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Iran’s recent attempt to ship arms to Hamas in Gaza is an act of war committed by the Iranian government against the Israeli government. The Israeli Navy seized the ship, loaded with weapons designed to kill Israeli civilians, and traced the weapons back to Iran. Nor is this the first act of war that would justify a military response by Israel under international law. Iran has sent other boatloads of anti personnel weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah. In addition, back in 1992, the Iranian leaders planned and authorized a deadly attack on Israel’s embassy in Argentina. That bombing, which was carried out by Iranian agents, constituted a direct armed attack on the state of Israel, since its embassy is part of its sovereign territory. Moreover, the Iranian government has publicly declared war on Israel by calling for it “to be wiped off the map.”
Under international law, these acts of war—known as Casus Belli—fully justify an Israeli armed response. Even the UN Charter authorizes a unilateral response to an armed attack. Providing weapons to a declared enemy in the face of an embargo has historically been deemed an armed attack under the law of war, especially when those providing the weapons intend for them to be used against the enemy’s civilians. So too is the bombing of an embassy.
Two other recent events enhance Israel’s right use military means to prevent Iran from continuing to arm Israel’s enemies. The recent disaster in Japan has shown the world the extraordinary dangers posed by nuclear radiation. If anybody ever doubted the power of a dirty bomb to devastate a nation, both physically and psychologically, those doubts have been eliminated by what is now going on in Japan. If Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, the next ship destined to Gaza might contain a nuclear dirty bomb and Israel might not intercept that one. A dirty bomb detonated in tiny Israel would cause incalculable damage to civilian life.
Moreover, the recent killings in Itamar of a family including three children, demonstrate how weapons are used by Israel’s enemies against civilians in violation of the laws of war. Even babies are targeted by those armed by Iran. Hamas praised the murders.
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