Ariel Center for
Policy Research



NATIV  Volume Sixteen   Number 3 (92)  ■  May 2003 ■ Iyar 5763 ■ Ariel Center for Policy Research





Weighing the Risk to the IDF Soldiers
in Their Efforts to Protect the Enemy's Civilians

Eliav Shochetman

In the course of the IDF’s activity in Jenin, which was conducted in the framework of the Defensive Shield operation (spring 2002), warnings were received that if a ground operation was carried out, it would entail a heavy price in dead and wounded. Yet then-Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer rejected the proposal to bomb the area in question from the air so as to avoid casualties, and ordered that the ground operation be carried out.

In this operation, thirteen IDF soldiers were killed and many were wounded. The defense minister’s justification for his order was that harming Palestinian civilians had to be avoided at all costs, even if it meant harm to IDF soldiers. In fact, all the civilian residents of the Jenin refugee camp were given an advance warning to evacuate the camp, which many of them indeed did.

This article aims to show that under the circumstances, the order that was given to the IDF, despite the warnings, did not accord with the common rules of morality, the rules of international law, the rules of Israeli law, or the tradition of Jewish law.

The IDF’s supreme obligation is to protect the lives of its soldiers, and any military operation that is capable of preventing such losses must be carried out, even if enemy civilians are likely to be harmed (unintentionally) as a result. The responsibility for any such harm lies with the terror organizations that force Israel to fight and defend itself in the first place, and in this case the IDF had discharged its obligation with its advance warning to all the civilians to evacuate as quickly as possible.

The first part of the article (which appeared in the previous issue, No. 91) deals with the aspect of the Jewish legal tradition, and the second part (appearing in the present issue) focuses on the common rules of law, the international rules of law, and the stipulations of Israeli law.


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