War and Legality: Understanding the Israel-Iran Confrontation Through International Law and Legislation

Andrew Travis and Neve Walker

Staff Writers

Embed from Getty Images

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike hit an Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, killing seven. Iran responded to this attack on Saturday by launching over 300 drones, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles into Israeli territory, yet according to the Israeli Defense Force(IDF), none of the 170 drones, and only five ballistic missiles, made it through Israeli and US air defense to hit Israeli territory. There were no fatalities, one small child was injured.

According to CBS News, four missiles did hit Israel’s Nevatim Air Base, a base where Israel keeps F-35s. It is believed that an F-35 carried out the strike on the Iranian consulate. Despite the hit, the IDF has reported that the base is still operational. Claims have been made by the IDF that strikes were carried out by Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon along with the strikes made by Iran.

After the October 7 attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, Israel has claimed self-defense in their continued bombardment of Gaza, using Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. According to Article 51, “nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations.” Yet, this article then goes on to say that this right to self-defense is excused until the UN Security Council takes measures to “maintain international peace and security.”(UN Charter

Because of the clause that designates that a country has a right to self-defense until the UNSC meets and takes the measures needed, this then raises questions about the legality of Israel’s continuation and escalation of the war in Gaza for the past six months. Although the UNSC has met a multitude of times since the attack and has passed resolutions, such as Res 2023/2720, and Res 2023/2718, these do not seem to be enforced thoroughly and therefore the claim that the UNSC has not yet taken the measures needed to maintain international peace and security can be made by Israel.

Outwardly, Israel’s excuse for the six months past the October 7 attack for continued warfare is its intention to “terminate Hamas entirely,” according to Al Jazeera. Because of the status of Hamas being denoted as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and other actors, international law does not prohibit using force to eliminate a group like Hamas that presents an imminent threat to the sovereignty of Israel. Because of this loophole in international law, and because Palestine does not hold complete member status in the United Nations, Israel can legally justify their actions, and the United States can argue plausible deniability in their aid in genocide. 

Since the start of the war with the invasion of Hamas, Israel’s war on Hamas has led to the deaths of nearly 34,000 Palestinians and the injuries of nearly 77,000 more, as reported by Al Jazeera. In comparison, Hamas has killed around 1,400 Israelis, according to France 24. Iran’s counterattack did not cause any casualties. 

Iran has also claimed the use of Article 51, claiming that since their embassy was attacked, they have a right to “self-defense”. The difference between Israel and Iran, though, is Israel’s use of the article has been claimed to excuse their genocidal actions for the past six months, whereas Iran, according to NBC News, does not plan on increasing tensions and escalating their attack any further. Yet, Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, announced that any response by Israel will lead to a “massive and harsh” response from Iran, according to Al Jazeera.

Israel’s attack has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, with women and children making up seventy percent of those deaths, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office to the High Commissioner. Iranian and Israeli military strategy differs greatly when it comes to priorities of targets. While Israel seems to be targeting hospitals, UN-run schools, and refugee camps, intending to eradicate Hamas without consideration for Palestinian civilian casualties. Iran, on the other hand, seemed to only target military bases, or other areas pertinent to the Israeli government. 

Iran’s response to Israel’s attack seems retaliatory, but with no casualties and almost all of its missiles shot down by Israeli and American forces, the response seems tame in comparison to the deaths in Israel’s attack on the embassy. That being said, Iran’s strikes are seen as warning shots, and not a full-scale declaration of war, like Israel has made against Hamas.

The question then remains, with outside actors becoming involved in the war in Gaza, and Israel making moves to strike other countries and their consulates, was Iran’s retaliation warranted? Because Israel attacked Iran’s embassy, Iran was behooved to respond in the manner it did, and the provisions set forth by Article 51 and its correct use support their response.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share This