Related Rule
Israel
Practice Relating to Rule 8. Definition of Military Objectives
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states: “A military target is any target that, if attacked, would damage the military competence/fitness of the other side.” 
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:
A military target for attack is a target that, through its nature, content or use would make an effective contribution to the military actions of the other side, and the neutralisation thereof would give the attacker a clear military advantage. A soldier is an obvious military target, while a little girl playing on the swings in the playground is certainly not. A clear military target is, for example, an enemy position and a clear civilian target is a playground. However, in between these two extremes lie a whole spectrum of examples that are less clear-cut. For example, a factory that produces steel and that is used to built tanks, and a factory that produces the raw materials used in the production of gunpowder. Discussions regarding the distinction between military and non-military targets, and how far it might [be] possible to stretch the limits are very extensive in the modern era. These questions intensified during World War II, when air forces were involved in the extensive bombing of infrastructure. In that war the definition of a military target became overextended and were also applied to telecommunications centres, steel factories, power stations, strategic installations and more. 
Israel, Rules of Warfare on the Battlefield, Military Advocate-General’s Corps Command, IDF School of Military Law, Second Edition, 2006, pp. 23–24.
The Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
According to the Report on the Practice of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have no generally applicable definition of what constitutes a “military target”, but their practice most closely reflects the definition found in Article 52(2) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I. 
Report on the Practice of Israel, 1997, Answers to additional questions on Chapter 1.3.
In 2006, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated:
The generally accepted definition of “military objective” is that set out in Article 52(2) Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which provides:
Insofar as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which, by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.
This definition has been criticized by some for being too narrow, and failing to pay sufficient attention to war sustaining capability, including economic targets. 
Israel, Responding to Hizbullah Attacks from Lebanon: Issues of Proportionality, Legal Background, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, 25 July 2006, § 2.
In 2007, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a diplomatic note:
Legitimate military objectives
The generally accepted definition of “military objective” is that set out in Article 52(2) Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which provides:
Insofar as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which, by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.
Regarding military targets, the IDF’s [Israel Defense Forces’] “Law of War on the Battlefield” provides: “A military target subject to attack is a target that by its nature, location, purpose or use effectively contributes to the military campaign of the other side, and its neutralization will offer a clear military advantage to the attacking side.” 
Israel, Israel’s War with Hizbullah. Preserving Humanitarian Principles While Combating Terrorism, Diplomatic Notes No. 1, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, April 2007, p. 5.
In 2008, in a background paper on Israel’s operations in Gaza, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated:
The generally accepted definition of “military objective” is that set out in Article 52(2) of [the 1977] Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which provides:
Insofar as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage. 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Background paper, Responding to Hamas Attacks from Gaza: Issues of Proportionality, December 2008, § 2.
[footnote in original omitted]
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, in referring to the definition of a “military objective” contained in Article 52(2) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, stated: “The determination of what is a lawful ‘military objective’ turns on an assessment of ‘military advantage’.” 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, § 101.
The report also stated: “Judging military advantage with respect to a target evaluated during combat is not an exercise in hindsight. The perspective is that of the commander in the field at the time of a targeting decision, with the information then available.” 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, § 102.
Israel’s Manual on the Laws of War (1998) states that “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. A military target is any target that, if attacked, would damage the military competence/fitness of the other side. 
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).
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states:
The war effort is not only expressed in attacking fighters at the front, but also in striking at the enemy’s logistical infrastructure – depots, factories, mobilisation centres and communications. A soldier understandably constitutes a military target, as do weapons, bases, installations, airfields and army vehicles. 
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 on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states: “A soldier understandably constitutes a military target, as do weapons, bases, installations, airfields and army vehicles.” 
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 on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states: “The war effort is not only expressed in attacking fighters at the front, but also in striking at the enemy’s logistical infrastructure … mobilisation centres and communications.” 
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 on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
In 2006, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated:
IDF [Israel Defense Force] operations in Lebanon have also included operations directed against infrastructure and property. These have included:
Al Manar TV station – Operating as the Hizballah television station, Al Manar’s was used to relay messages to terrorists as well as incite acts of terrorism. The ICRC list of accepted military objectives includes “the installations of broadcasting and television stations”. Similarly, the Committee established to review NATO bombings in Yugoslavia noted in relation to NATO attacks on radio and television stations in Belgrade: “If the media is used to incite crimes then it is a legitimate target … Insofar as the attack actually was aimed at disrupting the communications network it was legally acceptable.” 
