Targeted Killings - A Counterterrorism of Israel

Term Paper 2005 25 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Public International Law and Human Rights



1 Introduction

2 Examples of targeted killings
2.1 Targeted killings of political and other leaders
2.1.1 Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abd al-Aziz al Rantisi
2.1.2 Abbas Moussawi
2.1.3 Abu Ali Mustafa
2.1.4 Jamal´Abd al Qader´Abd al-Razeq
2.2 The killing of civilians
2.2.1 Muhammad al´Arja
2.2.2 Iyad Da´du/ Ahmad al-Kasas/ Hani Yusef al-Sufi

3 Positions to the Israeli targeted killings
3.1 Israel´s Position
3.1.1 The political and military elite
3.1.2 Opposites opinions out of the army
3.2 The positions of the arabic world, Palistine and Palistinian groups
3.3 Positions of the State Community
3.3.1 The Positions of different countries and the European Union
3.3.2 Comments of the UNO
3.4 The Problems with Current U.S. Policy

4 International Law
4.1 The rigth of self-defence
4.1.1 The armed attack as condition
4.1.2 The application criterias of the right of self-defence
4.1.3 The relation between article 51 UN-Charter and article 2 diget 4 UN-Charter
4.1.4 The use of armed forces against terrorism
4.1.5 The existence of common-law self-defence
4.2 The difference between combatants and civilians
4.3 The right to life
4.4 The right of a fair lawsuit

5 Conclusion

6 Bibliography

7 Internet Sources

Table of abbreviations

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1 Introduction

The happenings of September 11th changed the world. Now there is the question of the effects the terrorism has for the society and if it is allowed to use all methods to prevent such attacks unless the consequences for the international law.

These questions determine the present structure of the praxis of the international law. In this case the prevention of terrorist attacks has got a high significance. However, the abandonment of international law is also in times of crises and fear too shortsighted.

The majority of the state community as well as the lawyers decline targeted killings. This shows that the society does not accept inhuman und non legitimate actions.

After September 11th targeted killings become a usual method to eleminate terrorists.

But targeted killings did not arose in 2001. Also in the Cold War there were many targeted attacks on politicians, agents and other undesirable people. The “Licence to Kill” spanninged the whole continent. The whole continent was spanning by the “Licence to kill”.

After the end of the Cold War the situation calmed down for a short time. But at the latest with the arising of the terrorism as the enemy of the civil society the state sanctioned killings became popular.

The forerunner of targeted killings was Israel, the USA followed after September 11th. They used for example armed drones for killing suspects over a distance of thousands of kilometres. Also Russia uses this method for the fight against terrorism. For example they accomplished a lethal prevention attack on a former Chechenian leader in Katar.

One of the most spectacular Israeli targeted killings was the killing of the religious leader of the Palestine Hamas Sheik Yassin. This targeted killing aggravated the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a strong way. Yassin and his followers who left the mosque were shot out of an helicopter.

Besides the targeted killings of members of political and militant movements there are often attacks on Palestinian people who are in no coherence with demonstrations or rebellions. Here are to mention targeted attacks in Palestinian settlements, killings because of carelessness, planless shootings and inconsiderate eleminating of human life.

The following work tasks with the targeted killings which Israel practices. Because on the one hand Israel is the forerunner of this method and on the other hand Israel practices this method very often and with an enormous brutality as well as recklessness against the civil society.

At first I give some examples of Israeli targeted killings. These case studies conclude killings of the political elite as well as the Palestinian civil society. Other aspects in this essay are the different positions on the Israeli “Politics of Killing”. In this point the positions of Israel, Palestine, the United Nations and the problem of the American position are important.

A further feature aspect is the international law. There is the question if targeted killings of terrorists could be accepted in the view of the international law or not.

2 Examples of targeted killings

2.1 Targeted killings of political and other leaders

2.1.1 Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abd al-Aziz al Rantisi

The most spectacular targeted killing until now was the death of Sheik Ahmed Yassin on March 22nd in 2004. Sheik Yassin was killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Israeli warplanes shot the car of the lamed Yassin with rockets after his visit in a mosque.

Seven of his followers were also killed, 17 people were hurt, thereby also two sons of Yassin.

Ariel Sharon was the principal of this targeted killing. He got great congratulations from the Israeli government for his “brave” act.

Yassin was the soul of the hamas. He was a central figure in the inexorable fight of radical Palestinians against Israel. He was a fixed component of the fatal cycle of violence in the Middle East. In the seventies Yassin founded the “Mudschama-el-Islami” and recruited young and motivated activists for his movement. At the beginning of the eighties, in the alignment of the Islamic revolution he founded the militant organization “Mudsch el Mudschaheddin” (fame and fighter of Islam).

His successor, Abd al- Aziz al Rantisi, was killed on April 17th in 2004 by Israeli forces.[1]

2.1.2 Abbas Moussawi

Abbas Moussawi, the leader of an Islamic organization was killed by an Israeli Hellfire-rocket on February 16th 1992. The rocket for this attack was delivered by the USA.

