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Israel’s Targeting of Hamas Commander Marwan Issa Was a Legal Operation

Palestinian fighters from the armed wing of Hamas take part in a military parade to mark the anniversary of the 2014 war with Israel, near the border in the central Gaza Strip, July 19, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Under authoritative international rules, Israel’s mid-March targeting of senior Hamas commander Marwan Issa was law-enforcing. Among other egregious crimes, Issa was a key planner of the October 7 rampage against Israeli civilians. Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, accurately described this Palestinian terrorist leader as Hamas’s “strategic mind.” To fully understand this law-based action, geopolitical context is necessary. In essence, the world legal structure compels a vigilante system of justice. It is against the background of continuing global anarchy that terror-beleaguered states must identify and operationally shape their counter-terrorism options.

Responding to intentionally indiscriminate, grand-scale Hamas violence, Israel’s terrorist-removing airstrike in March was an authentic act of law enforcement, one that precisely targeted Hamas commander Marwan Issa while he cowered in an underground Gaza compound. Faced with the persistent threat of Palestinian terrorism — a threat that could eventually escalate to include weapons of mass destruction — Israel has no reasonable choice but to eliminate Hamas leadership wherever deemed possible and cost-effective. This means a periodic resort to the targeting of terror-criminals.

Abandoning such a primary obligation would express more than an existential threat to Israel itself. It would also represent a potentially devastating threat to regional and even global security. An overriding example of such threat would be a direct Iranian attack on Israel that escalates into unconventional or nuclear war. Though Iran is pre-nuclear, any accelerating search for “escalation dominance” by Israel and Iran could still produce a nuclear conflict. This is because Iran already has access to radiation dispersal weapons and can already launch a conventional attack on Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor.

Under binding international law, terrorism represents a crime that must be prevented and punished. As we may learn from both Roman and Jewish law (Torah), a “higher law” obtains. This core rule affirms the immutable principle of “No crime without a punishment.” It can be found, among other valid sources, in the London Charter of August 8, 1945, the founding document of the historic Nuremberg Tribunal.

In law, terrorists are known as hostes humani generis or “common enemies of humankind.” While the world legal system allows certain insurgencies in matters of self-determination, there is nothing about such matters that can ever justify deliberate attacks on civilians. In this connection, it is important to remember that an integral part of all criminal law is the underlying question of mens rea, or “criminal intent.”

On this point, there can be no reasonable comparison of Marwan Issa’s deliberate mass murder of Israeli noncombatants and the civilian harms now being suffered in Gaza. As an unambiguous matter of humanitarian international law, responsibility for all these harms falls entirely upon the “perfidious” behavior (i.e., use of “human shields”) of Hamas and Iran. It does not fall on Israeli forces acting to support legitimate and indispensable rights of national self-defense.

Under the binding laws of war, even where an insurgent use of force has “just cause,” it must still wage its fight with “just means.” The phrase “One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” is never more than an empty witticism. Jurisprudentially, this comparison contradicts the law.

Ordinarily, assassination, like terrorism, is a crime under international law. Under certain conditions, however, the targeted killing of terrorist leaders can represent a life-saving and heroic example of necessary law enforcement. In our self-defense-oriented world legal system, the only alternative to states launching precise targeting actions against terrorists would be to allow incessant terror-violence against the innocent. This is because terror-organizations like Hamas and terror-mentoring states like Iran display undisguised contempt for all ordinary criminal law expectations of extradition. The formal term for this openly ignored expectation is “extradite or prosecute” or (for the lawyers) aut dedere, aut judicare.

At first glance, to accept the targeted killings of terrorist leaders as law-enforcing remediation would seem to disregard the usual obligations of “due process.” But international legal relations are not overseen by the same civil protections offered by individual national governments, and terrorist leaders like Marwan Issa orchestrate unspeakably brutal attacks on men, women and children with manifest enthusiasm. On October 7, 2023, Hamas attackers perpetrated the rape-mutilation of males as well as females, of children as well as adults. Let no one forget the details. This assault was not about Palestinian “sovereignty,” “national self-determination” or “statehood.” It was an expression of the visceral “joys” of pure barbarism.

If Hamas and related groups are held immune for their crimes by civilized states, terror attacks could escalate to exploit chemical, biological or even nuclear elements. For the moment, a nuclear option would be limited to “only” a “dirty bomb” (radiation dispersal weapons), but this can change. In the foreseeable future, Iran could fashion and deploy an authentic chain-reaction nuclear explosive. In short order, such actions could spawn joint Iran-Hamas crimes against peace, crimes of war, and crimes against humanity.

