As Yishai Schwartz and Jennifer Williams noted in their Middle East Tickler report on Thursday, Israel’s Military Advocate General hosted a conference outside of Tel Aviv last week on international law applicable to contemporary armed conflicts with non-state groups. The conference was attended by academics, NGOs, and military officers and defense officials from a dozen countries, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Greece, and India. The presentations and discussions were balanced and thoughtful, focusing on the international law challenges for states in conflicts with organized armed groups like Al Qaida, Hamas, and the Islamic State.
A spooky highlight of the conference was a field trip to a tunnel apparently dug by Hamas (or an associated terrorist group) from Gaza into Israel near the village of Ein Hashlosha. Israeli Defence Forces discovered the unfinished tunnel in March 2014. According to our IDF guides, the tunnel is more than 40 feet underground and is 2.5 km long, of which 1.1 km are in Israel. The passage is approximately 5.5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It is lined with concrete, presumably diverted from international aid projects intended for Gaza’s civilians. In the category of a “picture is worth a thousand words,” here is a photo of the tunnel I took from my phone. (The builders of the tunnel rigged it with electricity and lighting, although the wires shown in this picture were added by the IDF after they severed the lines from Gaza.) It is a scary thing, and after seeing it, one can understand why Israel felt compelled to launch its military operation last summer to destroy the network of secret passages from Gaza into Israel (as well as to stop the then-escalating rocket attacks from Gaza).