Related Rule
Israel
Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
With reference to Israel’s Law of War Booklet (1986), the Report on the Practice of Israel states: “In principle, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) accepts and applies the principle of distinction.” 
Report on the Practice of Israel, 1997, Chapter 1.1, referring to Conduct in the Battlefield in Accordance with the Law of War, Israel Defense Forces, 1986, Chapter 1.
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states that “a distinction has to be made between combatants and non-combatants”. 
Israel, Rules of Warfare on the Battlefield, Military Advocate-General’s Corps Command, IDF School of Military Law, Second Edition, 2006, p. 29.
The manual further states: “A separation must be maintained between combatants and civilians.” 
Israel, Rules of Warfare on the Battlefield, Military Advocate-General’s Corps Command, IDF School of Military Law, Second Edition, 2006, p. 49.
The Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
In its judgment in Physicians for Human Rights v. Prime Minister of Israel in 2009 concerning the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip consequent to the start of Israeli military operations (“Cast Lead”) there in December 2008, Israel’s High Court of Justice stated: “One of the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law is the principle that distinguishes combatants and military targets from civilians and civilian targets, and grants protection to the latter.” 
Israel, High Court of Justice, Physicians for Human Rights v. Prime Minister of Israel, Judgment, 19 January 2009, § 21.
In 2008, in a background paper on Israel’s operations in Gaza, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated: “A core principle of the law of armed conflict is the ‘principle of distinction’ – the obligation to ensure at all times that a distinction is made between combatants and civilians.” 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, background paper, Responding to Hamas Attacks from Gaza: Issues of Proportionality, December 2008, § 1.
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:
The first core principle of the Law of Armed Conflict, as reflected both in treaty law and in customary international law, is that “the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants … and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” The principle imposes obligations on both parties to an armed conflict. 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, § 94.
In a footnote to paragraph 94, above, the report further stated that this principle is contained in:
[The 1977] Additional Protocol I, art. 48. Although the State of Israel is not a party to the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions, it accepts that this provision, as with certain others addressing the principles of distinction and proportionality, accurately reflects customary international law. See Public Committee against Torture in Israel v. Government of Israel, HCJ 769/02 at § 20 (11 December 2005). 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, § 94, footnote.
The report also stated: “The principle of distinction imposes obligations on the conduct of all parties, including those controlling the territory where the hostilities take place.” 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, § 116.
While the core challenges in the protection of civilians identified in the previous reports of the Secretary-General still need our sustained attention, the new report also identifies several protection policy priorities that need to be explored. In particular the following “emerging” issues would benefit from our attention, and the Group of Friends stands ready to act as a platform to advance them. …
… [O]n the issue of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), the Group is of the view that further discussions are needed and it welcomes the fact that the issue will be examined in Geneva in May 2014, in the framework of the CCW [Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons]. The Group hopes that such discussions will also examine the issue with due consideration to the protection of civilians as part of a comprehensive debate including legal, military operational, technological and ethical perspectives. In time discussion should focus on the relevance of such systems to the protection of civilians, in particular in the context of IHL and with regard to the principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality. 
Italy, Statement by the permanent representative of Switzerland during a UN Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict made on behalf of the Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, namely Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Uruguay, 12 February 2014, p. 2.
Israel’s Manual on the Laws of War (1998) states: “Any soldier (male or female!) in the enemy’s army is a legitimate military target for attack, whether on the battlefield or outside of it.” 
Israel, Laws of War in the Battlefield, Manual, Military Advocate General Headquarters, Military School, 1998, p. 42.
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states: “The fundamental rule is that war should be conducted between armies and each army should only attack the army of the enemy.” 
Israel, Rules of Warfare on the Battlefield, Military Advocate-General’s Corps Command, IDF School of Military Law, Second Edition, 2006, p. 23.
The manual further states: “Every soldier (including women soldiers!) in the enemy’s army is a legitimate military target to be attacked on and away from the battlefield.” 
Israel, Rules of Warfare on the Battlefield, Military Advocate-General’s Corps Command, IDF School of Military Law, Second Edition, 2006, p. 29.
The Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
In its judgment in the Public Committee against Torture in Israel case in 2006, Israel’s High Court of Justice stated: “In general, combatants and military objectives are legitimate targets for military attack. Their lives and bodies are endangered by the combat. They can be killed and wounded.” 
Israel, High Court of Justice, Public Committee against Torture in Israel case, Judgment, 14 December 2006, § 23.
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 that “by definition, the principle of distinction does not forbid the targeting of combatants”. 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, § 96.
[footnote in original omitted]
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: “The principle of distinction is a core element of IDF [Israel Defense Forces] standing orders. All IDF soldiers are instructed that strikes are to be directed only against … combatants”. 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gaza Operation Investigations: Second Update, 19 July 2010, § 58.
