Red Cross offering training to Hamas on International Law

The challenge for those organizing the lessons was convincing members of Hamas' armed Kassam Brigades, that international law and Islamic law could work hand in hand.

August 16, 2015 20:44
2 minute read.
Palestinian students supporting Hamas demonstrate in the West Bank city of Hebron

Palestinian students supporting Hamas demonstrate in the West Bank city of Hebron. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The International Committee of the Red Cross have begun training courses for Hamas militants last month in International Law and humanitarian principles, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

The sessions, which began last month, discussed how the International Criminal Court dictates wartime conduct and how it decides what constitutes war crimes.

The challenge for those organizing the lessons, however, was convincing members of Hamas' armed Kassam Brigades, that international law and Islamic law could work hand in hand, according to the report.

Some members of the military wing saw connections between Islamic and Western law, using verses from the Kuran. "The prophet used to give orders to his army that you should not kill any child, nor cut down any tree," said one member. "As long as he is not fighting me, I should not kill him."

Others, however, were more skeptical of the courses, and argued that in the ongoing conflict with Israel, using these humanitarian principles should sometimes be "overlooked, because the situation is different."

Many members of the discussion repeatedly turned the focus towards Israel. "You are dealing with an enemy that does not distinguish between soldiers and civilians," said one fighter. "Israelis violated everything, you say this also to the Jews?" another added.

The Red Cross developed these programs in conjunction with Islamic leaders, and began offering them in response to war crime charges against both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

When asked about the ICC inquiry into war crimes against both sides, soldiers shrugged off the allegations, saying "It will not effect us. We are eventually victims and they are occupiers, so there is no comparison."

Jaques de Maio, director of the Red Cross delegation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, told the New York Times that he was confident that these methods will have a positive effect on Hamas' military tactics. "For the first time," he said, "Hamas is actually in a private and protected space, expressing readiness to look critically at a number of things that have an impact on their level of respect for international humanitarian law." However, he added, "whether this will translate into something concrete, only time will tell."

The seminar has conducted six sessions so far this year, and another is slated to continue next week, the Times reported.

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