The recent report of an Israeli Inquiry Committee that examined the 2002 targeted killing of Salah Shehadeh, the commander of Palestinian armed group Hamas, provides a valuable opportunity to reassess the legality of this highly controversial incident. The attack on Shehadeh by Israeli forces caused the death of 13 innocent civilians and the injury of dozens of others. While Israel refused to open a criminal investigation following the attack, several attempts in Israel and elsewhere were made in order to initiate criminal proceedings and to hold those involved accountable. It seems however that the allegations of ‘an Israeli war crime’ neglected the normative framework which governs the incident. This article analyses the lawfulness of the Israeli operation under the law of armed conflict (LOAC) by discussing the legitimacy of the selected target and the issues of proportionality and precautions in attack. It also considers the relationship between LOAC and human rights law. As the calls for criminal measures may be resumed in light of the Inquiry Committee’s findings, the article recalls the supremacy of LOAC when assessing behaviour in the context of high-intensity hostilities. In the absence of a LOAC violation which triggers individual criminal responsibility, human rights law may play a role in relation to a post-incident remedy, namely, a review of the attack and, in some cases, compensation for victims. Yet, allegations of war crimes cannot be based on human rights law when there is no case to answer under LOAC.
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