Israel, Responding to Hizbullah Attacks from Lebanon: Issues of Proportionality, Legal Background, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, 25 July 2006, § 4.
In 2007, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a diplomatic note:
The guiding principle adopted by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] was to target only infrastructure that was making a significant contribution to the operational capabilities of the Hizbullah terrorists …
Al Manar TV station – Operating as the Hizbullah television station, Al Manar was used to relay messages to terrorists and to incite acts of terrorism. The ICRC list of accepted military objectives includes “the installations of broadcasting and television stations.” Similarly, the Committee established to review NATO bombings in Yugoslavia noted in relation to NATO attacks on radio and television stations in Belgrade: “If the media is used to incite crimes then it is a legitimate target … Insofar as the attack actually was aimed at disrupting the communications network it was legally acceptable.” 
Israel, Israel’s War with Hizbullah. Preserving Humanitarian Principles While Combating Terrorism, Diplomatic Notes No. 1, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, April 2007, pp. 15 and 17.
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states: “The war effort is not only expressed in attacking fighters at the front, but, also in striking at the enemy’s logistical infrastructure – … mobilisation centres and communications.” 
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 on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
In 2006, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated:
IDF [Israel Defense Force] operations in Lebanon have also included operations directed against infrastructure and property. These have included:
Bridges and roads – The activity of terrorist groups in Lebanon is dependent on major transportation arteries, through which weaponry and ammunition, as well as missile launchers and terrorist reinforcements are transported. Damage to key routes is intended to prevent or obstruct the terrorists in planning and perpetrating their attacks. In this case it is also intended to prevent the kidnapped soldiers being smuggled out of the country.
Under international law there is widespread recognition that lines of transportation which can serve military purposes are a legitimate military target. In its Commentary on the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC includes in its list of military objectives considered to be of “generally recognized military importance”: “Lines and means of communications (railway lines, roads, bridges, tunnels and canals) which are of fundamental military importance”.
A useful practical test for gauging the military importance of lines of transportation is proposed in the US Air Force Pamphlet, which asks “whether they make an effective contribution to an adversary’s military action so that their capture, destruction or neutralization offers a definite military advantage in the circumstances ruling at the time”.
In the current situation, notwithstanding the security justifications for targeting major roads, the IDF takes pains to ensure that sufficient routes remain open to enable civilians to leave combat zones, and to permit the access of humanitarian supplies. Efforts are also made to ensure that damage to civilian vehicles is minimized.
Runways at Beirut International Airport – In the view of the IDF, rendering the runways unusable constituted the most appropriate method of preventing reinforcements and supplies of weaponry and military materiel reaching the terrorist organizations. It is also a response to reports that it is the intention of the terrorists to fly the kidnapped Israelis out of Lebanon.
Airports are widely recognized to be legitimate military targets. The Canadian Law of Armed Conflict Manual, for example, notes that “ports and airfields are generally accepted as being military objectives” (14) while the ICRC list of generally recognized military objectives includes: “airfields, rocket launching ramps and naval base installations”.
It should be also be noted that, in its operation at Beirut Airport, the IDF was careful not to damage the central facilities of the airport, including the radar and control towers, allowing the airport to continue to control international flights over its airspace. 
Israel, Responding to Hizbullah Attacks from Lebanon: Issues of Proportionality, Legal Background, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, 25 July 2006, § 4.
In 2007, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a diplomatic note:
The guiding principle adopted by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] was to target only infrastructure that was making a significant contribution to the operational capabilities of the Hizbullah terrorists. This meant that, for the most part, Israeli attacks were limited to the transportation infrastructure. Most of the other infrastructure (medical, cultural, railroad, tunnels, ports, banking, manufacturing, farming, tourism, sewage, financial, electricity, drainage, water and the like) was left almost completely untouched.
All IDF operations in Lebanon were directed against legitimate military objectives, and specifically in relation to infrastructure, included the following:
Bridges and roads – The activity of terrorist groups in Lebanon was dependent on major transportation arteries through which weaponry and ammunition, as well as missile launchers and terrorist reinforcements, were transported. Damage to key routes was intended to prevent or obstruct the planning and perpetrating of attacks by the terrorists. It was also intended to prevent the kidnapped Israeli soldiers from being smuggled out of the country.
Under international law there is widespread recognition that lines of transportation which can serve military purposes are a legitimate military target. In its Commentary on the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) includes in its list of military objectives considered to be of “generally recognized military importance”: “Lines and means of communications (railway lines, roads, bridges, tunnels and canals) which are of fundamental military importance.”
