As a lawyer, Avril McDonald envisaged a world where humanitarian law would guide all states and their militaries; a world where combatants would be restrained and civilians protected. While her keen eye as a journalist recognized that the real world was infinitely more complex than the lawmakers had envisaged, she drew on both her intellect and her passion in her scholarly contributions towards a more just world. This essay addresses the response of Avril McDonald and others to one of the many conflicts Avril addressed her mind to, namely the behaviour of Israel’s military during its 2006 bombing of Qana in Southern Lebanon, which was followed by further aggression in Gaza in 2008–2009. Recalling the responses of states to South Africa’s military aggression in the 1980s, this short contribution reflects on Avril’s scholarly contributions in order to find a ‘human face’ through advancing international humanitarian law order to restrain Israel’s military and to protect civilians.