Practice Relating to Rule 5. Definition of Civilians
With reference to Israel’s Law of War Booklet (1986), the Report on the Practice of Israel states:
The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) accepts and applies the principle of distinction, in accordance with the accepted definition of “civilian” under customary international law, which is understood to mean any individual who is not a member of an organized army of a State, and who is not involved in hostilities.
In its judgment in the Public Committee against Torture in Israel case in 2006, Israel’s High Court of Justice stated:
The approach of customary international law is that “civilians” are those who are not “combatants” (see §50(1) of The First Protocol [1977 Additional Protocol I], and SABLE, at p. 432). In the Blaskic case, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ruled that civilians are –
“Persons who are not, or no longer, members of the armed forces” (Prosecutor v. Blaskic (2000) Case IT-95-14-T, para 180).
That definition is “negative” in nature. It defines the concept of “civilian” as the opposite of “combatant”. It thus views unlawful combatants – who, as we have seen, are not “combatants” – as civilians.
In 2008, in its judgment in the A. v. State of Israel case concerning the legality of national law with regard to unlawful combatants, Israel’s High Court of Justice stated:
[W]e should point out that the question of the conformity of the term “unlawful combatant” to the categories recognized by international law has already been addressed in our case law in Public Committee against Torture in Israel v. Government of Israel
, in which it was held that the term “unlawful combatants” does not constitute a separate category but is a subcategory of “civilians” recognized by international law. This conclusion is based on the approach of customary international law, according to which the category of “civilians” includes everyone who is not a “combatant”. … In this context, two additional points should be made: first, the finding that “unlawful combatants” belong to the category of “civilians” in international law is consistent with the official interpretation of the  Geneva Conventions, according to which in an armed conflict or a state of occupation, every person who finds himself in the hands of the opposing party is entitled to a certain status under international humanitarian law – a prisoner of war status which is governed by the Third Geneva Convention or a protected civilian status which is governed by the Fourth Geneva Convention: … the term “unlawful combatants” in the law under discussion does not create a separate category of treatment from the viewpoint of international humanitarian law, but constitutes a sub-group of the category of “civilians”.
In 2010, in a position paper submitted to the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010 (the Turkel Commission), established by the Israeli Government to examine the Gaza flotilla incident, Israel’s Military Advocate General stated that “whoever does not belong to the armed forces of the opposing side is a ‘civilian’, and as such is protected from direct and intentional attack”.
[footnote in original omitted]