Practice Relating to Rule 9. Definition of Civilian Objects
In 2007, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs 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: “A ‘civilian objective’ is any objective which is not a military target.”
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: “‘Civilian objects’, that is, all the objects which are not military objectives, also benefit from similar protection [i.e. protected from ‘direct and intentional attack’]”.
[footnote in original omitted]