IDF to appoint Officers for Humanitarian Affairs to protect civilians


Israeli security forces arrange for passage of Palestinian civilians through crossings accourding to humanitarian policy (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)

(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)

The IDF has issued a new military order regarding the civilian element in the combat arena. As a part of the IDF’s ever-continuing efforts to learn from the past and improve for the future, and in response to lessons from Operation Cast Lead, Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has set out to draw up unique orders for officers taking part in combat in civilian-populated regions.

Following Operation Defensive Shield, the IDF issued an order to set up new combat guidelines, but the General Staff was delayed in following through. The importance of the civilian element in combat zones arose again during the Second Lebanon War, but only after Operation Cast Lead did GOC Army Headquarters begin working on the directive, in cooperation with officials from the Military Advocate General, the International Law Department, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, and the Operations Directorate.

According to new combat guidelines, a combat officer is now responsible for clearing combat areas of civilians by planning and marking a corridor for the evacuation of the local population. In addition, the Ground Forces have determined that every battalion, brigade and mobile division will be assigned an officer who will serve as Deputy Operations Officer and will in essence be responsible for the civilian population in a war zone.

"The new position is designed for an officer from within the military system, not a legal advisor. He will be assigned to the combat brigades and will be involved with the civilian entity in a combat zone," explained the head of the GOC Commanding and Combat Doctrine Branch, Lt. Col. Shuki Shine. "This role is clearly defined, whether the officer is specifying where soldiers cannot shoot, or with the humanitarian aid during advanced stages of combat."

Beginning this September, the subject will be taught in courses for platoon and battalion officers, parallel to seminars instructing current platoon and battalion officers about the new rules of conduct. For this purpose, the Training by Means of Technology Unit in coordination with the Department of Combat Doctrine has issued an instructional presentation that will explain the new rules of conduct for the officers.  

The IDF already provides educational programs for soldiers on human rights issues throughout all stages of military service starting with basic training up to courses to become senior commanders. Several thousand commanders participate in such workshops every year. The main change with this new doctrine is that instead of human rights education being concentrated at the top echelons of IDF officers, now someone will be assigned to educate about human rights issues at each IDF level.