MS Risk Blog

Assessing Israel’s Operation at Al-Shifa Hospital: Justifiable Defence or Violation?    

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

This paper provides an analysis of the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) operations at Al-Shifa Hospital on March 18th. It evaluates the claims regarding the presence of Hamas members, the civilian casualties, and the ethical considerations involved in striking medical facilities. The assessment evaluates the IDF’s compliance with international law and suggests different approaches to the conflict’s settlement in response to the growing concerns.

On March 18th the IDF conducted an operation at Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza which stood among the “most significant and successful” efforts throughout the intensely disputed six-month conflict with Hamas according to the IDF. They alleged that the facility and many other medical centres served as a hub for Hamas terrorists to carry out operations and conceal their weapons. The Israeli military claimed to have found a tunnel entrance and a vehicle carrying weapons at Al-Shifa hospital complex. Both Hamas and medical administrators strongly denied the accusation that the hospital served as a command centre, and the health ministry in Gaza stated that no weapons were found in the hospital. A British doctor working at Shifa dismissed the allegation as an “outlandish excuse.”

The raid allegedly was designed to eliminate senior Hamas terrorists who were present at the hospital. However, the hospital is estimated to have been sheltering 3,000 civilians as per the Palestinian health officials and IDF.  According to the official media office in Gaza, during the raid, the Israeli attack on the facility resulted in over 250 Palestinians being killed and more others injured.

Israel said that they arrested around 800 individuals, with 480 of them identified as members of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad. The IDF began the interrogation of individuals by specialised intelligence units, and those found to be innocent were eventually released. Israeli military spokespersons, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari and Lt Col Jonathan Conricus attempted to justify their actions by providing the media with only a small amount of evidence. Hagari presented a few Kalashnikovs and a motorcycle at al-Rantisi Children’s Hospital, while Conricus presented AK assault weapons without ammunition magazines, a laptop, and cans of WD40 in al-Shifa. Nevertheless, their efforts to support their assertions were regarded with doubt since the evidence provided was insufficient and inconclusive.

Unidentified sources in Gaza for safety concerns, confirm that there is a belief that multiple members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including certain high-ranking commanders, have once again gathered at the hospital. This assumption is mainly based on the assumption that Israel has completed its operations in northern Gaza.

US President Joe Biden has expressed support for Israel’s position about the destructive explosion at a Gaza hospital during his brief discussion about Israel. The White House asserted that it possessed independent evidence indicating that Hamas was utilising Al-Shifa, for conducting military operations and perhaps storing weapons.

The activities carried out by the IDF at Al-Shifa Hospital give rise to significant questions regarding ethical standards and compliance with international humanitarian law (Geneva Convention IV). Targeting health institutions and units, such as hospitals, is against the law as these places are designated as protected zones for providing medical care to the wounded. The IDF’s military actions resulted in injuries and harm among civilians and healthcare workers, suggesting a possible failure to uphold these legal responsibilities. These actions could have legal repercussions, especially in light of recent developments such as South Africa’s initiative to bring Israel before international courts for alleged war crimes.

The IDF must urgently revaluate its strategy in this conflict. Rather than resorting to direct raids on hospitals based on intelligence about potential Hamas presence, a more nuanced approach could be adopted. This might involve closely monitoring suspected militants’ movements and preventing attacks on Israel through proactive measures. So far, the IDF’s tactics seem reactive rather than preventative, highlighting the need for a shift in approach to better comply with legal and ethical standards while ensuring the protection of civilians.

By following the approach of monitoring the group as many governments have conducted in previous operations including operations Barkhane, an African military initiative initiated in 2014 under the leadership of France, which aimed to counteract terrorism and instability in the Sahel region. The operation utilised air support, combat forces, and intelligence gathering to target associates of al-Qaeda and ISIS, among other terrorist organisations. With the assistance of international support and contributions from partner nations, the primary objectives were to neutralise militants, destroy their networks, and provide support to local security forces. Despite ongoing threats and challenges, the operation emphasised on minimising civilian casualties through precise targeting and thorough preparation to promote stability and security in the region.

To summarise, Israel’s Operation at Al-Shifa Hospital highlights the complex balance between the need for defence and the standards of humanitarianism. The operation’s impact on non-combatant casualties and moral challenges needs a revaluation of military tactics, highlighting the significance of following legal and ethical norms while safeguarding innocent lives which Israel has been dismissing so far.