A useful practical test for gauging the military importance of lines of transportation is proposed in the US Air Force Pamphlet, which asks “whether they make an effective contribution to an adversary’s military action so that their capture, destruction or neutralization offers a definite military advantage in the circumstances ruling at the time.”
Notwithstanding the operational justifications for targeting major roads in Lebanon, the IDF took pains to ensure that sufficient routes remained open to enable civilians to leave combat zones and to permit access for humanitarian supplies. Efforts were also made to ensure that damage to civilian vehicles was minimized.
Runways at Beirut International Airport – In the view of the IDF, rendering the runways unusable constituted one of the most important and appropriate methods of preventing reinforcements and supplies of weaponry and military materiel reaching the terrorist organizations. It was also a response to reports that the Hizbullah terrorists intended to fly the kidnapped Israelis out of Lebanon.
Airports are widely recognized to be legitimate military targets. The Canadian Law of Armed Conflict Manual, for example, notes that “ports and airfields are generally accepted as being military objectives” while the ICRC list of generally recognized military objectives includes: “airfields, rocket launching ramps and naval base installations.”
It should also be noted that, in its operation at Beirut Airport, the IDF was careful not to damage the central facilities of the airport, including the radar and control towers, allowing the airport to continue to control international flights over its airspace. 
Israel, Israel’s War with Hizbullah. Preserving Humanitarian Principles While Combating Terrorism, Diplomatic Notes No. 1, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, April 2007, pp. 15–16.
In 2006, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated:
IDF [Israel Defense Force] operations in Lebanon have also included operations directed against infrastructure and property. These have included:
Fuel reserves – Terrorist activity is dependent, inter alia, on a regular supply of fuel without which the terrorists cannot operate. For this reason a number of fuel depots which primarily serve the terrorist operations were targeted. From intelligence Israel has obtained, it appears that this step has had a significant effect on reducing the capability of the terrorist organizations.
The legitimacy of directing attacks on fuel and power installations has been widely noted. The Canadian Law of Armed Conflict Manual, for example, lists “petroleum storage areas” as “generally accepted as being military objectives”, while the ICRC list of military objectives also includes “Installations providing energy mainly for national defence, e.g. coal, other fuels, or atomic energy, and plants producing gas or electricity mainly for military consumption”. 
Israel, Responding to Hizbullah Attacks from Lebanon: Issues of Proportionality, Legal Background, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, 25 July 2006, § 4.
In 2007, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a diplomatic note:
The guiding principle adopted by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] was to target only infrastructure that was making a significant contribution to the operational capabilities of the Hizbullah terrorists …
Fuel reserves – Terrorist activity is dependent, inter alia, on a regular supply of fuel without which the terrorists cannot operate. For this reason a number of fuel depots which primarily served the terrorist operations were targeted. From intelligence Israel has obtained, it appears that this step had a significant effect on reducing the capability of the terrorist organizations.
The legitimacy of directing attacks on fuel and power installations has been widely noted. The Canadian Law of Armed Conflict Manual, for example, lists “petroleum storage areas” as “generally accepted as being military objectives”, while the ICRC list of military objectives also includes “Installations providing energy mainly for national defense, e.g. coal, other fuels, or atomic energy, and plants producing gas or electricity mainly for military consumption.”
One of the claims that have been made against Israel concerns the oil spill that occurred off the shores of Lebanon during the war. Without making any comment regarding the factual validity of such claims, it should be emphasized that Israel ensured that sea and air access was allowed to any assistance offered with regard to the oil spill, even in the midst of a naval and aerial blockade which had to be imposed for operational and security reasons.” 
Israel, Israel’s War with Hizbullah. Preserving Humanitarian Principles While Combating Terrorism, Diplomatic Notes No. 1, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, April 2007, p. 17.
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states:
It is the duty of the attacker to distinguish between military targets and civilian targets, and the attacker should take into account the presence of civilian targets when planning the attack. No area in which military targets are combined with civilian targets may be considered as merely another target.
Upon attacking a military target that is located at the heart of [a] civilian district, for example, a group of enemy soldiers who are holed up in the heart of a city and surrounded by civilians, they may be attacked, but only if the expected military benefit to one’s side from the offensive exceeds the expected damage that might be caused to civilians. There is no set formula according to which it is possible to weigh the civilian damage against the expected military benefit from the offensive; but it is a question of degree. An offensive would not be considered legitimate if it presented a significant risk to many civilian lives in return for gaining a subordinate military objective. 
