Practice Relating to Rule 7. The Principle of Distinction between Civilian Objects and Military Objectives
Section C. Attacks against civilian objects in general
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states: “One of the fundamental features of the rules of war is the distinction between military targets which it is permissible to attack and civilian targets which it is forbidden to attack.”
In 2007, the Government of Israel stated in a diplomatic note:
Damage to property [caused by Hizbullah’s missile attacks] was also heavy: in total, some 12,000 civilian buildings were damaged, among them about 400 public buildings, while about 2,000 private homes and apartments were completely destroyed. In addition, 23 schools, four kindergartens and two community centers were damaged. During the conflict, hospitals were damaged in Nahariya, Haifa, Safed and Mizra. One of them – a psychiatric hospital – had to be evacuated.
Significant damage was also inflicted on infrastructure: sewage plants were damaged and, in some cases, sewage had to be released into the sea and atmosphere (by burning). Over 50 km of roads were damaged and 2 km² of cultivated forest, as well as 40 km² of natural woodland, were destroyed by fires caused by the missiles. All these clearly constitute civilian objects, which are protected from attack by international law, and whose destruction served no military purpose whatsoever.
In 2009, in a report on Israeli operations in Gaza between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 (the “Gaza Operation”, also known as “Operation Cast Lead”), Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated: “Any attack against civilian objectives shall be prohibited.”
The report also stated: “Special precautions were to be taken when conducting military activities near U.N. or diplomatic premises”.
In July 2010, in a second update of its July 2009 report on Israeli operations in Gaza between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated: “IDF orders and doctrine strictly prohibit the intentional targeting of … civilian objects”.