ARGUMENT: PROPORTIONALITY IN WARLegal Questions Answered and Unanswered in Israel’s Air War in Gaza

Published 2 January 2024

The Israeli Air Force’s (IAF’s) bombing of Gaza since Oct. 7, 2023, has been widely criticized for the extreme level of civilian deaths, the choices of weapons used, and the way in which those weapons have been employed. Marc Garlasco writes that the Israel Air Force (IAF) dropped a staggering number of bombs on Gaza, and, what’s more, many of these bombs were “dumb bombs” which cause wide-area damage. Garlasco writes that that question “is how the IAF is assessing proportionality, which is the amount of civilian harm acceptable for a military target. To date, that appears to be heavily skewed to a point where Israel will accept extreme levels of civilian harm for questionable military value.”

The Israeli Air Force’s (IAF’s) bombing of Gaza since Oct. 7, 2023, has been widely criticized for the extreme level of civilian deathsthe choices of weapons used, and the way in which those weapons have been employed

Marc Garlasco writes in Lawfare that some date will help set the scene:

Now, some data to set the scene: The IAF reportedly dropped over 29,000 bombs during the first six weeks of the war. That is a staggering sum for one city, in any war. By comparison, the U.S. dropped 29,199 during the entire Iraq war in 2003—on the whole country. More shocking is that nearly half of the bombs dropped on Gaza have been unguided, or so-called dumb bombs—a decision Tischler defends. Additionally, most bombs dropped are among the largest in regular use—2,000 pound bombs. These weapons, while effective in leveling military targets, can affect extremely wide areas, sending lethal fragments more than 1,000 feet from the point of impact when used in the open. In other words, Gaza is being hit by a lot of very large and often unguided bombs. The results speak for themselves: The IDF’s military campaign has killed over 20,000 Palestinians, damaged or destroyed nearly a fifth of all buildings in Gaza, and displaced 85 percent of the population of 2.3 million. How does the IDF justify its attacks as legal in the face of so much destruction?

Garlasco writes that transparency has been sorely lacking from the IAF. While withholding some information for operational security is understandable, the complete lack of data helps drive a negative narrative and reinforce claims that the IAF doesn’t care about civilian harm. He adds

On Dec. 27, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) finally engaged these criticisms head on in a statement delivered by the chief of staff of the Israeli Air Force, Brig. Gen. Omer Tischler. While the general is not an operational commander, it is the first time I have seen the IAF engage criticisms of its operational choices in such a direct manner.