GAZA CITY — Soldiers involved in a botched Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) raid on Hamas military leadership in Gaza earlier this month impersonated humanitarian aid workers in the Palestinian enclave, according to recent Israeli media reports. Impersonating humanitarian aid workers for the purposes of conducting a military operation is a violation of international law and a war crime.
Furthermore, in the Gaza Strip – where two thirds of the population is dependent on NGOs and other aid organizations – the troubling revelation could endanger the security of actual humanitarian aid workers within the enclave.
Earlier this month, war nearly broke out in Gaza between Hamas, which has governed the enclave since 2007, and Israel after an Israeli military raid on November 11 resulted in the death of Nour Baraka, the deputy commander of Hamas’ military wing, the Qassam Brigade, as well as five other Palestinians and an Israeli soldier. That raid led Hamas to retaliate, which sparked a violent response from Israel that threatened to spin out of control until a ceasefire was reached. That ceasefire was highly controversial within Israel and led to the abrupt resignation of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman while threatening the stability of Israel’s current government.
Since the raid took place, Hamas has conducted an investigation into the incident, details of which have leaked into the international press and the Israeli press despite the efforts of Israel’s military censor to restrict the release of certain details of the operation to the public.
However, this past week, Israeli journalists revealed that the IDF had been able to launch the raid deep within Gaza by posing as humanitarian aid workers. The first indication that this had occurred was published in the Israeli media outlet Walla! by journalist Amir Bohbot, who wrote:
The [IDF] unit rented a building and yard in the Gaza Strip from a Palestinian police officer who did know with whom he was dealing. Members of the special unit told the officer that they were running a humanitarian aid organization that specialized in distributing food to the needy in Gaza.”
According to the UN World Food Program, 39 percent of households in Gaza are food insecure.
Bohbot noted that “the unit operated undercover as Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to distribute aid and managed to get into the homes of Hamas members” and that the undercover soldiers also managed to plant surveillance devices in the homes of senior Hamas members. Last Friday, Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari confirmed Bohbot’s account on Israeli television, stating that the unit entered Gaza with forged documents and then had rented a house and “operated under the guise of a humanitarian aid organization.”
IDF’s crime is against both humanity and humanitarian workers
That IDF soldiers feigned non-combatant status by posing as aid workers is prohibited by Article 37 of the Geneva Conventions, which defines “inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to, or is obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, with intent to betray that confidence” is a war crime known as perfidy. Yet, given the Israeli military’s long-standing practice of committing war crimes against Palestinians with impunity, this revelation is unlikely to change its behavior in future operations.
While the recently revealed details behind the raid are unlikely to be of consequence to Israel’s military or government, they may have major, troubling consequences for actual aid workers in Gaza, as the IDF’s decision to disguise itself as members of humanitarian organizations has now placed all such workers within Gaza under suspicion. As Israeli attorney and human rights activist Eitay Mach told Local Call:
The Israeli army has effectively justified any paranoia or suspicions Hamas and others might have of humanitarian groups.”
Indeed, Hamas’ investigation into the attacks led it to make several arrests and to establish checkpoints and conduct random searches, particularly close to the official crossing between Israel and Gaza. Hamas has also concluded that there are likely Israeli special forces operating out of a secret base in Gaza, with humanitarian aid organizations in the Strip now ranking among the top suspects.
Top Photo | A Palestinian child looks at Israeli soldiers patrolling in the West Bank city of Hebron, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. Nasser Shiyoukhi | AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.