Moussawi was tracked by a drone in the air and then soldiers fired five rockets on his car. With him his wife Siham and his five years old son Hussein died.

According to the Israeli minister of defence who was at that time Mosche Arens this attack was a warning for all terror-organizations. General Ehud Barak, the later prime minister and predecessor of General Sharon was the commander of this action. Ehud and Sharon had a lot of practise in such attacks. Barak was a specialist in targeted killings and Sharon was responsible for the massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Chatila.

Already in 1972 Barak was the commander of a death commando of the Palestine writer and speaker of The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- PFLP Ghassan Kanafi who was killed by a car bomb.

He is also responsible for the death of the former Fatah and PLO-Palestine Liberation Front leader Abu Jihad in 1988.

In the case of killing Moussawi it was probably ordered by the USA.[2]

2.1.3 Abu Ali Mustafa

The secretary general of the PFLP Abu Ali Mustafa was killed on August 27th in 2001 in his office in Bethlehem.

Israeli soldiers phoned his office to find out his exact position in the building. After this was clear a few helicopters fired rockets on his office.

Mustafa was the first political leader who was in progress of the Al Aqsa-Intifada a victim of the Israeli operation “preventive neutralization”.

The inhabitation of the PFLP-secretary general in the Palestine area was legal. Israel dismissed him, with an explicit permission to follow the Oslo-Agreements[3], out of his exile in Syria.[4]

2.1.4 Jamal´Abd al Qader´Abd al-Razeq

On November 22nd in 2000 the Fatah leader Jamal Ábd al Razeq was shot down in his car in the near of Rafah. With him died two of his inmates and two other people in the age of 28 and 30.

Only the taxi driver survived. Later he reported:

“I got up early in the morning and made various runs. Later there were Samu Abu Laban and Na’el al-Ladawi. They asked me to take them quickly to the bakery where they worked. I went towards Khan Yunis, past the Palestinian checkpoint, I was going at 60 km an hour, when near the junction to the Morag settlement a lorry pulled out in front and I had to jam on the brakes. Suddenly there was an intensive shooting – I could not see from where and against whom as I flung myself down as low as possible and lay as though unconscious. After some time an Israeli soldier carrying a body bag and opened the door. He thought I was dead – he was about to put me in a body bag. Then he shouted “One’s still alive!” He laid me down, handcuffed and with a blindfold and took me to Gush Katif. I did not know if the other passengers were dead or alive. I heard soldiers, I was blindfold, I felt bad, I tried to vomit. After three hours I was taken, still handcuffed, blindfolded and with my legs tied to Ashkelon Prison. They took off my clothes and doctors examined me; I had a high temperature. They gave me prison clothes and I was interrogated by four intelligence officers. I told them the exact story; they asked some questions about six times: ‘Was there a Kalashnikov in the car?’ I said, ‘No, the people only had empty kerosene cans and their clothes were covered in flour.’ They said they would release me if I said there were weapons in the car but I insisted there weren’t. They spat in my face, insulted and humiliated me, trying to get me to change my story.”

After seven days Nahed Fuju´ was dismissed at the frontier to the Gaza Strip in Erez.[5]

2.2 The killing of civilians

2.2.1 Muhammad al´Arja

The twelve years old Muhammad and his father took a walk in the near of an Israeli checkpoint in the afternoon at December 1st in 2000. They would collect some fruits. Muhammad was killed by a shot of a soldier in his neck in a distance of 800 meters.

It was on a calm day. There were no demonstrations or rebellions before.[6]

2.2.2 Iyad Da´du/ Ahmad al-Kasas/ Hani Yusef al-Sufi

Iyad Da´du the owner of a small shop in Rafah was shot by Israeli soldiers on December 17th in 2000. Rafah is situated in the Gaza Strip about 200 meters away from the Israeli frontier. Iyad was in front of his shop when the soldiers opened the fire on him. The soldiers were behind the frontier. When Iyad laid on the ground Ahmad al-Kasas 38 years old came to help him. He was also shot. Eyewitnesses reported that the shot took over half an hour.

Before there were also many shootings in Rafah of the Israeli soldiers on civilians. For example: Hani Yusef al-Sufi, 15 years old, and his five friends stood in an alley when a grenade burst the wall over the heads of the boys. Five boys were hurt, Hani died.

