Eminent Jewish lawyers call on Israel to remember its 'international obligations'

28 October 2023, 17:47 | Updated: 28 October 2023, 18:41

Sangita Myska challenges Israeli government spokesperson on its 'international obligations'

By Grace Parsons

Richard Hermer KC, who signed on the open letter to Israel, told Sangita Myska that it is "impossible to conceive" how Israel's siege on Gaza is in compliance with international law.

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Eight prominent Jewish lawyers have signed an open letter calling on Israel to remember its 'international obligations', whilst also condemning the "despicable actions" of terror organisation Hamas.

The signatories include Lord David Neuberger, a former president of the UK’s Supreme Court and barrister Richard Hermer KC, both of whom specialise in international law.

Sangita Myska spoke with Richard Hermer KC, who outlined exactly what was in the letter: "We start with explaining that what Hamas perpetrated in Israel were grave breaches of international law, morally, obviously, repugnant...

"Following from that was our second point, that Israel, in light of those attacks, plainly has a right to self-defence and indeed an obligation to protect its citizens and those being held, outrageously, as hostages in Gaza.

"But the third point following from that was that international law not only governs what Hamas did in Israel, it also very much governs what Israel is doing in Gaza."

READ MORE: Israel launches second night raid on Gaza with tanks, drones and helicopters ahead of ground invasion

The barrister continued: "The laws of war that govern Israel's actions in Gaza apply uniformly, irrespective of the levels of atrocity that Hamas committed in Israel and they require Israel to protect civilian life as far as is possible, to distinguish in their actions between civilians and combatants, and to take all reasonable measures to spare civilian life.

"Those are the underpinnings, the legal objective standards which apply to Israel every second of the day."

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In previous interviews with IDF and Israeli government spokespeople, they adamantly told Sangita that Israel is operating within international law.

Responding to this, Mr Hermer said: "In respect of the siege, it is important to understand the context here. Gaza is called the Gaza Strip because it is a very small strip of land with over two million people crowded into it, nearly half of whom are children.

"Sieges have been used and identified as part of international law for a long time. Sieges, per se, of military personnel might not be contrary to international law, but it is almost impossible to conceive of how a siege that deprives a civilian population of the basic necessities of life... is in compliance with international law."

READ MORE: 'Window is closing to evacuate northern Gaza', Israel tells Palestinians, as it warns of 'impending intense hostilities'

IDF spokesperson discusses Gaza siege with Sangita Myska

The barrister explained: "Israel has, for a very long time, had effective control over the borders of Gaza, who are reliant upon the need to have electricity, water, and food coming in, in order to sustain life for two million people.

"The cutting of that off, that is producing the level of suffering that we are seeing, is very, very difficult to reconcile with obligations of international law and that is a deliberate understatement from me."

Mr Hermer went on to say: "Hamas using civilian infrastructure as cover is undoubtedly a breach of international law... but it does not absolve by the same token the Israeli army from the obligations to comply with international law"

You can listen to Sangita's full interview with Richard Hermer KC by rewinding on Global Player.