Yesterday, acting in response to an Israeli air strike outside a UNWRA school, the State Department lapsed into anti-Israel hysteria, calling a precise and successful attack that killed multiple Hamas militants, who were — as usual — seeking refuge by civilians, “disgraceful” and declaring itself “appalled.” Anyone with a kindergarten knowledge of the laws of war can spot the multiple problems with the State Department press release, but rather than assume State should know what it’s talking about, I thought I’d edit its press release to reflect the legal and tactical reality of fighting a terrorist enemy that does its best to blend in with the civilian population. Edits below, with additions in bold:
The United States is appalled
by today’s disgraceful shellingthat Hamas continues to conduct military operations amidst civilians, including just outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons. Israel has a right to attack Hamas fighters, and Hamas’s intentional proximity to known civilian shelters renders Hamas legally responsible for the civilian casualties that result, including for the civilians among the in which at least ten morePalestinians civilians were tragicallykilled in this latest precision strike. The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forcesare well known to Hamas. We once again stress that Hamas must do more to meet its own standards andcomply with the most basic norms of international law and avoid civilian casualties. UN facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks. The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians. We call for a full and prompt investigation of this incident as well as the recent shelling of other UNRWA schoolsthe multiple additional incidents where Hamas misused UNRWA facilities, including as facilities to store weapons and as locations for booby-trapped tunnels.
We continue to underscore that all parties must take all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties and protect the civilian population and comply with international humanitarian law.
I look forward to Jen Psaki reading the corrected version at today’s press briefing.