Gaza: Former Israeli ambassador to UK claims ignorance of Geneva Convention

Mark Regev, senior adviser to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was asked by Sky News for his comments on viral images of the stripping of Palestinian detainees by the IDF

In Beit Lahia, Gaza, on 8 December 2023, a number of Palestinian males were 'arrested' from a UN school, held overnight outdoors, stripped to their underwear, by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) (photo courtesy @DALLOULALNEDER/Twitter)
In Beit Lahia, Gaza, on 8 December 2023, a number of Palestinian males were 'arrested' from a UN school, held overnight outdoors, stripped to their underwear, by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) (photo courtesy @DALLOULALNEDER/Twitter)
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NH Political Bureau

A day after Sky News shared footage and a report on the dozens of Palestinian detainees rounded up from an UN school in Beit Lahia, Gaza, on 8 December, the news agency interviewed Mark Regev — senior advisor to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a former ambassador from Israel to the UK.

Regev was asked about the condition of the detainees, shown mostly stripped to their underwear in images and videos shared by multiple news agencies and citizen journalists, the former ambassador replied, "It's the Middle East and it's warmer here. And especially during the day, when it's sunny, to be asked to take off your shirt, it might not be pleasant, but it's the not the end of the world."

When the interviewer reminded Regev this constituted a breach of the Geneva Convention's rules to treat even prisoners of war in a humane fashion, he said, "I'm not familiar with that level of international law... I'll have to check with my legal department."

Of course, this applies to prisoners of war—in line with Israel Defense Forces' claim that the detained persons are in fact Hamas militants.

The breach gets worse if they are in fact civilians or protected persons (aid workers, children, medical professionals, pregnant, etc all have different levels of protection in the Convention).

The clip from the interview widely shared now on social media suggests, since the detainees have (reportedly) since been released from IDF custody, they were not in fact Hamas members at all.


West Asian news agency Al Jazeera too reported on the capture of the detainees from three UN schools in the area, which were being used as shelters.

While the Israeli Defense Forces claimed initially that these were Hamas members, several private persons and news agencies had highlighted the identification of certain persons as UN workers and journalists. Some were reported to be minors, ie, children.

If there are indeed minors among the detainees — which is not far-fetched, given Israel already has many minors amongst its political detainees, a few of whom were recently released in the hostage exchange—this extends the breach to violating the protection specifically granted to children under the Geneva Convention.

It would also give the lie to Mark Regev's claim in the interview that these were all 'military-aged' males.

Actually, the way the former ambassador and current Israel representative 'diplomatically' worded it, the argument is already suspect—because of course there is many a child soldier across the world bearing arms. Under the Geneva Convention, anyone under the age of 18 is a child unless defined otherwise by the law applicable to that particular person. The draft Palestinian Child Rights Charter applies the same age limit.

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