Israel in Lebanon
The Report of the International
Commission to enquire into reported
violations of International Law by
Israel during its invasion of the Lebanon
[The Principle of] Humanity
This principle of international law prohibits acts of violence which cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, and behaviour which contravenes minimal standards of humanity. The Preamble to the Hague Convention IV of 1907 contains the de Martens clause, which provides:
‘the inhabitants and the belligerents remain under the protection and the rule of the principles of the law of nations, as they result from the usages established among civilised peoples, from the laws of humanity, and the dictates of the public conscience.’
The substance of the de Martens clause was reaffirmed by the International Conference on Human rights in Teheran, 1968 (Resolution XXIII). The 1907 Convention declares that the means of warfare are not unlimited, and that those which cause unnecessary suffering are prohibited (Arts. 22 and 23(e)). These rules are substantially reaffirmed in Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions 1977, Article 35 (see below). The UN Convention on Excessively Injurious Weapons 1981 reiterates and applies these principles to specific weapons (eg Protocol II, Art 6(2), which prohibits booby-traps designed to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering).
Another as pect of the international legal principle of humanity in warfare is expressed in the prohibition against terrorising the population. The rule, stated in the Hague Rules of Aerial Warfare 1923 (Art. 22) and the ICRC Draft Rules 1956 (Art. 6), is expressed by the Institute ofInternational Law, Edinburgh, 1969, as follows (Art. 6):
‘Existing international law prohibits, irrespective of the type of weapon used, any action whatsoever designed to terrorise the civilian population.’
The prohibition has been recently reiterated in Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions 1977, Article 51(2) (see below).
The third aspect of the principle of humanity is designed to protect the civilian population by securing provision of supplies and objects necessary to its survival. For example, Geneva Convention IV (Civilians) 1949, Article 23:
‘Each High Contracting Party shall allow the free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital stores and objects necessary for religious worship intended only for civilians of another High Contracting Party, even if the latter is its adversary. It shall likewise permit the free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases.’
This is subject to certain conditions designed to secure that the goods in question reach their destination.
These three aspects of the customary international law principle of humanity are expressed in the provisions of Protocol I Additional to Geneva Conventions 1977, Articles 35, 51 (2) and 54(1):
’35. 1. In any armed conflict, the right of the Parties to the conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited.
2. It is prohibited to employ weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.
51. 2. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.
54. 1. Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.’
The principles relating to weapons, blockade and terror bombardment will be examined separately as they relate to the conduct by the IDF of the war in Lebanon.
The Commission received a great deal of evidence as to the nature of the wounds inflicted and suffering caused by weapons used by the IDF. In particular, the Commission was impressed by the relatively high ratio of wounded to dead casualties resulting from fragmentation weapons. The ratio in many instances reported to us and in the press was as high as 2: 1 or even 1: 1. The horrific nature of the wounds was also registered. One of many particularly graphic descriptions is given in the Philadelphia Inquirer of 30 June, 1982:
‘Mohammed (age 14) spied a shiny bit of metal. Amin (age 12) saw it too. He was close when Mohammed picked it up. Amin, 12, arrived at Gaza Hospital with a big hole in his stomach. A piece of the bomb has smashed through the bottom ribs on his left side. A lung collapsed. His stomach, colon and small intestines were hanging out of the wound.
Mohammed, 14, also was ripped open from the blast of the bomb, but the pieces that tore into him were smaller. He lost his spleen. His colon and stomach had to be sewn up. His left hand was amputated. His face all around his left cheek was burned and he can’t see much through his left eye. . . what blew up in their hands was a cluster bomb.’
A number of witnesses testified as to the impact on civilians of high velocity/high energy weapons. Dr Troy Rusli, a surgeon from Norway, worked in the Lahout field hospital from 15 July to the end of August. He testified to the Commission that he had had 288 patients during this period. The amputation rate was 15-20%. The Commission was informed of a common operation needed following the massive bone damage caused by high velocity splinters: the ‘Begin’ amputation. In a press report, Ms Rosemary Willey, a 27-year-old nurse from England, was quoted as saying about the bombardment in early August: ‘For every 100 people who were brought in, 50 limbs required amputation. It was overwhelming.' Details of the many amputations performed are registered in the reports of Derek’ and Pamela Cooper on their visits to hospitals during the shelling.
