Conflict in Gaza: The Law of War and Irregular Warfare in Urban Terrain


Conflict in Gaza: The Law of War and Irregular Warfare in Urban Terrain

5 Mar 2024

Bottom Line
  • International Humanitarian Law, generally called the Law of Armed Conflict in the United States, applies to the current fighting in Gaza. These core principles are outlined in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols of 1977.
  • The four basic principles of International Humanitarian Law are distinction, military necessity, proportionality, and humanity. These principles acknowledge that civilian casualties will occur during armed conflict and seek to provide a legal framework under which armed forces will strive to limit such collateral damage to both people and property to the greatest extent possible.
  • While these principles are easily described, the implementation of International Humanitarian Law in practice involves difficult and controversial judgments that weigh military necessity against likely collateral damage, including civilian deaths. There is a built-in asymmetry when the conflict occurs in densely populated areas where one party to the conflict does not view itself as constrained by International Humanitarian Law.
  • Given the high level of support that the United States has provided and will continue to provide to Israel, it is in America’s national security interest to ensure that the Israel Defense Forces follows the principles of International Humanitarian Law.


Jim Petrila

Published in
United States of America