IDF military advocate-general stresses variety of Iran threats facing Israel

Afek mentioned Iran as a threat in the contexts of Hezbollah-Lebanon, Syria, Hamas and the launching of an Iranian drone into Israeli territory.

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June 20, 2019 10:38
3 minute read.
An Iranian Officer of Revolutionary Guards with Israel flag drawn on his boots

An Iranian Officer of Revolutionary Guards, with Israel flag drawn on his boots, is seen during graduation ceremony, held for the military cadets in a military academy, in Tehran, Iran June 30, 2018. (photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

 
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With tensions in the region simmering, IDF Military Advocate-General Maj.-Gen. Sharon Afek emphasized the wide number of threats from Iran that Israel is currently confronting at a speech at the BDS conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Afek mentioned Iran as a threat in the contexts of Hezbollah-Lebanon, Syria, Hamas and the launching of an Iranian drone into Israeli territory.

With some experts warning that the Islamic republic may try to incite a conflict with Israel via Hezbollah to pressure the US in the current nuclear standoff, Afek said that “Iran’s direct efforts with Hezbollah complicates the situation further” between the sides.

He added that it “raises fundamental legal questions implicit in its involvement,” though he did not go further than that and explicitly specify an Israeli right to hit Iran itself should Hezbollah attack Israel under orders from Tehran.

The military advocate-general noted the ongoing nature of the conflict with Hezbollah, the IDF’s successful discovery and neutralization of the Lebanese group’s attack tunnels into Israel and Hezbollah’s concealment of weapons in civilian areas.

He said Hezbollah “has missiles stored in urban areas, under high rise buildings” and in a future potential conflict with Israel would “launch missiles from apartment buildings” while receiving orders from “war rooms inside these buildings.”

Afek said that confronting Hezbollah’s attack missiles, which are hidden systematically among civilians, would “necessarily take a heavy tool” in a future conflict.

The IDF’s chief lawyer said his division would always ensure that the army follows international law, but would also be creative in helping it fight enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas, which mix their fighters in with civilians.

Echoing some similar themes to a speech last month, Afek once again treated the Gaza border conflict and related war crimes allegations, as well as the International Criminal Court probe of alleged Israeli war crimes, as threats that are being well-managed.

Citing a May 2018 High Court of Justice decision declaring the IDF’s rules of engagement as legal for dealing with Palestinian mixed violent and nonviolent protests on the Gaza border, he did not feel it necessary to give any updates of IDF investigations into problematic incidents.

In March, the IDF announced that Afek has been criminally probing five incidents, one of which dates back to March 2018.

In March 2018, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira issued a report, which found that maximum time limits for the IDF to announce the results of its criminal investigations have been seconded by the Ciechanover Commission, but that they are still not being used by the IDF in practice and that 80% of fact-finding mechanisms processes took longer than the time they were given to complete their probes.

The Jerusalem Post was told at the time that the IDF view was that most of these time limits were set for peacetime probes and that they do not apply or apply very differently to probes relating to a war like in Gaza in 2014.

The Ciechanover Commission generally gives the IDF military police nine months to make a recommendation to the military advocate-general, and the military advocate-general an additional nine months to decide whether to issue an indictment.

The military advocate-general can opt to extend these deadlines in highly complex cases deadlines and especially if there are a mound of cases being probed, but in the ongoing Gaza border conflict, there are only five criminal probes and there are much fewer people involved in most incidents than there were in some of the 2014 Gaza war probes.

There are no indications that human rights NGOs are gearing up to challenge the delay in the High Court.

Incidentally, though the IDF issued several reports on the 2014 war crimes allegations, including presumably a final one in August 2018 on the Black Friday incident, the IDF never publicly issued a report relating to its handling of the Shejaiya incident, in which allegedly dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed.

Indications over time have been that no public decision on the incident will be issued.

The military advocate-general’s other indirect reference to these issues was his citation of the strong support for the IDF legal division at a recent conference Israel hosted of top foreign military legal officials from around the world, especially from US Defense Department top lawyer Paul Ney.

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