Hamas War and Humanitarian Laws at Stake 


On October 7th, 2023, an Armed conflict commenced between Hamas leading Palestinian militant group and Israel military forces. Hamas’s ‘al-Aqsa’ flood launched a barrage of around five thousand rockets from the Gaza strip towards Israel. In a while about two thousand five hundred Palestinian militants barged the boundary between Gaza & Israel to brutally kill the civilian communities by setting fire and attacked the Israel defense forces. About 1400 were killed, over 200 including civilians and Israeli soldiers were taken to Gaza. Subsequently, the government of Israel announced war against Hamas.    

The holding party since 2007 of Gaza strip is Hamas ignoring significant dealings with Israel in the past and present year. Before the incident this year over 247 Palestinians and 32 Israelis were killed along with 2 foreigners. Hamas contend their attack to be in response to the outrage of Al Aqsa Mosque, stoppage of Gaza strip and nonstop settlement violence by the Israeli. The Israel defense force went on airstrike in Gaza strip killing over seven thousand Palestinians up to date. 

This practice of citizen harming is violative of the human rights in the global sphere according to article 5 of the universal declaration of human rights which has banned cruelty, ill-treatment and inhumane punishment. 

United Nations and other countries on Hamas war 

Dread of humanitarian crisis intensified when Israel deprived food, water, electricity and supply of fuel to Gaza. Israel tried evacuating 1.1 million Gaza civilians from northern Gaza and Hamas invited people to stay in homes by blocking roads leading to south. United Nations has reported about 1 million Palestinians which is nearly half the population of Gaza strip were internally dislocated. The majority of the countries of the globe and the United Nations have urged for immediate suspension of hostilities and the end of war. Many human rights organizations have offered to take the Gazan refugees left out by the war. The panel of United Nations reports, and human rights groups accuse both Hamas and Israel for the armed conflicted.  

Almost 44 countries of the western nations have condemned the conduct of Hamas as terrorism. In opposite middle east nations asked for withdrawal and publicly denounced Israel’s decade long profession of the Palestinian states as the fundamental reason. Israel was warned by Iran to discontinue the battle against Gaza in the nearest time, as it would invoke an earthquake by making way to new forepart and intimidating to interfere the Israeli force if they begin a floor annexation of Gaza.      

Risk to Humanitarian law  

The use of armed force close to or in largely populated localities in order to protect the citizens is violative of article 58(b) of the 1977 protocol I to the Geneva convention. Articles 48, 51 & 57 of the protocol are also at stake as the citizens and opponents are not divided before the attack and the mission has injured a large number of civilians.    

As per Article 7 & 8 of the Rome statute of international criminal court (ICC), Hamas is responsible or liable for its criminal act of hostility over Israelis and of dual warfare offence as it has used the citizens of Palestine as human shield, which is also prohibited by the 97th rule of the IHL1.  

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights through article 9 provides that ‘no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile’. Article 9 of the international covenant on civil and political rights has banned unlawful confinement and mandates parties to present the confined persons for trial.  

Israel is at duty to comply with fundamental legal obligation in their raid upon Hamas. The strong statements of Israeli officials need to be distanced from a functioning legal system. Israel has to abide to several standards such as: 

  • It shall refrain from depriving the food, water, electricity and other basic amenities of the Gaza population as a war weapon or for any reason against the Hamas.    
  • It should make sure to aim at the militants and the military properties of the Hamas. It must shrink civilian harm and damage their properties. The unguided Israeli air attack and the ground battle has to follow legal regulations of humanity, proportionality, distinction and military requirements.  
  • It should make way for restoration of the dislocated citizens post warfare. A temporary eviction of citizens from the place of violence can be required but it would be illegal to make displacement of the population forever away from their house. Today’s situation in Gaza has led to severe privation for large number of Palestinian citizens and Israel must take step to improvise the hard conditions. The presidents of US and US secretary of state on their visit to middle east have discussed on what can be done by the other countries and institutions regarding the humanitarian fate in Gaza of the Palestinians.   

Humanitarian aid in Rescuing hostages  

The main aim of Israel is to save and relieve around two hundred Israeli, American and other foreign hostages. The act of Hamas in capturing hostages from Israel and to use them unlawfully in gaze as human shields under life destroying positions, led to specific hurdles in military action of Israel. Had the Hamas not taken into hostage, the Israeli’s move to combat the opponent would have been varied. 

The legal right of states to utilize power/force to save their civilians exists until they meet the criteria through their actions. 

  • Hostages being captured due to war 
  • Necessity of actions when the hostages’ lives are at stake, nonviolent options such as negotiation may be accurate. 
  • There is a need for speedy action as the hostage’s positions are degrading each day.  
  • The level of force used must be proportional and sufficient to save the hostages.  

Israel must make sure to abide by the strong requisites of customary international law for defending itself in opposition to Hamas and to save the civilians in hostage. The 1977 protocol I to the Geneva convention through article 61(a) invites for humanitarian endeavor for the protection of citizens from threat, which is also a part of IDFs practice of roof knocking. 


The 15 members of United Nations security council witnessed the plea regarding the protection of civilians and alarmed about the risk of blaze by the fight in the area. The Hamas threat was called to be a ‘horrifying and unprecedented’2. A demand was raised to release of around 200 civilians who were captured and held captive by the Hamas. The attacks by Hamas have not taken place in a vacuum, but the Palestinian citizens were victims of suffocation profession for the past 56 years, meaning terrorism and murder. Israel was condemned for directing over one million population to shift to the south without basic amenities such as food, water and shelter in the name of protection leading to continue the blast in south.  

United Nations agencies previously on the verge of collapse had permitted emergency aid towards Gaza. A minute spark of humanitarian hand has been allowed to Gaza lately from the Egyptian side. It is not possible for Humanitarian law to resolve the issue of wanting a state. The law is criticized for making the war slightly extra humane and making it extra bearable as it is believed to be not always followed and respected. If the law on profession of the Palestinians had been respected, they would have been in an improved situation.     


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Written by- K R Bhuvanashri 



International institutions and global governance program; Council on foreign relations 

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