The effects on human beings of incendiary weapons were, if anything, more horrific. Ms Mary Jean Grove-Hills, a New Zealander nurse who worked in Lahout Hospital, testified to the Commission that the majority of burns in her section were flash burns and superficial. But there were those with third degree burns, which go below the top layer of skin and burn down into muscle. She testified that most of the third degree burns were relatively small and scattered about the body: legs, arms, chest. The doctors’ notes on some of these indicated phosphorus burns. The Commission visited a number of hospitals and saw patients with severe burn wounds. We have taken evidence from surgeons who treated burns which they stated unequivocally were caused by phosphorus: Dr Amal Shamaa of the Barbir Hospital and Dr Troy Rusli of the Lahout Hospital. These and other doctors are quoted as to the effect of phosphorus burns in a report in the International Herald Tribune of 21-22 August, 1982. The reporter, Loren Jenkins, describes the pitiful condition of the Aytawi family when a shell hit the underground garage where they were hiding. She describes the wounds as ‘distinctive and much harderto treat than ordinary burns, the doctors say, in part because phosphorus sticks to the skin and can burn for hours. It cannot be extinguished by water, which causes a chemical reaction that makes the wound burn more.’ Dr Rusli testified to the Commission of having to cut out the source of the phosphorus in order to stop the burning. A doctor with the Palestine Liberation Army, Dr Hattan Mustapha, trained in Damascus, testified to the Commission in Amman as to his treating of third degree phosphorus burns while his unit was in West Beirut: ‘It would hit a large part of the body and would go inside the deepest human body and the whole body would be transferred to black. Not red. The colour of the skin would be black, dark.’
The Commission is of the view that, on the evidence, the horrific extent and nature of these wounds and death inflicted by these weapons was unnecessary; and that there are limits which humanity places on the use of weapons causing human suffering of the types described. The Commission concludes that the use by the IDF of fragmentation weapons and phosphorus shells in the urban centres of civilian population of Lebanon violated the international legal principle of humanity in the conduct of war.
Terrorising the civilian population
The customary international law of war prohibits the terrorising of the civilian population. Both acts of violence and threats of violence are prohibited when their primary purpose is to spread terror among civilians (see eg Protocol I of 1977, Art. 51(2)). The law accepts that terror is the inevitable accompaniment to violence when civilians are affected. Provided the primary objective of an attack is a military one, however, incidental terror caused is not a violation. Two cases were brought to the Commission’s attention by the evidence.
First, it is the case that threats of violence which are intended to terrorise the civilian population are prohibited. Evidence was put before the Commission of IDF warnings to the civilian population of imminent or future attacks. A report in The Times reported that: ‘As part of the increased psychological warfare, the Israeli state radio has begun broadcasting messages in Arabic to the Palestinians and the estimated 2,300 Syrians still cornered in West Beirut, urging them to surrender and threatening an attack.' This was accompanied by leaflets which, as one report put it: ‘warned, in bad but threatening Arabic, that the people should leave towards the east or north, as Israel had yet to use its full force against the Palestinian fighters. Men and women read the leaflets, then looked at one another and hurried home to pack.'
The leaflets read:
‘the IDF is continuing its war against the terrorists and has not used its full force yet. The IDF is concerned not to hurt innocent civilians and anyone who doesn’t fight against it.
Residents of Beirut, make use of the ceasefire and save your lives. You have the following exits: (a) through the IDF forces to the East on the Beirut-Damascus axis, (b) northward towards Tripoli.
Save your life and those of your beloved ones – The commander of the IDF.’
Another response to this leaflet is reported by John Bulloch in The Daily Telegraph of 28 June, 1982 ‘as the leaflets fluttered down. One of them quickly scanned one and said: “This is nonsense. We cannot go to Damascus, and we would be frightened to go to the Christian areas, even if we were allowed to do so. This is too cynical.” , Bulloch reports the content of another leaflet the following day as repeating in stronger terms the previous day’s message:
‘Thousands of your brothers have taken the opportunity given them and have left Beirut and are now living in peace and safety. You who are still present in Beirut today: remember that time is running out. The later you leave it, the more you expose your life and the lives of your loved ones to danger .’
The Commission has evidence that the effect of such leaflets was often to cause confusion and terror. Professor Kamal Salibi testified that the effect of these leaflets in Beirut was to frighten people out of their wits, particularly those not able to leave. The Commission is also aware that under international law the attacking party is obliged to give effective warning.  On balance, the Commission is unable to conclude, on the evidence of the leaflets, that the primary intent of the IDF was to terrorise the population into leaving, but, taken together with the following evidence of mock attacks, the evidence strongly suggests an intent to terrorise the civilian population.
There is evidence before the Commission that the IDF did undertake mock attacks on at least three occasions, which did have the effect of terrorising the civilian population. First, ‘late Wednesday night (30 June), low flying Israeli jets roared over Beirut, dropping flares and smoke canisters in a thunderous mock air raid that sent thousands of panicky inhabitants rushing to basements and bombshelters.' The next night, 1 July, Israeli ‘planes again flew’over Beirut dropping flares and smoke canisters ‘which sent thousands scurrying for cover.' According to one reporter, an Israeli colonel agreed that the purpose of this raid had been ‘psychological pressure on the people of Beirut.'[l00] The third reported series of mock attacks occurred on 14 July. This was described by Robert Fisk in The Times of 15 July, 1982: ‘Then, during the morning, Israeli fighter