'Shooting at Syrian protesters may violate int'l law'
LAST UPDATED: 05/15/2011 20:34
Expert says details surrounding Nakba Day infiltration of border still unknown, but Israel will have to explain its actions.
Syrian protesters returned over border Photo: Nir Elias/Reuters
The breach of the Israeli border by Syrian protesters was an unprecedented act
in modern history and a clear violation of Israeli sovereignty as determined by
article 51 of the UN Charter, an international law expert said on
“Most of the details
surrounding the shooting are not yet known," Dr. Daphné Richemond-Barak from the
Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya said. "Important considerations are whether
the protesters were armed or not, whether they were an organized association of
a paramilitary nature, whether the soldiers who fired felt they were in
immediate danger and shot out of self-defense, and a series of other
possibilities that are too vague to judge,” said Richemond-Barak.
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there were legal questions to be considered, the most urgent concern was a
deterioration of the relations between the countries, she added.
remember the current situation in Syria, where there is an absence of law and
order because of the popular uprising against [President Bashar] Assad. It is
conceivable that the guards who were supposed to man the border on the Syrian
side were not at their posts because of the uprising,” she said.
uncertainty in Syria could be a mitigating factor in allowing the soldiers to
shoot at the protesters, Richemond-Barak, but she stressed that it was completely
illegal for anyone to order the firing on unarmed civilians. Other factors that
need to be considered are the number of people who tried to cross the border and
the manner in which they did so.
“If we were talking about tanks and
soldiers, there would be no question about Israel’s right to shoot as an act of
protecting its sovereignty. This case, however, is different,” she
“In this case, there may have been other options open to the
soldiers, like arresting or stopping the protesters in less violent
Prof. Asa Kasher, one of the authors of the IDF’s Code of Ethics,
said, “The laws of war are not the appropriate framework for judging the events
in the north. We are not talking about an attack by an invading army. It
would be more appropriate to look to the US’s actions against Mexican
infiltrators on its southern border to learn about legitimate use of
Dr. Assaf Moghadem, an Interdisciplinary Center expert on
counterterrorism, told The Jerusalem Post he believed Assad was behind the
border breach, in an effort to reduce pressure on himself.
“What could be
better for Assad than diverting the people’s anger from himself toward Israel. I
wouldn’t put it beyond the range of the possible that he recruited people to
cross the border in order to shift the pressure to Israel,” Moghadem
It was less likely that Hamas in Syria was behind the actions, he
said. Despite the fact that Hamas enjoyed support of the Syrian administration,
the Islamist movement’s control of Gaza suggested that if it wanted to act
against Israel it would be from the Strip and not via the Syrian border,
Richmond-Barak said she could not recall another incident
in recent history in which a border between two sovereign states was breached in
such a manner.
Moghadem painted a scenario in which the breach and
Israel’s response could lead to an all out war with Syria. “I don’t want to be
an alarmist, but this event does have the potential to spiral out of control,
depending on political developments in Syria, Israel’s reactions and the
response of the international community. It is incumbent on Israel to show
Asked whether a border infringement on the Syrian front was
an eventuality that had been anticipated by Israel, Moghadem said that in light
of all the goings on across the Middle East, a breach from the north had likely
been low on the probability scale.
Even if the breach was indeed
coordinated by Assad’s regime, it would not necessarily work in his favor,
“As we have seen in recent weeks and months, the Arab
public views on their ruling regimes’ actions is more critical than was
previously believed. There will assuredly be Syrians who recognize
Assad’s diversionary tactic for what it is and call him on it,” Moghadem said.