Israel, Rules of Warfare on the Battlefield, Military Advocate-General’s Corps Command, IDF School of Military Law, Second Edition, 2006, p. 27.
The manual further states:
Civilians must not be used to screen the military movements and for the purpose of concealment amongst them. This is also the reason why soldiers are under an obligation to wear uniform or identification insignia so as to make it possible to distinguish clearly between them and civilians.
It is nevertheless unreasonable to expect a military force to completely hold its fire in every incident in which opening fire could endanger civilians; if this were the case, the best defence would be simply to surround military targets with civilians.
How should you behave when your adversary breaks this rule and intersperses military targets with civilian installations? (for example, when a military force is located inside a village or a squad of soldiers shelters in a civilian structure – is a commander entitled to shell the entire village? To bomb the building and to demolish it with all its occupants, soldiers and civilians alike?)
It is difficult to provide unequivocal answers to these questions. Each army and each commander needs to deal with this dilemma in ways that stem from the ethical outlook, the degree of risk that can be assumed in order to prevent the killing of innocent people and the nature of the enemy that is being contended with. The answer often depends on the circumstances. The situation can range from that of a large force pursuing a small company of enemy soldiers besieged from every angle, to a situation in which a unit in distress is under fire from a civilian target, for example from the rooftop of a museum. In the first incident the commander should display much more restraint, and in the second, the military needs [to] justify and permit an attack on the party that has misused the location, consequently weakening the protection afforded to the museum. 
Israel, Rules of Warfare on the Battlefield, Military Advocate-General’s Corps Command, IDF School of Military Law, Second Edition, 2006, p. 27.
The Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
In 2006, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated:
But the presence of civilians in the area does not stop a military objective from being a legitimate target. This is not just the law, as noted above, but also the practice of states. The Australian Defence Force Manual reflects the prevailing practice:
The presence of non-combatants in or around a military objective does not change its nature as a military objective. Non-combatants in the vicinity of a military objective must share the danger to which the military objective is exposed.
In practice Israel does not adopt the position reflected here that civilians in the vicinity of a military objective must “share the danger”, but rather takes significant efforts to avoid or minimize civilian casualties. 
Israel, Responding to Hizbullah Attacks from Lebanon: Issues of Proportionality, Legal Background, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, 25 July 2006, § 2.
In 2007, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a diplomatic note:
The presence of civilians in the area, however, does not stop a military objective from being a legitimate target. This is the law, as noted above, and reflected in state practice. Thus, for example, the Australian Defense Force Manual states:
The presence of non-combatants in or around a military objective does not change its nature as a military objective. Non-combatants in the vicinity of a military objective must share the danger to which the military objective is exposed. 
Israel, Israel’s War with Hizbullah. Preserving Humanitarian Principles While Combating Terrorism, Diplomatic Notes No. 1, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, April 2007, p. 14.
In 2008, in a background paper on Israel’s operations in Gaza, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated:
If a location is a legitimate military objective, it does not cease to be one because civilians are in the vicinity. As Article 28 of … [1949] Geneva Convention [IV] provides:
The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.
Clearly, the deliberate placing of military targets in the heart of civilian areas is a serious violation of humanitarian law, and those who chose to locate such targets in these areas must bear responsibility for the injury to civilians which this decision engenders. … The defender has the primary duty of protecting the civilian population and removing civilians from military targets, if necessary. And … [s]hould civilian casualties ensue from an attempt to shield combatants or a military objective, the ultimate responsibility lies with the belligerent placing innocent civilians at risk.
Nonetheless the callous disregard of those who hide behind civilians does not absolve the state seeking to respond to such attacks from the responsibility to avoid or at least minimize injury to civilians and their property in the course of its operations. In particular this raises the complex issue of proportionality. 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Background paper, Responding to Hamas Attacks from Gaza: Issues of Proportionality, December 2008, § 2.
[emphasis in original; footnotes in original omitted]
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:
99. … [T]the presence of civilians at a site (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) does not by itself forbid an attack on an otherwise legitimate military target. …
100. The expected presence of civilians, though, does impact the analysis of the proportionality of an attack. 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, §§ 99–100.
[emphasis in original]
The report also stated: “The presence of civilians within a military objective or in its vicinity does not negate as such, the military character of the objective. Such a military objective may be attacked, subject to the principle of proportionality.” 
Israel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Operation in Gaza 27 December 2008–18 January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects, 29 July 2009, § 223.