The IDF Military Advocate-General’s Office is instituting a course on international law for field commanders.

The course is meant to familiarize commanders with international law pertaining to combat and the limitations it imposes on operations, particularly in urban settings such as those in the Gaza Strip or Lebanon.

The course will be mandatory for those undergoing training to become company, battalion and brigade commanders.

“It is important that commanders know the principles and what makes a civilian building like a mosque become a legitimate target, once it stops functioning as a mosque and becomes a place where rockets are fired from into Israel,” explained a senior officer who serves in the Military Advocate-General’s Office.

The officer said that while he hoped the course would reduce the chance that Israel will be accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity – as it was in the Goldstone Report following Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009 – he did not believe that would be the case.

Earlier this month, a senior officer in the IDF’s Northern Command warned that the Goldstone Report “will pale” in comparison to the results of a future war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The officer said such a war would be devastating for Lebanon due to Hezbollah’s decision to deploy its military forces and capabilities within towns and villages throughout the country.

“I cannot guarantee that there will not be another Goldstone Report, but we can try to minimize the criticism by doing the best we can,” the officer said.

“This will also help us defend against criticism after such a conflict.”

Military Advocate-General Brig.-Gen. Danny Efroni took up his post last year and has focused on completing the integration of legal officers in the operational levels within the military.

Now, for example, legal officers play a key role in approving targets before operations including target banks for Israel’s various fronts in Lebanon and Gaza.

“We are involved in all stages of operational planning,” the officer said, adding that legal officers would be present in command posts during conflicts to assist brigade and division commanders in determining the legitimacy of attacking certain targets.

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