09 October 2023

Open letter from Israeli international law experts

In the early morning hours of October 7, 2023, Hamas militants entered Israel. They intentionally killed hundreds of civilians. They also took dozens of hostages to the Gaza strip, including women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities.

These actions constitute gross violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law, amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  We stress that all parties to an armed conflict must comply with norms of international law in general and the law of armed conflict in particular, including the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks and measures targeting civilians.

The taking of hostages is a blatant violation of international law. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. Pending their release, they are all entitled to be treated with humanity and respect.  This includes the receipt of proper medical care and supply of essential medication for those who need it, and the provision of information regarding the hostages and means of communication with them.

We call upon the international community, including all states and relevant international organizations to pressure those holding the hostages to release them all immediately.

Dr. Shelly Aviv Yeini

Prof. Orna Ben-Naftali

Prof. Eyal Benvenisti

Dr Ziv Bohrer

Prof. Tomer Broude

Prof. Iris Canor

Professor Amichai Cohen

Dr. Natalie Davidson

Prof. Aeyal Gross

Prof. Guy Harpaz

Prof. Moshe Hirsch

Prof. Tamar Hostovsky Brandes

Prof. (Emeritus) David Kretzmer

Prof. Eliav Lieblich

Prof. Itamar Mann

Dr. Tamar Megiddo

Dr. Hilly Moodrick-Even Khen

Prof. Yaël Ronen

Dr. Ido Rosenzweig

Dr. Michal Saliternik

Prof. Yuval Shany

Dr. Yahli Shereshevsky

Dr. Sivan Shlomo Agon

Dr. Dana Wolf

Dr. Ariel Zemach

SUGGESTED CITATION  Law Experts, Israeli International: Open letter from Israeli international law experts, VerfBlog, 2023/10/09, https://verfassungsblog.de/open-letter-from-israeli-international-law-experts/, DOI: 10.59704/d1c25808a630c67b.


  1. Giorgio sacerdoti Tue 10 Oct 2023 at 09:54 - Reply

    I fully agree and subsccribe
    Prof. Giorgio Sacerdoti, Emeritus International Law, Bocconi University, Milan

  2. Reader Tue 10 Oct 2023 at 16:24 - Reply

    More interesting than the text, which everyone will agree with, is the subtext. And that’s in the bold text of “all parties”. It is clear who is meant here. It is perhaps not unreasonable to fear that the Israeli response will most likely also claim the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians. However, that is definitely not their goal. I therefore find it tasteless to linguistically integrate the IDF with the Hamas terrorists into “all parties”. But as we all know, you can argue about taste.

  3. Ran Sprinzak Tue 10 Oct 2023 at 16:41 - Reply

    The call for “all parties” to comply with international law is very inappropriate under the current circumstances. I hope that you revise this unwarranted and offensive language.

    • hohfeld Wed 11 Oct 2023 at 00:02 - Reply

      Not surprising given the nature of this blog.

  4. Andreas Paulus Wed 11 Oct 2023 at 12:26 - Reply

    I fully subscribe to the statement and express my condolences and solidarity with my Israeli colleagues. Nothing justifies the terrorist attacks. Nothing. As President Biden pointed out, the reaction is twofold: solidarity with the victims and right to lawful self-defense. I do not see anything inappropriate in international lawyers pointing out that international humanitarian law is binding on all parties. This recognition is the core of the distinction between them here.
    Prof. Dr. Andreas Paulus, University of Göttingen, Germany

    • Ran Sprinzak Wed 11 Oct 2023 at 14:50 - Reply

      Indeed, in his speech yesterday, President Biden did not call for both parties to obey international law, probably because he understood that it was inappropriate to create artificial symmetry between the aggressor and the victim.

      • Mittelwert Thu 12 Oct 2023 at 19:09 - Reply

        There is, indeed, no symmetry: In comparison to the Palestinian terrorists, the State of Israel has far superior military strength and, hence, power. I certainly believe that in defending their people, IDF leadership and troops will do their best to comply with international law, which is all you can ask for at this point.

        However, the asymmetry should not cause us to forget that hardline groups on both sides have been pursuing their respective illegal goals. Being able to act illegally without using open and blatant – in this case even indiscriminate – violence is, to some extent, a privilege of the more powerful party in any conflict, big or small.

        • Robert Freitag Thu 12 Oct 2023 at 20:45 - Reply

          “Mittelwert”‘s reply can be read as implying that either (i) Israel, being the more powerful party, just did not have to revert to massacres against the civilian population of Gaza – but would possibly have done so if the balance of power was inversed, or (ii) that Hamas, being the less powerful party, did not have much of a choice. At best “Mittelwert” says that illegal occupation of land is “only to some extent” less illegal than barbarically slaughtering civilians – this is heinous!

          • hohfeld Thu 12 Oct 2023 at 23:51

            Especially disturbing is that posts like Mittelwert’s get a free pass while the moderation is quite heavy handed on anything remotely critical of the blog’s political line. This blog really has turned into a cesspit of radical leftwing thought and thus ought not to be taken serious any longer.

          • N.W. Fri 13 Oct 2023 at 17:09

            I am yet to see where is the ”illegal occupation” motive here since I think that the targeted areas were a part of Israel even under the Partition Plan? In any event they are a part of Israel under the 1950 Armistice agreement. The only argument sillier that this one is the ”decolonization” narrative. Jews lived in Israel since 2nd century BC. They never deserted the area completely and their return to their homeland in greater numbers began while the area was under Ottoman rule and continued under British rule. To call this ”colonization” would be tantamount to saying that native Americans, when they live outside of the reservation are ”colonizing” the US. The discussion of this issue has been plagued by people with little or no knowledge of history, who are, however, extremely radically left.

          • Mittelwert Fri 13 Oct 2023 at 18:59

            I have not made any claim of legal or ethical equivalence between the different acts or goals, nor engaged in speculation about the choices a less powerful Israel might make.

            It seems that some extreme-right elected politicians in Israel would not necessarily be opposed to a violent expulsion of Palestinians from currently occupied territories, although there is no majority for that, obviously.
            Due the control exercised by the State of Israel over the West Bank, however, the Israeli nationalist right-wing has an alternative, via their political influence, to effect an illegal (mainly pseudo-legal) gradual enlargement of territory.

            On the Palestinian side, in contrast, the lack of (ideally non-violent) effective means to improve their strategic position is, unfortunately, a factor promoting the extreme violent terrorist activities.
            Needless to say that this observation does not provide any justification for them.

Leave A Comment


1. We welcome your comments but you do so as our guest. Please note that we will exercise our property rights to make sure that Verfassungsblog remains a safe and attractive place for everyone. Your comment will not appear immediately but will be moderated by us. Just as with posts, we make a choice. That means not all submitted comments will be published.

2. We expect comments to be matter-of-fact, on-topic and free of sarcasm, innuendo and ad personam arguments.

3. Racist, sexist and otherwise discriminatory comments will not be published.

4. Comments under pseudonym are allowed but a valid email address is obligatory. The use of more than one pseudonym is not allowed.

Explore posts related to this:
Hostages, International Law, Israel-Gaza War, Open Letter

Other posts about this region:
Israel und besetzte Gebiete