Israel’s Legal Quagmire: The Growing Crisis in Gaza

Israel has encountered numerous threats, from the October 7 attack to ongoing rocket assaults from Hamas, Hezbollah, and Yemen. Ongoing rocket assaults, abduction of almost 240 hostages by Hamas, and continued rocket attacks pose a constant challenge to assess whether Israel is fulfilling its obligations to safeguard Palestinians in the West Bank and ensure the rights of detained Palestinians.

Nearly 150 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the conflict began, the majority by the IDF. However, more than 10 cases are under examination by the IDF and police for potential criminality, involving settlers or IDF soldiers accused of killing Palestinians. Israel’s allies, including the US and the European Union, are expressing concern over these cases, which could impact their support for Israel in the Gaza war.

Brett McGurk, a US envoy, has highlighted these issues in a visit to Israel, emphasizing the need to address Israel’s security requirements and secure the release of hostages. Nevertheless, the IDF’s transparency on these matters has been limited, and the Justice Ministry did not provide an official response.

Administrative detention of Palestinians has risen sharply to 2,070 since October 7, and 105 Palestinians have been designated as “unlawful combatants,” deprived of prisoner of war status under Israeli law. Additionally, around 4,000 Gazan workers have been detained in special military camps, and the International Criminal Court has become more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With regard to Israel’s legal responsibilities toward Palestinians in the West Bank, there is a lack of clarity, and the IDF provided updates on only three cases. A criminal probe is ongoing in one case, where an off-duty IDF soldier fatally shot a Palestinian harvesting olives. Two other cases were treated as disciplinary matters by the IDF, involving soldiers accused of humiliating or assaulting Palestinians.

The authorities are also examining cases involving West Bank Jews who attacked and injured Palestinians. However, the slow pace of progress in these cases suggests a lack of enthusiasm for prosecuting Jewish crimes against Palestinians during the conflict with Hamas.

The ongoing Israel-Hamas war is expected to prolong the detention of Palestinian suspects, with no significant decline anticipated in the near future. The impact of the war on these trends remains uncertain, but historical observations suggest that the duration of detentions may increase during times of conflict.