Bringing in Spotlight Nature of Israeli Attacks on Syria
Story Code : 798445
The Israeli officials call the attacks self-defense while the Syrian government asserts that they are apparent aggression and violation of Syria’s national sovereignty. This clash of arguments gives rise to a question: How are they defined in international law?
Definition of aggression
Article 1 of the United Nations charter suggests that saving peace and taking collective measures to stop threats to global peace are the main drives behind the establishment of the UN. Section 4 of article 2 brazenly warns the members against threats to use force against each other. It took 50 years for the concept of “aggression” in international law to be accepted as a defined international responsibility. There were a lot of debates on determining its exact aspects. Finally, in 1974, the world countries agreed on a certain definition of “act of aggression” according to resolution 3314. According to section one of the resolution, the act of aggression is the use of armed forces of one country against another country’s sovereignty and territorial and political integrity. So, if a country is not a member of the UN and acts against a member state, it will be recognized as an aggressor. The aggression can be an action to another country’s political and territorial integrity using armed forces. To make some specification, section 2 of article 3 cites the bombing of another country’s territory by the armed forces of another country by any type of arms as an act of aggression. So, despite the fact that the Israeli regime has not launched a massive military campaign against Syria, its attacks by missiles and fighter jets are acts of aggression according to section 2 of article 3.
What can drive the Israeli military actions against Syria out of the aggression definition inclusion is the legitimate defense that is mentioned in article 51 of the UN charter. “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, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. 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.”
Here we have two concepts: 1. Preemptive self-defense and 2. Preventive self-defense. The international law accepts the preemptive self-defense. However, according to article 33, the two opposite sides should take their dispute to the international courts or settle it through compromises. The articles 33 to 38 are dedicated to the settlement ways. So, the qualification for preemptive self-defense is based on the innate right of self-defense, the necessity of preventing or reducing the consequences of an imminent attack whose very threat is real. But the challenging is the preventive self-defense and the through the interpretation of some of the countries of article 51. The verdicts of the Court of Arbitration show that this international institution for example during the 2003 dispute of Uganda and Congo had a strict interpretation of article 51.
So, there should be an armed attack to justify as legitimate the preemptive self-defense. Since 2011, Syria has been engaged in a fierce war against terrorism. After 50 years of occupation of its Golan Heights by the Israeli regime, Damascus has not taken any military action against the Israelis. Iran and Russia’s presence in Syria is according to the request of the Syrian government and for the help of Damascus in its fight against the foreign-backed terrorist groups and is not aimed against another country.
After the 9/11 attacks, the US tried to present a broad interpretation of article 51. Washington’s actions against terrorism in international law were restricted to terrorism and the perpetuated terrorist attacks. Article 5 of the resolution suggests that no consideration, no matter political, economic, and military, can justify an act of aggression. It adds that seizure of territory or taking any other advantage through an act of aggression is not legitimate and will not be legitimized.
With regard to the article 5, the preemptive self-defense that Tel Aviv cites as the pretext for its anti-Syrian attacks does not give the Israelis any right to take military actions against Syria even if the actions are temporary and short-term.
Article 24 of the charter gives the duty to save world peace to the UN Security Council. Article 7 of the charter in sections 39 to 52 gives the UNSC the authority to determine the aggression, threat to peace or violation of peace. The UNSC has not issued any resolution or recommendation on the Israeli attacks on Syrian positions, though Damascus so far several times filed complaints with the UNSC. Having in mind that the attacks come with American support, there is a big expectation that any pro-Syrian resolution will be vetoed by Washington. In 2007, the Israeli jets carried out raids on Syria’s Jormraya town in Damascus suburbs. The US Department of Defense called the strikes a message of warning to Damascus to stop helping Lebanese Hezbollah. Suits followed but the UNSC took no action to prevent further Israeli attacks that continue to date.
With regard to the above-mentioned cases, if a country flouts its responsibility to peace by aggression against another country, the law guarantees a right to take reciprocal action for the attacked country. These are the conditions for reciprocal action cited in article 49 of a 2001 international conference:
1. The damaged country has the right only to act against the responsive country. The aim is to force the aggressive side to act in accordance with its international commitments.
2. Reciprocal action is limited to the time when the responsible country takes steps towards its international commitments.
3. The reciprocal action should be in the way to enable resumption of commitment to international rules.
Apparently, the Israeli aim of the attacks is supporting terrorists, perpetuating the crisis, and slowing down the Syrian government’s recapture of Idlib as the last major stronghold of the terrorists, Damascus has so far focused on defeating the terrorist groups and pursuing Golan Heights case legally. Syria seeks to beware the world of Israeli aggression and preserve the right for reciprocal measures.