During the initial hours of the Hamas terrorist group’s unprecedented and violent assault on Israel, the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran openly expressed their full support for the attack.
They went so far as to offer congratulations, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Twitter account reiterating that the “destruction of Israel” was imminent.
Is the Islamic Republic legally involved in the attack?
Following its deadly attack on Israel, Hamas mentioned the Islamic Republic’s financial and military support for the terrorist group.
However, as reactions intensified in Israel, the Iranian government officially denied any involvement in the attack.
Meanwhile, the US government declared it had found no evidence implicating the Islamic Republic in the attack.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has consistently spoken about the support of the Islamic Republic for what he calls “resistance” groups which, in his view, entails actions against Israel.
Following the assassination of Qassem Suleimani, the slain commander of the Quds Force, the overseas branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Khamenei explicitly stated that the general had equipped the “hands of the resistance” with weapons.
Prior to this, he emphasized the importance of arming Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank.
This article’s primary focus is not to prove or disprove the involvement of the Islamic Republic in Hamas’s recent attacks on Israel. Rather, it raises the question of the potential legal consequences if Hamas’s actions in the attacks were to be attributed to the Iranian government, particularly in the medium term following Israel’s immediate efforts to suppress terrorists in Gaza.
According to Article 11 of the United Nations International Law Commission regarding the international responsibility of states, when a state “acknowledges and adopts” a wrongful act, this act is “considered an act of that State under international law.
While the Islamic Republic has officially denied any role in the attacks, there is undeniable evidence that the entire government and Khamenei have, over the course of three decades, consistently pursued the cause of Palestinians whose land is occupied by Israel, with the ultimate goal of Israel’s destruction.
Khamenei’s military and political advisors, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi and Ali Akbar Velayati, expressed support for the attack in its initial hours, labeling Israel’s situation as a sign of its impending destruction.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement of congratulations.
Commentary No. 6 of the UN International Law Commission on Article 11 of the Draft articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts 2011, with commentaries, does not equate mere approval of an act with having a role in it, but there is substantial evidence that the Islamic Republic’s comprehensive support for Palestinian militant groups, especially Hamas, played a pivotal role in enabling such a significant attack on Israel.
In this scenario, Israel may argue its right to self-defense and legitimate defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and respond to the Islamic Republic.
“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security,” the article reads.
“Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security,” it adds.
Israel’s broad interpretation of the principle of legitimate defense allows for a full-scale military assault even in response to limited attacks by Hamas terrorists.
The end of the initial attack does not preclude a response.
The Islamic Republic, hypothetically, has no grounds to object to this expansive interpretation of Article 51 and legitimate defense.
In recent years, Iran has broadly interpreted Article 51 and the right to self-defense, applying it even to limited attacks by Kurdish groups from within the Kurdistan region, involving bombings or rocket strikes on Iraqi territory, justifying these actions as self-defense and submitting its positions to the United Nations.
The Hamas terrorist group, by targeting unarmed civilians, causing mass casualties, may have committed actions that, when fully examined, reach the threshold of war crimes.
This includes the killing of civilians and their deliberate targeting. Attacking Israeli civilians, even those residing in occupied settlements could potentially constitute a “war crime” according to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.
Civilians are considered “legitimate military targets” only when they are directly involved in the armed conflict.
In this context, if the empowerment of the Hamas terrorist group to carry out attacks can be attributed to the Islamic Republic, it not only raises questions about the international responsibility of the Iranian government regarding the aggression against Israel but also may have implications concerning war crimes.
According to the international legal framework, every state is held accountable for its own wrongful actions.
However, there exists a concept known as “derivative liability” in which a state can be held responsible for wrongful acts by another state or non-state actor it has supported.
Derivative liability arises when one state assists another state or non-state actor (such as a militia) in committing a breach of international law.
The Islamic Republic, across various levels of government, has consistently expressed its intent to provide support to Hamas and other militant groups.
These groups have independently confirmed receiving financial and military assistance.
IRGC commanders have repeatedly stated their intention to respond to Israel within its borders in a manner that would make clear the Islamic Republic’s involvement.
While these statements from Iran can be seen as political rhetoric by Israel, there is still no motivation for Israel to react, for various reasons.
In the past decade, Israel has announced its intent to prevent the Islamic Republic from delivering military aid to militia groups by conducting airstrikes on numerous IRGC positions in Syria, which Israel claims are weapons and ammunition depots.
From a legal standpoint, can the Islamic Republic of Iran be held responsible for Hamas’s attack on Israel? There appear to be several brief pieces of evidence supporting Israel’s argument against the Iranian government.
However, the extent to which Israel views the efforts of the Islamic Republic as a substantial factor in assisting Hamas terrorists during the recent attack and deems this alleged assistance to be pivotal and effective will be a critical determinant in its potential response.
Source » iranwire