The willfully indiscriminate nature of jihadist terrorist operations (not just Hamas) is well documented. The intentional blurring of lines between lawful and unlawful targets is rooted in certain generic principles of “holy war.” Several years ago, a recorded remark by Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, then a prominent Muslim cleric in London, explained doctrinal linkages between Islamic terror and “holy war:” Said the sheikh, “We don’t make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever (a Jew or Christian) has no value. It has no sanctity.”

As was learned yet again on October 7, 2023, jihadist attackers include gratuitous murder in their primal or pre-civilizational ideologies. The bottom line is that jihadist belief systems embrace the sacrificial slaughter of “unbelievers.” For Hamas and related terror groups, “military objectives” normally include elementary schools, bomb shelters, ice-cream parlors, civilian bus stops and elderly pedestrians. In law, these perpetrators ought never to be called “militants.” Whatever their alleged “just cause,” they always display criminal intent or mens rea.

Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups remain dedicated to the primal idea that any peace agreement with Israel would represent an intolerable abomination to Islam. Facing these implacable enemies within the system of international law, Israel is entitled to the self-defending right to target terrorist leaders. Determining whether such remedies are militarily sound raises another question altogether.

In the final analysis, what is most noteworthy about the targeted killing of terrorist leaders like Marwan Issa is not its permissibility in law but its widespread unacceptability. Why is there a near-global unwillingness to endorse or merely acknowledge this established right?

International law is not a suicide pact. In current jurisprudence, an ancient principle still holds true: Ubi cessat remedium ordinarium, ibi decurritur ad extraordinarium, or “Where the ordinary remedy fails, recourse must be had to an extraordinary one.” It would be best, of course, if Israel didn’t have to resort to the targeted killing of terrorist adversaries, but in the present system of world law, this beleaguered country – which is smaller than Lake Michigan – has no choice.

Under international law, every state maintains the inherent right and corresponding obligation to protect its citizens from transnational criminal harms. In exceptional circumstances, this dual responsibility can extend to the targeted killing of terrorist leaders. If it were otherwise, world law would indeed be a suicide pact.

Under established international law principles governing insurgencies, the ends can never justify the means.  A cause, even if it is arguably or seemingly legitimate, even if it is presumptively “sacred,” can never excuse premeditated violence against the innocent.

Furthermore: By the authoritative standards of contemporary international law, terrorists are akin to pirates in earlier times, subject to punishment (originally, hanging) by the first persons into whose hands they fall. At present, Hamas terrorists are international outlaws who fall within the operational scope of “universal jurisdiction.” This means, among other things, that any state can claim a valid right to arrest, prosecute and potentially target terrorist murderers even where there exist no geographic or citizen ties to the pertinent criminals.

In these matters, history warrants pride of place. Support for a limited right to the targeted killing of “common enemies of humankind” can be found in the classical writings of Aristotle, Plutarch and Cicero as well as in Jewish history. This history ranges from the Sicarii, who flourished at the time of destruction of the Second Temple, to the Lehi, who fought the British mandatory authority after World War II. If the worldwide community of states should ever choose to reject this right, it would then have to accept responsibility for any reciprocal violence launched upon innocent human beings.

The calculations are straightforward. Targeted killings, subject to applicable legal rules of distinction, proportionality, and military necessity, can on occasion offer the least unwelcome form of national self-protection. In such cases, especially where additional terror-crimes are still in the planning stage, the legal acceptability of violent self-help measures should be self-evident. 

In our anarchic system of international law, this proposition lies beyond logical doubt. The world legal system is designed to protect everyone from foreseeable infringements of human rights and includes the corollary principle of universal cooperation.

In the best of all possible worlds, targeted killing would hold no defensible place in law-based counterterrorism. But we do not yet live in the best of all possible worlds, and the negative aspects of any such defensive action ought never to be evaluated apart from alternative policy consequences. If Israel had chosen not to target Marwan Issa so as not to injure the sensibilities of “civilized nations” (a phrase codified at Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice), more violence and death would have been inflicted upon many innocent human beings.

In the end, counterterrorism should always be governed by both legal and tactical criteria of assessment. If the expected human costs of a targeted assassination appear calculably lower than the expected costs of all other plausible self-defense options, such an assassination must emerge as the rational and moral choice. However odious it might at first appear, targeted killing in these circumstances could offer Israel the least injurious path to civilian security from insidious terror-violence.

