Hezbollah: A systematic violator of international law - opinion

In defiance of this basic principle of the law, Hezbollah makes no effort to hide its intention to kill and maim Israeli civilians.

A HEZBOLLAH flag flutters in the breeze of southern Lebanon in August. (photo credit: REUTERS/KARAMALLAH DAHER)
A HEZBOLLAH flag flutters in the breeze of southern Lebanon in August.
The laws of armed conflict, also known as international humanitarian law, are the manifestation of the various norms the international community has adopted as the legal framework for conducting war in modern times.
This corpus of law was put in place to ensure that the unimaginable suffering to which humanity was exposed during the two world wars in the 20th century would not repeat itself. Accordingly, these laws strike a balance between militaries’ need to win the wars they engage in, and their obligation to do so while minimizing harm to civilians. A clear indication of how these laws value human life can be found in the principle of distinction, one of the key principles of the laws of war.
This principle obligates all belligerents to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and between military objectives and civilian objects, and to carry out attacks only against combatants and military objectives. Additionally, this principle states that combatants must distinguish themselves from the civilians around them (both enemy civilians and their own civilians), and they are forbidden from using the presence of civilians in their vicinity to render themselves immune from attack.
In defiance of this basic principle of the law, Hezbollah makes no effort to hide its intention to kill and maim Israeli civilians. One way it plans to do this is through cross-border ground raids in the next war with Israel. Hezbollah has repeatedly declared its intention of sending its elite Radwan Force death squads into the Galilee region, with the mission of attacking civilians.
The IDF’s uncovering of six large Hezbollah cross-border tunnels in 2018 exposed just how Hezbollah planned to carry out such an attack.
In order to terrorize citizens across the border, Hezbollah publications have shown the group’s terrorists holding signs saying that combat in Syria is merely a “practice run” for their planned cross-border killing raids into Israel.
Hezbollah’s intentions regarding its massive projectile arsenal are no different. The arsenal, replenished by Iran since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, has grown to 170,000 rockets and missiles, according to some estimates.
It includes unguided short-range projectiles, long-range rockets, and missiles with ranges of more than 300 km., as well as hundreds of attack drones. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly threatened to use his long-range missiles to strike Israel’s nuclear power reactor in Dimona.
In what has become the top-priority conventional threat to Israel, Iran and Hezbollah are also engaged in an effort to build precision-guided munitions (PGMs). Iran has attempted to smuggle precision-guidance kits into Lebanon to ensure that Hezbollah’s projectiles reach their targets and the organization’s ammunition is not wasted.
Israeli military experts suggest that Hezbollah and Iran have succeeded in their efforts, at least to some extent, and Hezbollah is now in possession of a few dozen precision-guided missiles. Such a capability will allow Hezbollah to conduct pinpoint strikes in any future conflict with Israel and target the country’s top strategic assets.
Hezbollah can fire up to 4,000 projectiles a day, compared to a total of fewer than 4,000 rockets fired throughout the entirety of the 34-day conflict in 2006. Its surface-to-surface firepower capability is greater than that of 95% of the world’s militaries.
In 2006, with a significantly inferior arsenal, Hezbollah’s rockets hit Israeli schools, hospitals, and other civilian sites. Some 300,000 Israelis became internally displaced during the war. Forty-three civilians and 12 soldiers were killed inside Israel, thousands were injured, and major property damage was sustained.
In 2016, Nasrallah declared that he has his own version of an “atomic bomb,” in the form of a missile strike on Haifa’s ammonium storage site – which has since been emptied – that would result in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians.
Consequently, in any future war, the IDF will have no choice but to operate deep in Lebanon – both through airstrikes and a ground campaign – to neutralize Hezbollah’s capabilities. Unfortunately, in light of Hezbollah’s modus operandi, and the multiple ways in which it disregards the laws of armed conflict to shield itself with Lebanese civilians, and to deliberately target Israeli civilians, it is inevitable that the Lebanese population will pay a price.
The question is whether the international community will recognize the flagrant violations by Hezbollah and its role in all but guaranteeing the suffering of the Lebanese population.
The writer, a retired IDF colonel, is a publishing expert at MirYamInstitute.Org and a former deputy military advocate general of the IDF.