i.e., Parties to a conflict must distinguish between combatants and civilians and only target combatants and military objectives. Attacks on civilians, civilian settlements, and humanitarian workers are illegal.
  2. Proportionality i.e., The use of force must be proportionate to the military advantage sought, and excessive civilian harm is prohibited.
  3. Precaution i.e., Parties to a conflict must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians.
  4. Humanity i.e., The laws of war aim to mitigate the suffering of those affected by armed conflict.

In the present conflict since October 7, there have been indiscriminate attacks on civilians. For instance, Hamas fighters fired rockets into Israel and stormed southern Israeli cities and towns across the border of the Gaza strip. They killed and injured hundreds of soldiers and civilian and took dozens of hostages. Afterwards, there was an Israeli air attack that killed at least 500 people and wounded hundreds being described as a massacre. Nearly 2,700 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched retaliatory air strikes and these air strikes continue over innocent civilians from both the sides of war.

Israel, Hamas and the Complex Interplay of International War Laws

International law prohibits the abduction of civilians and hostage taking as done by Hamas. The United Nations has urged Hamas that all those held captive must be treated humanely, in accordance with international law and granted medical treatment.

And although the efforts are being made by UN and other nations, there has been no sign for deterrence between Israel and Palestinians. 

However, one must not forget that the application of these core principles of humanitarian law becomes particularly challenging in conflicts like the Israel and Hamas conflict due to the urban environment of the state, the presence of non-state actors like Hamas, and the political complexities of the region. 


Thus, the current Israel and Hamas conflict is a deeply rooted and complex issue and made even more intricate by the interaction of international laws of war. The application of these laws is essential to minimize civilian harm in armed conflicts, but it’s challenging in a situation like that has been escalated in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to the unique characteristics of the conflict, such as the urban warfare environment and the nature of parties involved. A just and lasting resolution to this conflict remains a significant challenge and requires addressing not only legal aspects but also underlying political and humanitarian issues.




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