In 2010, in a position paper submitted to the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010 (Turkel Commission), established by the Israeli Government to examine the Gaza flotilla incident, Israel’s Military Advocate General stated:
[T]he law of armed conflict is based, inter alia, upon the fundamental principles of distinction and proportionality. According to the first principle, a person who belongs to the armed forces of the opposing side constitutes a legitimate target for attack, and therefore he can be attacked intentionally and directly, in order to kill him or wound him, and thus take him out of the “cycle of combat.” 
Israel, position paper by the Military Advocate General on investigating allegations of violations of IHL, submitted to the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010 (Turkel Commission), 19 December 2010, Part B.
With reference to Israel’s Law of War Booklet (1986), the Report on the Practice of Israel states: “The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] is extremely conscious of the necessity to differentiate between civilians and legitimate targets. Attacks on civilians are strictly prohibited.” 
Report on the Practice of Israel, 1997, Chapter 1.3, referring to Conduct in the Battlefield in Accordance with the Law of War, Israel Defence Forces, 1986, Chapter 1.
Israel’s Manual on the Laws of War (1998) states that the principle of distinction “clearly imposes the obligation to refrain from harming civilians insofar as possible”. 
Israel, Laws of War in the Battlefield, Manual, Military Advocate General Headquarters, Military School, 1998, p. 42.
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states: “[A]ttacking civilians … will merely cause unnecessary suffering, and such actions are morally tainted on humanitarian grounds.” 
Israel, Rules of Warfare on the Battlefield, Military Advocate-General’s Corps Command, IDF School of Military Law, Second Edition, 2006, p. 8.
The manual further states that “a distinction has to be made between combatants and non-combatants. This distinction imposes the duty to refrain from attacking civilians as far as possible.” 
Israel, Rules of Warfare on the Battlefield, Military Advocate-General’s Corps Command, IDF School of Military Law, Second Edition, 2006, p. 29.
The Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
In the Kassem case in 1969, the Israeli Military Court at Ramallah stated: “Immunity of non-combatants from direct attack is one of the basic rules of the international law of war.” 
Israel, Military Court at Ramallah, Kassem case, Judgment, 13 April 1969.
In its judgment in the Public Committee against Torture in Israel case in 2006, Israel’s High Court of Justice stated:
23. … Opposite the combatants and military objectives stand the civilians and civilian objectives. Military attack directed at them is forbidden. Their lives and bodies are protected from the dangers of combat, provided that they themselves do not take a direct part in the combat. That customary principle is worded as follows:
“Rule 1: The parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants. Attacks may only be directed against combatants. Attacks must not be directed against civilians.
Rule 6: Civilians are protected against attack unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.
Rule 7: The parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives. Attacks may only be directed against military objectives. Attacks must not be directed against civilian objects.”.
This approach – which protects the lives, bodies, and property of civilians who are not taking a direct part in the armed conflict – passes like a thread throughout the caselaw of the Supreme Court …
26. Customary international law regarding armed conflicts protects “civilians” from harm as a result of the hostilities. The International Court of Justice discussed that in The Legality of Nuclear Weapons, stating:
“states must never make civilians the object of attack” (p. 257).
That customary principle is expressed in article 51(2) of The First Protocol, according to which:
“The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack”. 
Israel, High Court of Justice, Public Committee against Torture in Israel case, Judgment, 14 December 2006, §§ 23 and 26.
In its judgment in Physicians for Human Rights v. Prime Minister of Israel in 2009 concerning the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip consequent to the start of Israeli military operations (“Cast Lead”) there in December 2008, Israel’s High Court of Justice stated:
14. The normative arrangements that govern the armed conflict between the State of Israel and the Hamas organization are complex. They revolve around the international laws relating to an international armed conflict. Admittedly, the classification of the armed conflict between the state of Israel and the Hamas organization as an international conflict raises several difficulties. But in a host of judgments we have regarded this conflict as an international conflict. …
15. … [T]he normative arrangements that govern the State of Israel when it conducts combat operations in the Gaza Strip derive from several legal sources. These legal sources include international humanitarian law, which is enshrined mainly in the Fourth Hague Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, 1907, and the regulations annexed thereto, whose provisions have the status of customary international law; the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, 1949, whose customary provisions constitute a part of the law of the State of Israel and have required interpretation by this court in several judgments … and the first Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 1977 (hereafter – “the First Protocol”), to which Israel is not a party, but whose customary provisions also constitute a part of Israeli law. …
17. Everyone agrees that the rules of customary international law – … [that] require the civilian population to be protected and its basic rights to be upheld – apply to the combat operations that are being carried out in the “Cast Lead” operation and bind the actions of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]. 
