The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled Thursday that the targeted
killings (assassinations) of Palestinian fighters do not violate the
international law, and the “legality” of each targeted killing must be
evaluated on individual basis, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported.

The court panel, headed by three justices ruled that the state cannot specify in advance that every assassination is not allowed according to the International Law. 

The court was headed by Justice Aharon Barak, the former head of the Israeli Supreme Court, it will be his final ruling and could be considered as a precedent in international and war crime law, Haaretz added.

Haaretz also said that Thursday's ruling was issued by Barak along with current Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Justice Eliezer Rivlin.

According to the court ruling, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has the characteristics of an international armed conflict, and is subjected to the international law.

Barak said in the ruling that Israel must “balance the security needs and human rights since not every efficient means is legal.

Also, the court ruling did not identify the Palestinian fighters are combatants, therefore they were classified as civilians, but noted that the civilians involved in attacks against Israel cannot be provided with the “protection granted to innocent civilians” in accordance with the International Law.

The ruling also stated that “a civilian engaging in an armed conflict is subjected to the risks of attack like those who carry the attacks, and cannot “enjoy the rights granted to prisoners of war”.

Moreover, the court ruled that targeted killings are justified because “they are carried against civilians who are involved in hostile activities”.

The High Court classified four categories for the justification of assassination, as reported by Haaretz;

The first base is providing a well based, strong and convincing information on the activities of individuals or groups  

Second, any targeted civilians who is taking part of attacks, should not be assassinated if other less harmful means were found.

Third, the court said that there should be an independent and thorough investigation after each assassination in order to determine “the circumstances of the assassination and the precision in identifying the target”. 

Fourth, all efforts must be taken in an attempt to minimize the harm to innocent civilians during the assassination. Civilians deaths during military attacks were be regarded as “collateral damage” and must be proportional, Haaretz added.
Also, the ruling states that assassinations will be carried out against operatives engaging in attacks against Israel, but should not be carried out against “former fighters who distanced themselves from any military activities.

In January 2002, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, and the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and Environment, filed a petition against targeted killings. The petition was put on hold in February 2005 following a joint cease-fire declaration by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. But in November 2005, the army resumed the assassination policies .

Last month, Yesh Gvul filed a petition against the high court justices for their failure to rule on a petition filed five years earlier.
The petitioners were represented by attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard.

Haaretz interviewed Feldman who said that since the beginning, the case was slowly handles, several delays with a great deal of time between the sessions, and was going from one preliminary hearing to another  “which shows that the court was unwilling to decide on this matter.