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Scene of the attack in the South Hebron  Hills, 1 July 2016. Photo by Mussa Qawasma, Reuters
From the field

Targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinians

From the beginning of the second intifada at the end of September 2000 through the end of September 2017, Palestinians killed 813 Israeli civilians, including 135 minors (children and teens under the age of 18). Of these casualties, 522 – including 87 minors – were killed within Israel’s sovereign territory and 291, including 48 minors, were killed in the Occupied Territories.

There is no possible justification for deliberately killing civilians. Therefore, international humanitarian law considers such attacks grave breaches that constitute war crimes and cannot be justified, no matter the circumstances.

The incidents in which these civilians were killed include suicide bombings, shooting and stabbing attacks perpetrated by Palestinians in populated areas and buses; incidents in which Palestinians threw stones at people and cars; and firing of rockets and mortar shells by Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip at civilian communities in Israel.

Various Palestinian organizations offer different arguments in an attempt to justify the targeting of Israeli civilians, including that “all is fair” in the fight against the occupation, or that the illegality of the settlements justifies targeting settlers.

These arguments are baseless and untenable. Attacks that target civilians subvert every human, moral and legal norm. There is no justification for the wilful killing of civilians, nor can there be. That is why international humanitarian law defines such attacks as grave breaches that constitute war crimes and cannot be justified, whatever the circumstances.