// Copy of Simon Myerson KC comments from twitter.

Simon Myerson KC recounts words by Guglielmo Verdirame some comments on
x/twitter. I reproduce them here for future reference.

Original URL, https://twitter.com/SCynic1/status/1717128708757057743

    Myerson: From the debate in the Lords yesterday on Israel & Gaza.
    Guglielmo Verdirame: professor of international law at the King's College

        "There has been a lot of talk about proportionality in the law on
        self-defence. I refer to the words that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick,

        used a few days ago on the test of proportionality. It does not mean
        the defensive force has to be equal to the force used in the armed
        attack. Proportionality means you can use force proportionate to the
        defensive objective, which is to stop, to repel & prevent further

        Israel has described its war aims as the destruction of Hamas’s
        capability. From a legal perspective, these war aims are consistent
        with proportionality in the law of self-defence, given what Hamas says
        & does & what Hamas has done & continues to do. 3/

        Asking a state acting in self-defence to agree to a ceasefire before
        its lawful defensive objectives have been met is, in effect, asking
        that state to stop defending itself. For such calls to be reasonable &
        credible, they must be accompanied by a concrete proposal 4/

        setting out how Israel’s legitimate defensive goals against Hamas will
        be met through other means. It is not an answer to say that Israel has
        to conclude a peace treaty, because Hamas is not interested in a peace
        treaty. 5/

        Proportionality also applies in the law that governs the conduct of
        hostilities, not only in self-defence. The law of armed conflict
        requires that in every attack posing a risk to civilian life, that
        risk must not be excessive in relation to the military advantage
        anticipated. 6/

        That rule does not mean, even when scrupulously observed, that
        civilians will not tragically lose their lives in an armed conflict.
        The law of armed conflict, at its best, can mitigate the horrors of
        war but it cannot eliminate them. The great challenge in this conflict
        is 7/

        that Hamas is the kind of belligerent that cynically exploits these
        rules by putting civilians under its control at risk & even using them
        to seek immunity for its military operations, military equipment &
        military personnel. 8/

        An analysis of the application of the rules on proportionality in
        targeting in this conflict must always begin with this fact. There has
        also been some discussion about siege warfare. The UK manual of the
        law of armed conflict, reflecting the Government’s official legal

        it is a Ministry of Defence document, says: “Siege is a legitimate
        method of warfare … It would be unlawful to besiege an undefended town
        since it could be occupied without resistance”. Gaza is not an
        undefended town. 10/

        It is true that obligations apply to the besieging forces when
        civilians are caught within the area that is being encircled, & those
        obligations include agreeing to the passage of humanitarian relief by
        third parties. But it is not correct to say encircling an area 11/

        with civilians in it is not permitted by the laws of war. A further
        point is also of particular relevance to the British Government’s
        practice. It has already been mentioned that the Government have taken
        the view that Gaza remains under Israeli occupation, 12/

        even though Israel pulled out in 2005. The traditional view until 2005
        was that occupation required physical presence in the territory. That
        view is consistent with Article 42 of the Hague regulations of 1907,

        which states that a territory is occupied when it is actually placed
        under the authority of the occupying power. Again, it is also the view
        taken by the UK manual of the law of armed conflict, which reflects
        the UK’s official legal position & states occupation ceases as soon

        as the occupying power evacuates the area. The European Court of Human
        Rights has adopted a similar approach to occupation. So I have always
        been rather baffled by the British Government’s position on this
        issue, which, as far as I know, has not changed. 15/

        Yes, it is true that Israel has exercised significant control over the
        airspace & maritime areas, but even as a matter of plain geography it
        takes two-Israel & Egypt-to control the land access points to Gaza.
        More fundamentally, it is Hamas 16/

        that has been responsible for the government & administration of Gaza.
        … the legal fiction that Israel was still the occupying power under
        the laws of armed conflict has been relentlessly exploited by Hamas to
        blame Israel for everything, while using the effective control 17/

        it has over the territory, the people & the resources to wage war. On
        a final note, I would like to say something briefly on the way in
        which the war is being reported. When a serious allegation is made,
        particularly one that could constitute a war crime, 18/

        the immediate response of the law-abiding belligerent will be to say,
        "We are investigating". The non-law-abiding belligerent, by contrast,
        will forthwith blame the other side & even provide surprisingly
        precise casualty figures. 19/

        The duty to investigate is one of the most important in armed
        conflict. The way in which the strike on the hospital was reported is
        that the side professing no interest whatever in complying with the
        laws of armed conflict was rewarded with the headlines that it was
        seeking. //