His father reported:

“I was going to my house and I saw my two sons with other people crowded in the narrow alley so I told them not to stay outside but to go home as Israelis were shooting indiscriminately. I crossed the road and a shell hit the road. I heard a loud explosion and my neighbour said my son was injured. I said it was impossible as I had told him to go back. I ran to the narrow street. What I saw was incredible – six boys in a pile, all injured. I saw my younger son Hani, killed. I tried to take him up, I saw he was alive. Young men came to help but I told them to carry the other son. Because of his injuries in the head, back and neck I couldn’t go on he would collapsed after two to three metres. I tried to stand again but the young men came to took him from my hands and at that moment he died.”[7]

3 Positions to the Israeli targeted killings

3.1 Israel’s Position

3.1.1 The political and military elite

Since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa-Intifada Israel uses the argument of self defence when they practise targeted killings as regards of terrorist attacks of the Hamas and other terrorists. Because of that reason the targeted killings for them are justified. Further the terrorists being accountable or can be accountable in the future for many deaths of Israeli civilians and soldiers.[8] „Get them, before they kill us!“

Ariel Sharon said after a targeted killing through Israeli soldiers in September 2003 in an Israeli daily newspaper: “The army only follows the political directions. And the army goes on with their actions against terrorists who attack high populated city centres with innocent inhabitants. All members of Islamic military groups are appoints for death. Indeed it is deplorable that through targeted killings also civilians died, but these are the costs of war.”[9]

On the Israeli web site “Jewish Virtual Library” there are summarized the opinions of most of the political elite and Israeli radicals. There is mentioned that Israel is confronted with a nearly hopeless situation to protect its people of suicide bombers. Israel tried it with diplomatic negotiations with Yasser Arafat. He promised in the context of the Oslo Agreements to proceed against terrorists and to get them in prison. He broke his promise. If he had done something against these people Israel would not be in the situation to defend itself.

Additional they list that the countries which invite Israel to aloofness were or are in the same situation. Great Britain persecuted and executed the Nazis after the Second World War and today the IRA is their aim. Osama bin Laden was declared from the USA as a legitimated target.

With this opinion the political elite is not alone. The majority of the Israeli population has got the same opinion. As well the population of the USA provides the Israeli politics. In 2001 a questionnaire survey of the “American Middle East Information Institute” resulted that 73 percent of the interviewed people thought the Israeli attacks are legal if the government proved that terrorists really plan an attack.

The killings show the terrorists that they make themselves to a targeted when they targeted others. The authors of the web site think that this method is very effective.[10]

3.1.2 Opposites opinions out of the army

In September 2003 the Israeli air force commander Dan Halutz gave out in the newspaper “Haavetz Daily” that 27 pilots take no longer part in their opinion “illegal and immoral missions”. Halutz said when the soldiers don’t deny their expressions then they are fired dishonourable by the army. Sharon warned all soldiers to barge themselves in political issues.

One soldier reported in the Haavetz Daily: “Once I was proud to be an Israeli air force pilot but now I only feel ashamed to be a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. These (targeted killings) are in my opinion immoral and definite illegal. This is an organization which pitches bombs without any scruples, they don’t care if it is a 200, 500 or 1000 kilo bomb. They pitch the bombs on high populated areas and kill not only terrorist, rather many civilians.”

Another soldier told the newspaper: “The political leaders are not interested in the death of so many innocent civilians. The killing of civilians should only take into consideration if the survival of the state Israel is in a remarkable danger. And at the moment this is definite not the case. We are not in a war for the maintenance of our existence. We are in a war to hold up our occupied areas. According to these circumstances I will no more longer kill innocent civilians.”

The former Major General of the Israeli Air Force (IAF), Amos Lapidot, said that the pilots who are against targeted killings are the minority, but there are really more then the 27 who are mentioned in Haavetz Daily.

Major General Nati Sharoni reported the pilots don’t have the right to express their opinions in such a direct way to the public. Indeed he can understand the doubts and the fear of the soldiers, but this kind of critics is not acceptable.[11]


[1] Scheich Ahmed Jassin: Schlüsselfigur der Hamas, Die Welt Online (2004) [WWW document].

[2] USA- Israel- Russland. Das Triumvirat der staatlichen Killer (2005), [WWW document].

[3] Oslo-Agreement: was bargained from an PLO in 1992 and signed on August 20th 1993; The agreements give the guarantee to the palestine people to have a self government in the Gaza Strip by building a palestine authority

[4] USA- Israel- Russland. Das Triumvirat der staatlichen Killer (2005), [WWW document].

[5] Israel and the Occupied Terrorists s.a. State Assassinations and Other Unlawful Killings (2004), [WWW document]. pp. 77-8.

[6] Israel and the Occupied Terrorists s.a. State Assassinations and Other Unlawful Killings (2004), [WWW document]. pp.14.

[7] Israel and the Occupied Terrorists s.a. State Assassinations and Other Unlawful Killings (2004), [WWW document]. pp. 13.

[8] Gezielte Tötungen (2004), [WWW document].

[9] Target Killings illegal and inmoral. Daily Times Online, 22.04. 2005, [WWW document].

[10] Target Killings in Jewish Virtual Library (2005), [WWW doucment].

[11] Target Killings illegal and inmoral. Daily Times Online (2005), [WWW document].


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Targeted Killings Counterterrorism Israel




Title: Targeted Killings - A Counterterrorism of Israel