Adalah and Al Mezan to Israeli Military Advocate General: Bombing of Civilian Media Building in Gaza Constitutes a Serious Violation of the Laws of War

18/11/2012

(Haifa and Gaza City) Today, 18 November 2012, following complaints received about the intention of the Israeli army to demolish the “Al-Shoroq Tower”, also called the “Journalists’ Tower” in Gaza City, Adalah and Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza sent an urgent letter to Military Advocacy General (MAG) Brigadier General Danny Efroni calling to refrain from any further attacks on the civilian building. The 15-story building, which housed both local Arab and international media agencies such as such Al Arabiya, Al Quds TV, Sky News, France 24, and Russia TV, was hit this morning, the fifth day of the Israeli military offensive named “Operation Pillar of Cloud.” Local media sources reported that 8 journalists were injured in the initial attack. According to Al-Mezan field reports, building occupants later received warnings about the Israeli army’s intent to demolish the entire building, and were told to evacuate. Adalah Attorney Fatmeh El-‘Ajou submitted the letter on behalf of the two human rights organizations.

The letter noted that further attacks on the large building would cause severe damage to the building structure, and could cause serious harm to the surrounding civilians and civilian property. The organizations called on Brigadier General Efroni to instruct the Israeli military commanders to refrain from further attacking the building. Attorney El-‘Ajou emphasized in the letter that the bombing of the civilian buildings constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war.

Under international customary law, civilian objects enjoy full protection from any attack. Attacks must be limited strictly to military objectives. 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. According to these criteria “Al-Shoroq Tower” is a civilian building, and therefore it is prohibited to attack it.

Comparative Law: In 1999, NATO bombed a television station in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. A committee established by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Office of the Prosecutor reviewed the legality of the NATO television bombing, and determined that insofar as the bombing was directed at sabotaging Yugoslavia’s military communications infrastructure, it met the test of military necessity. Had it transpired, however, that the purpose of the bombing was solely and exclusively to harm the morale of the Yugoslavian population and weaken support for the Slobodan Milošević regime, it would have failed the test of military necessity:

“…While stopping such propaganda may serve to demoralize the Yugoslav population and undermine the government’s political support, it is unlikely that either of these purposes would offer the ‘concrete and direct’ military advantage necessary to make them a legitimate military objective…”[Emphasis added].

- (Para. 76 of the committee’s report. For the full report, see: http://kosova.org/de/allied_force/final_report/index.asp).

For more information, contact Adalah’s Media Coordinator:

Edan Ring: 0546680085

*Photo by Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)

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