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In December 2008 and January 2009, Hamas and Israel waged a fierce three-week battle in the Gaza Strip.
Two recent books explore that dilemma by examining the relationship between the laws of war and civilian protection during battle.
Meanwhile, Stephen Rockel and Rick Halpern argue in that the current international regulations are too weak, permitting and even enabling states to harm civilians during combat.
Although the laws of war require strengthening, they constitute a firm foundation on which to better protect civilians.
Britain, which once played an international leadership role during the 19th and the first part of the 20th centuries, in the end found the demands too great and the costs too high. has so far been prepared to act as the guarantor of international stability, but may not be willing—or able—to do so indefinitely.
The Israel Defense Forces targeted urban infrastructure in Gaza, devastating populated areas as they attempted to end the barrage of Qassam rockets fired indiscriminately by Hamas toward southern Israeli cities.
The war ended inconclusively in January, when Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire amid concerns about mounting civilian casualties.
From two widely different perspectives, the books cast doubt on the value of the existing international regulations presumably designed to mitigate war's impact on civilians.
But a closer look suggests that these authors overstate the tensions between the laws of war and the modern battlefield and underestimate just how well the existing statutes are working.