Software helps Israeli troops pick their fights legally

Monday, March 8, 2004

JERUSALEM Israel's military has developed software to train troops in how to respond to Palestinian attacks without violating international law.

"What we're doing here is teaching complex issues of international law to young soldiers who are not lawyers," Lt. Col. Amos Guiora, commander of the military law school, said.

The Ground Forces Command has developed and distributed software to junior commanders and troops that detail scenarios that could take place in engagements with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Previously, the army provided classes for standing army troops and reservists, according to a Middle East Newsline report.

The software provides the troops with guidelines on how to respond to Palestinian attacks from within civilian areas without violating international law.

The software defines such terms as excessive damage to civilians, restrictions on weapons and ammunition, treatment of Palestinian civilians and conduct at checkpoints. The computer program also includes animation of a range of scenarios.

The software was developed by jurists and legal experts in international law. The program lists an 11-point code of conduct that is taught via software and the Internet.

The software has been part of an effort to improve the military's record in dealing with Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The effort includes plans to facilitate the passage of Palestinians through military checkpoints and improve the conditions of Palestinians detained at these positions. Officials said funding for the program will come from the $37 million in suspected Palestinian insurgency assets seized from bank accounts in the West Bank city of Ramallah in February.

One scenario is that of a Palestinian sniper who takes cover in a West Bank hospital. One question asked in the program is whether the commander can order soldiers to raid the hospital? The answer provided is yes.

A second question is whether the hospital can be bombarded by heavy fire. The answer is no.

Officials said all units will be provided with the software. This will allow commanders and troops to refresh themselves in international law.

"It begins and ends with the commander," Guiora said. "We don't fool ourselves. It doesn't mean that there won't be problems tomorrow."

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