Int'l Law is 'Sacred' to IDF

IDF Chief Counsel Mandelblit said that bombing the hospital where heads of Hamas were hiding would have been 'completely disproportional.'

Gil Ronen ,

Troops return from Gaza
Troops return from Gaza
Israel news photo, Flash 90

The IDF's Chief Counsel, Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit, said in a weekend lecture that the IDF is utterly committed to international law in all of its actions and defended the decision not to bomb the hospital where Hamas's heads were hiding during the IDF's operation in Gaza in January.

Speaking at a Jerusalem seminar titled “Fighting and Winning within the Framework of the Law,” Mandelblit said that the IDF would never put aside the laws laid down by international law, adding that “all of the commanders hold it sacred.”

"The IDF's clear position – and I have already worked with three chiefs of staff – is that we must always act within the [international] laws,” the kippah-wearing attorney said. He was quoted on the IDF's website.

'Morals and principle'
"We have a decision based on values, morals and principle to fight in the way laid down by the law,” Mandelblit said. He explained that the International Law Department in the Military Prosecution was growing all the time, because of the growing international awareness regarding international law. He added that following the Second Lebanon War, the IDF decided to “deepen” the presence of legal advisers in the army, and that nowadays every division has its own legal adviser, whose main job is to determine the legality of the targets of the division's fire. 

One such proposed target which would have been illegal “beyond any doubt” despite its “decisive operational importance” according to Mandelblit was the Shifa hospital in Gaza, where Hamas's top leadership was hiding during Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and early 2009.

"If we had bombed Shifa because Hamas's heads were hiding there, then we would have killed about 500 civilians, and that is completely disproportional,” he stated.