In July 2009, B’Tselem announced that its “classification of fatalities according to whether they took part in the hostilities” during the Gaza conflict (Dec. 2008 – Jan. 2009) “is based on a new approach of the International Committee of the Red Cross.” According to these guidelines, two types of people are considered non-civilian and legitimate targets: “a person who fulfills a ‘continuous combat function’”; and one who “takes a direct [but not continuous] part in hostilities,” but “only at the time they take a direct part in hostilities.”
The ICRC guidelines are merely the organization´s own interpretation of international law, and are not legally binding. In fact, their formulation was subject to intense controversy. Some of the legal experts who helped compose the guidelines “withdr[ew] their support” for the document after the ICRC disregarded the majority legal opinion on the definition of the “direct participation in hostilities.” Nevertheless, B’Tselem adopted the ICRC approach despite its rejection by most of the consulting scholars to the Red Cross project.
B’Tselem’s research credibility, which has been subject to intense criticism, was further diminished following revelations that the NGO had misclassified Hamas operatives as “not participating in hostilities.” After five years, the information was corrected, without a public retraction. Similarly, Muhammad al-Dura remains on the “killed by Israeli security forces” list, despite the unverifiable – if not disproven – nature of this claim.