Israel, PA now in 'armed conflict' : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Israel, PA now in 'armed conflict' By Arieh O'Sullivan

JERUSALEM (January 11) - Israeli officials have confirmed that Israel has raised the legal designation of the conflict with the Palestinians to one short of all-out war.

According to senior officials in the IDF and the Foreign Ministry, Israel has unilaterally declared the situation with the Palestinians as an "armed conflict," up from a "formal state of peace."

The redefinition eases open-fire restrictions for soldiers and absolves Israel of legal responsibility for damage and injuries.

The confirmation came as a senior army commander told Israel Radio that soldiers in the territories are "feeling fatigued and trigger happy."

The IDF, currently examining a number of shooting incidents involving soldiers, has concluded that there are increasing instances of soldiers firing against regulations. This includes the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old woman by a sniper as the car she was traveling in ran a road block near Nablus, and the shooting death of a retarded man who approached a Gaza Strip outpost.

By declaring the situation an armed conflict, Israel is open to take more offensive actions. It allows, for example, the designation of a combatant as legitimate target. This fits the current IDF policy of tracking key Palestinian gunmen and commanders, some of whom are killed in the attempt.

"International law prefers targeting specific people rather than a general area to prevent collateral damage," said one government official.

The current situation from a legal point of view is not the same as during the initial intifada a decade ago. Then, it was a popular, mostly unarmed, insurrection against occupation. Israel was responsible for the administration of the area.

Today the Palestinian Authority controls 97 percent of the Palestinian population, 95% of the territory in the Gaza Strip, and 40% of the West Bank. The current intifada is one of organized attacks aimed mostly at military and civilian targets which are instigated or supported by the PA and backed by paramilitary forces.

"When we examined the facts we realized, 'We are no longer in Kansas,'" said a senior defense source. "We realized we were in a legal situation of armed conflict."

The status allows a freer hand to destroy property on the grounds of a military necessity. This has allowed the IDF to uproot trees and demolish structures used by Palestinian gunmen without first going to court. Israel abides by the principle of "proportionality in warfare," officials said.

The decision to change the status was taken unilaterally over the course of a few weeks and was in effect about a month ago when the conflict changed from mass demonstrations to armed attacks.

According to the defense source, there were hesitations in the IDF about raising the legal level of the conflict.

"We under stood that this decision has serious ramifications and we were not blind to the fact that it could lead to changes in the way we acted," said a defense source. "But then again we are not ostriches. The facts are not controversial: We are in an armed conflict. This is not a civilian uprising. The Palestinians are attacking civilian and military targets. This is called warfare."

Further, "If we had tried to control the situation only using the amount of force allowed in peace time, we couldn't have done so," he said.

The situation cannot develop to a true war in the legal sense since that would require an armed conflict by armies of two states or more and require a certain totality. A tank battle, for example, would only be a skirmish and not necessarily a war."

Israel maintains that once it transferred authority to the Palestinians under the Oslo accords, the bulk of the territories were no longer under the status of "belligerent occupation."

Defense officials said the upgraded legal status could be reversed if and when the level of violence decreases.

-- (, January 11, 2001

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