Israel, High Court of Justice, Physicians for Human Rights v. Prime Minister of Israel, Judgment, 19 January 2009, §§ 14–15 and 17.
In 2006, in a statement to the Knesset, Israel’s Minister of Defence stated:
I would like to state categorically: There is no Israeli pilot or commander who would issue an order to hurt uninvolved civilians. … I regret the outcome of the incident in Kafr Qana. We regret harming any adult or child, and we will continue to do everything to avoid it. We will not hesitate to investigate this incident [which] claimed so many lives, in order to learn how to prevent loss of life in the future. We are not doing this to make a good impression on anyone. We are doing it for ourselves, for our own moral conscience. 
Israel, Statement by Defence Minister Amir Peretz to the Knesset, 31 July 2006.
In 2007, the Government of Israel stated in a diplomatic note:
In the course of the conflict that it had initiated, Hizbullah’s operations entailed fundamental violations of international humanitarian law. Most specifically, it wilfully violated the principle of distinction, which obliges parties to a conflict to direct their attacks only against military objectives … Throughout the conflict, Hizbullah demonstrated cynical disregard for the lives of civilians, both on the Israeli side, where it targeted them, and on the Lebanese side ...
Deliberate attacks on civilian targets
Hizbullah, as a deliberate strategy, carried out missile attacks against Israeli population centers.
In the course of 34 days of fighting (July 12–August 14, 2006) approximately one third of the population of the State of Israel – about two million people − were placed within striking range of the thousands of missiles launched indiscriminately by Hizbullah. Missile attacks were launched against large cities such as Haifa, historic towns containing religious sites and archeological sites, such as Safed, Nazareth and Tiberias, farming communities such as Meron and villages such as Majdal Krum.
Some 4,000 missiles landed in Israeli territory, all over northern Israel, many in urban areas. In the course of the conflict, 43 Israeli civilians − Arabs and Jews alike − were killed, including seven children. Thousands of civilians required medical attention: 604 civilians were wounded (with various degrees of severity) and an additional 1,210 were treated for shock. The number of displaced people was estimated at between 350,000 to 500,000 while about 1,000,000 people were confined to bomb shelters.
Hizbullah not only violated humanitarian principles by deliberately targeting civilian areas, but also by using Katyusha missiles loaded with lethal anti-personnel ball bearings, intended to maximize civilian casualties.
It should be stressed that Hizbullah made no attempt to hide its intention to target civilians as a matter of policy. Indeed, the only concern expressed in the course of the conflict was that Arab Israelis should leave targeted areas so that only Jewish civilians would be killed and wounded.  
Israel, Israel’s War with Hizbullah. Preserving Humanitarian Principles While Combating Terrorism, Diplomatic Notes No. 1, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, April 2007, pp. 4–6.
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:
[The Principle of Distinction] addresses only deliberate targeting of civilians, not incidental harm to civilians in the course of striking at legitimate military objectives. This understanding of customary international law was made explicit by numerous States in their ratifications of [the 1977] Additional Protocol I, and many other States have officially adopted this interpretation.  
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, § 97.
[footnotes in original omitted]
The report also stated: “Mistakes made in armed conflict do not, as such, constitute war crimes. The centrality of a commander’s intent means that the incidence of civilian casualties does not serve to establish a violation of the principle of distinction.” 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, § 112.
The report further stated that “military operations that cause unintended and unwanted damage to civilians do not constitute violations of the Law of Armed Conflict, much less a war crime”. 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, § 114.
(emphasis in original)
In 2009, in its initial response to the Report of the Fact Finding Mission on Gaza (the “Goldstone Report”), Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated:
The Report is rife with purported legal analysis and findings that Israeli forces committed “grave breaches” of international law and “war crimes”, without any recognition that such findings can only be based on affirmative evidence of intention to target civilians (as opposed to military objectives). In other words, there must have been intent to cause harm to civilians, as distinct from the knowledge that civilians may be harmed as an unintended consequence of pursuing a military goal. 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Initial Response to the Report of the Fact Finding Mission on Gaza, 24 September 2009, § 24.
[footnote in original omitted]
In January 2010, in an 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:
… Under the Law of Armed Conflict, the occurrence of … injury, or even death of civilians, during an operational activity does not necessarily indicate nor even imply criminal misconduct. Rather, criminal responsibility for violation of the Law of Armed Conflict requires evidence that military personnel intended to harm civilians or clearly foresaw that excessive harm to civilians would result, when balanced against the anticipated military advantage. 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gaza Operation Investigations: An Update, 29 January 2010, § 51.
[emphasis in original; footnotes in original omitted]
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 [Israeli Defense Forces] orders and doctrine strictly prohibit the intentional targeting of civilians”. 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gaza Operation Investigations: Second Update, 19 July 2010, § 58.