Targeting Terrorists – Background
August 1, 2001

Every nation has a duty to protect its citizens from threats to their lives. No nation would agree to allow its citizens to live under the threat of daily terrorist attack. Israel is no exception.

The oft-repeated charge that Israel has used excessive force against innocent Palestinian civilians is a distortion of the truth. Israeli soldiers and civilians alike have had to face dozens of organized, violent and life-threatening attacks by Palestinians, only a small percentage of which have been reported in the media. These attacks have included machine-gun fire directed at residential neighborhoods, fire-bombings, roadside charges and ambushes, mortar barrages, suicide bombers and car bombs in crowded shopping areas. As a result of this violence more than one hundred Israelis have been killed and many hundreds wounded. Under these difficult conditions, the IDF [Israel Defense Force] has acted with the greatest possible restraint, taking care to target only those responsible for the violence, and continues to do its utmost to prevent collateral civilian injury and loss of life.

Israel has no interest in escalating the violence. On the contrary, Israel believes it is imperative that the violence end so that both parties can return to constructive negotiations. Israel maintains that a just and sustainable solution can be found only through dialogue, not armed conflict. However, as long as the violence exists, Israel has an indisputable responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens.

The Israeli government regrets the loss of any life, whether Jewish or Arab, in the present wave of violence. In the final analysis, however, responsibility for these casualties lies with the Palestinian Authority, which has initiated this violence and stubbornly refuses to bring it to an end.

Currently, Israel is engaged in a situation best defined as an armed conflict. International law in general and the law of armed conflict in particular recognize that individuals who directly take part in hostilities cannot claim immunity from attack or protection as innocent civilians. Such individuals have, by their own actions, by taking part in armed attacks against Israeli civilians or security personnel, designated themselves as combatants in the conflict, and therefore have forfeited such legal protection.

An individual who becomes a combatant is considered to remain a combatant until such time as the hostilities come to an end and not merely during that exact instant when the individual is instigating, carrying out, or organizing an attack. They are therefore to be considered legitimate military targets both when planning attacks, and after their attacks have been carried out.

The inaction of the Palestinian Authority in the face of widespread terrorism in its areas, coupled with the PA’s tacit support for this violence, have left Israel with no alternative but to take the necessary action itself to prevent continued attacks. Therefore, Israel must undertake preventive, precisely-targeted operations which would bring about a cessation of these clearly lethal threats.

Whenever possible, Israeli operations are directed toward arresting terrorists and their accomplices. In recent months, over 1000 terrorists have been arrested by the IDF and brought to justice. In a small minority of cases, when arrests are impossible, and when an clear, specific and imminent terrorist threat must be countered, Israel is forced to carry out other types of preventative operations. All civilized nations would act in a similar fashion.

Israel does not condone or take part in ‘assassinations’ or ‘extra-judicial killings’. These terms are derived from spheres unrelated to armed conflict and cannot properly be used to describe Israel’s counter-terrorist operations. Use of these terms by Palestinian spokespeople is intended to portray Israel and its actions in a pejorative light, and does not reflect the legal reality.

Israel only acts in a manner which is in compliance with the principles and practice of armed conflict, and makes every effort to avoid involvement of innocent civilians, taking action only in conditions where inaction by Israel would result in additional loss of innocent lives.

 Targeting Terrorists-Background
IDF Radio Interview with FM Shimon Peres – Aug 2, 2001
IDF Strikes at Heads of Hamas Command in Samaria – Aug 1, 2001
Suicide and Car Bomb Attacks in Israel Since the Declaration of Principles (Sept 1993)
Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terror since Sept 2000
Outbreak of Violence in Jerusalem and the Territories – Sept/Oct 2000