In his comments to the Editors Committee on 7 December 2006, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated that, “Since June, more than 400 members of terrorist organizations have been killed.”
According to B’Tselem’s data, from the time of the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, on 26 June, to 15 November, the IDF has killed 387 Palestinians. More than half of the persons killed, 206, among them eighty-one minors and forty-five women, were not taking part in the hostilities when they were killed. Four of the remaining fatalities were the object of targeted killings, and 177 were killed while taking part in the hostilities.
The prime minister’s comments indicate that Israel now relates to every Palestinian in the Gaza Strip as a terrorist, and as such is sentenced to death. If this is the government’s policy, it seriously breaches international law. The principle of distinction, one of the foundations of international humanitarian law, requires the sides in every armed conflict to distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians who are not taking part in the hostilities. Even if the Palestinian organizations breach this principle when they attack Israeli civilians, their breach does not justify Israel ‘s breach of the principle of distinction.
B’Tselem again calls on the prime minister to instruct the defense establishment to comply with the provisions of international humanitarian law, and in particular the principle of distinction between combatants and civilians.