Israel’s high court on Thursday upheld the military’s right to assassinate members of what the state defines as terrorist organizations.

Israel's high court on Thursday upheld the military's right to assassinate members of what the state defines as terrorist organizations. 2

Israel’s high court on Thursday upheld the military’s right to assassinate members of what the state defines as terrorist organizations, but cautioned that decisions to launch such operations should always weigh the potential harm to civilian bystanders and the rights of the person being targeted.

The unanimous decision, one of the last to be issued by retiring Chief Justice Aharon Barak, represented a disappointing defeat for Israeli and Palestinian human-rights organizations that have called the tactic, pioneered during the most recent Palestinian uprising, a war crime.

Hawkish lawmakers and officials from Israel’s security establishment expressed pleasant surprise over the ruling given that Barak, an activist judge throughout his decades-long career, has often come down against the military in cases where human rights and security measures appear to conflict.

In its summary of the ruling, which has been highly anticipated inside and outside Israel, the court said the state “must balance security needs and human rights.”

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