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Israel’s Account of World Central Kitchen Strike Raises Wider Legal Questions, Experts Say

WorldIsrael’s Account of World Central Kitchen Strike Raises Wider Legal Questions, Experts Say

Israel’s account of its attack on a World Central Kitchen convoy raises significant legal questions even if the strike was the result of a series of mistakes, experts say.

The Israeli military announced on Friday that its preliminary investigation had revealed a string of errors that led to the deaths of seven aid workers. It took responsibility for the failure, saying that there were “no excuses” and citing “a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making and an attack contrary to the standard operating procedures.”

But the description of events that has emerged raises broader questions about the military’s ability to identify civilians and its procedures for protecting them, legal experts told The New York Times — including new concerns about whether Israel has been complying with international law in its conduct of the war in Gaza more generally.

The first, most basic principle of international humanitarian law is that civilians cannot be targets of a military attack. Militaries must have procedures in place to distinguish between civilians and legitimate military targets.

“In the case of doubt as to a convoy or person’s status, one is to presume civilian status,” said Tom Dannenbaum, a professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University who is an expert on humanitarian law. “And so, attacking in the context of doubt is itself a violation of international humanitarian law.”

Humanitarian aid workers and aid facilities are entitled to heightened protections, because they deliver relief to endangered civilians, said Janina Dill, a co-director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict.

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