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UK minister calls for review of war crimes definition after Mideast conflict

[JURIST] UK Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells [official profile] called for the redefinition of "war crimes" in light of the recent Mideast conflict [JURIST news archive] between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, during a Wednesday hearing [press release] of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament [official website]. Howells blamed the "ruthless" tactics of Hezbollah, such as storing weapons in schools and apartment blocks, for the need to reevaluate what constitutes a war crime. Facing questions from the panel, Howells refused to characterize Israel's actions as disproportionate, but claimed that the airstrikes were ineffective against an enemy like Hezbollah [CFR backgrounder]. Howells also defended UK and US actions in handling the region's unrest, asserting that any hesitation to intervene could be attributed to the desire for a permanent solution instead of a temporary ceasefire.

Last week, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] warned senior government and military officials [JURIST report] that inflammatory statements some made about the recent conflict with Lebanon, such as advocating the bombing of villages that housed Hezbollah rebels, could lead to war crimes prosecutions abroad. Israel has faced criticism concerning its airborne attacks on Lebanon and the resulting loss of civilian lives, including statements Howells made during a July visit to the region in which he questioned the nation's purported selection of civilian targets. BBC News has more.

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