Prof. Louis René Beres was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and scholarly articles dealing with international law, nuclear strategy, nuclear war, and terrorism. In Israel, Professor Beres was Chair of Project Daniel (PM Sharon). His twelfth and latest book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed., 2018).  A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

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Assault charge laid, arrest made related to incident near the University of Toronto encampment—while its president speaks in Ottawa on antisemitism, and the school seeks a removal injunction

Toronto Police have arrested and charged a man for assault over an incident May 9 near the protest encampment at the University of Toronto’s King’s College Circle on its downtown campus.  Toronto Police Services (TPS) say they responded at 3:45 p.m. that day to a call for assault in the area of the road around […]

The post Assault charge laid, arrest made related to incident near the University of Toronto encampment—while its president speaks in Ottawa on antisemitism, and the school seeks a removal injunction appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Any Chance the Media Would Cover This?’ New Video Shows Terrorists in Gaza Using Humanitarian Aid to Help Prepare Rockets

Terrorists in Gaza using humanitarian aid bags to prop up rockets. Photo: Screenshot

Terrorists in Gaza have been using humanitarian aid bags to prop up rockets they were preparing to shoot at Israelis, new video circulating on social media reveals, underscoring the challenges of delivering aid to Palestinian civilians in the Hamas-ruled enclave without it being stolen.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade — which is the armed wing of Fatah, the political party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbasused bags from Turkey and UNRWA — the UN agency responsible for the Palestinians — to prop up the rockets, according to the video.

At least three of the bags say they contain “wheat flour,” and the bag from Turkey specifically says it is supposed to go “to the Palestinian people.” It is unclear whether the bags had previously been opened to extract the food and then refilled with sand, for example, or if it still contained the food that was intended to feed Palestinian civilians.

“Any chance the media would cover this, yet another violation of international humanitarian law?” pro-Israel commentator Hen Mazzig wrote on X/Twitter while sharing the video.

Rafah, Gaza: Hamas is using UN humanitarian aid bags as rocket launchers today.

Any chance the media would cover this, yet another, violation of International Humanitarian Law?

— Hen Mazzig (@HenMazzig) May 29, 2024

Almost every day for the past seven months, Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist organizations have been shooting rockets into Israel from civilian areas, which is a war crime. Tens of thousands of Israelis are internally displaced and unable to return to their homes as a result.

There is mounting evidence that Hamas has also operated in civilian clothing and in civilian infrastructure such as hospitals. However, these violations of international law are rarely noted by much of the media.

The latest video of terrorists using humanitarian aid for military purposes underscores the issue of making sure such aid gets to Palestinian civilians. 

The US built a pier to deliver 2,000,000 meals daily to Palestinian civilians, but after a few weeks of operation, the Pentagon said none of the aid unloaded from the pier had made it to those who needed it. On one occasion, about 70 percent of the aid has been stolen while en route to a UN warehouse. In other cases, it just never showed up.

Israeli estimates suggest approximately 60 percent of the aid that has gone into Gaza has been stolen — either by Hamas or other groups and individuals. Oftentimes, that aid is then sold to the population at high prices, making it difficult to impossible for most Gazans to gain access to it. 

According to Ehud Yaari, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Hamas has made more than $500 million in profit from selling humanitarian aid since Oct. 7.

The terror group began the war last October by massacring 1,200 people in Israel and taking more than 250 people hostage, about half of whom have still not been released.

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Columbia University Anti-Zionist Group Endorses Hamas

Demonstrators take part in an anti-Israel demonstration at the Columbia University campus, in New York City, US, Feb. 2, 2024. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has endorsed Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace antisemitic violence.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

.@Columbia and @BarnardCollege, @ColumbiaSJP is actively promoting terrorism and anti-Israel rhetoric on their social media channels. They are sounding more and more like Hamas spokespeople every day. When is the university going to permanently ban this “student group”?

— Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus (@CampusJewHate) May 26, 2024

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has reformed under multiple organizations since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, has been central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The group’s behavior after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the StandWithUs Center for League Justice (SCLJ).

The complaint alleges that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, the pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library, according to the lawsuit. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.

Following the incidents, pleas for help allegedly went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while SJP held its demonstrations. The school’s apparent powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events while no one explained the inconsistency.

The explosion of end-of-year protests held by the group forced Columbia officials to shutter the campus in April and institute virtual learning. Later, the group occupied Hamilton Hall, forcing President Minouche Shafik to call on the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for help, a decision she hesitated to make. According to The Columbia Spectator, over 108 arrests were made.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Amid the chaos, a prominent rabbi at the school urged Jewish students to leave the campus for the sake of their safety. Ultimately, the university cancelled its main commencement ceremony.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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