Israel Has Always Been Beyond the Rules of War, White Flag

white flag

Last week, IDF soldiers shot dead three hostages, who were waving a white flag, in Gaza City highlights Israel’s regard for rules of war and humanity. This also reflects the skyrocketing civilian death toll and protection of civilians in the besieged territory.

Israel has always been above the international law and rules of war. And it has been emboldened with relentless support from the US and other western allies. The hostages in Gaza are not safe at all given IDF’s relentless bombing and shootings.

The three, who were mistakenly fired on, had managed to escape the Hamas only to be shot dead by the IDF. They had been carrying signs “SOS” and in Hebrew “Help 3 Hostages” – written on fabric using leftover food.

The White Flag

According to international law, the use of the white flag is one of the most accepted symbols of surrender and protects both civilians and combatants from any attack. Experts say disregard for this can be investigated as a war crime.

The Geneva Conventions, the treaties that regulate international humanitarian law and the rules of armed conflict, states that a white flag is a flag of truce reserved for parlementaires – a term for individuals who are authorized to negotiate with the enemy during war – or for people, both civilians and combatants who seek protection or surrender.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said people holding a white flag in surrender must not be fired upon, and that even enemy fighters, if they put down their weapons and raise their hands, must be taken prisoner, not shot. He highlighted that soldiers who shot the three Israeli hostages had breached IDF protocols.

“Even those who fought and now put down their weapons and raise their hands – we capture them, we don’t shoot them. We extract a lot of intelligence from the prisoners we have, we have over 1,000 already. We don’t shoot them because the IDF doesn’t shoot a person who raises his hands. This is strength, not a weakness.”

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Israel Defies Laws

This isn’t the first incident. There have been several such cases – the Human Rights Watch documented seven incidents in 2009 during hostilities in which Israeli soldiers unlawfully shot and killed 11 Palestinian civilians who were in groups carrying white flags. The victims included women and children.

Elsa Wyllie, criminal defense lawyer at Wyllie Law in Vancouver, says there are arguments to be made for or against the use of weapons against civilians. She emphasized the importance of looking at what’s ultimately at stake.

“There is difference between winning the war and securing lasting peace. Proportionality must be measured in kind, moving towards cessation of this conflict that poses a serious threat to international peace and security.”



Raven Ruma is a professional journalist with a keen eye on domestic and foreign situations. His favorite pastime is to keep the public informed about the current situation through his pen and he is fulfilling this responsibility through the platform of Arab News.

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