In regard to the ground incursion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military, I would like to know if it is stated somewhere in either international law, or in Israel law, or in the Geneva Convention, that members of the Israeli military have a legal right to shoot at anyone within the Gaza Strip that they suspect of being a member of Hamas.

Or in another way of looking at this, after this Israeli-Hamas war has ended, could a member(s) of the Israeli military face being court-martialed, or face being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), if it is proven that the military member(s) had killed a citizen(s) of the Gaza Strip who was never a member of Hamas?

Does the Israeli military have a legal right to shoot at anyone within the Gaza Strip that they suspect of being a member of Hamas?

  • "legality" is a fuzzy term when the legality of something can only be enforced via state power. In the absence of such a second state power (such as another country with more guns and the will to use them) states can generally do what they want.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 14:24
  • @TigerGuy, the United Nations is supposed to be that 'second state power'. Yet, I doubt that the UN would ever authorize sending troops into Israel to force them to comply with the will of the UN if the UN were to decree that certain members of the Israeli military should be forced to stand trial for having committed war crimes within the Gaza Strip.
    – user57467
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 16:04

1 Answer 1


It is never legal to shoot at someone just because they are a member of Hamas or any other organisation

That would be attempted murder under Israeli and international law.

In an armed conflict, it is permissible to use lethal force against enemy combatants, people who, lawfully or unlawfully, is engaged in hostilities for the other side.

An Israeli soldier who shot at someone “suspect of being a member of Hamas” but who is not an enemy combatant is guilty of a crime and subject to court-martial (unlikely as that might be). They are not liable to the ICC because Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute.

  • 7
    I wouldn't go that far. Hamas members are almost by definition enemy combatants, and international law tolerates some collateral damage intended in good faith to kill enemy combatants or militarily valid targets. Court martial is not going to happen to anyone who follows their commanding officer's communicated rules of engagement.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 2:25
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    @ohwilleke Hamas is an elected political organisation and most definitely includes members who are non-combatants. It certainly has a military wing.
    – User65535
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 5:57
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    I guess what the OP wanted to ask is the shooting of people who are suspected of being Hamas militants, i.e. presumably combatants, who may not be clearly identified as such at the time. A suspected Hamas member with a clearly visible rifle is one thing, how about a suspected Hamas member carrying a box with unclear contents into a suspected fighting position, or a suspected Hamas member who was observed talking to another suspected Hamas member who is believed to be a military commander ...
    – o.m.
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 6:43
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    @User65535 Israel has declared war on Hamas, the organization. Being the only civil society Gaza has had for over a decade doesn't automatically make it immune from being the target of a war. In the same vein, a nation could declare war on a mafia organization or a drug cartel, even if one of those organizations was the sole civil society a region had for many years (see, e.g., the civil war in Colombia).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 16:40
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    @User65535: Criminals also can't be shot out of hand if they are not offering armed resistance. So no, RICO and similar laws are not relevant here.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 17:18

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