Blockade of Gaza by Israel is declared illegal by International law and organizations.Heinous Crimes, World news Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
The Israeli navy illegally boarded and hijacked another humanitarian aid ship in International waters on Tuesday Jul. 19, 2011. A French ship bound for Gaza with food and other humanitarian aid was illegally bounded by Israeli commandos and taken to a southern Israeli port of Ashdod. The vessel was about 65 kilometres off Gaza in international waters when armed Israeli commandos stormed the vessel. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea entitles vessels “free passage” on the high seas.
As an occupying power that exercises effective control over Gaza, Israel has legal obligations to the residents of the occupied territory under the Fourth Geneva Convention, including the general duty to protect civilians under its control, and the specific duty to allow adequate access to food and medical supplies. Israel’s siege of Gaza, including its land and sea blockade, violates these duties of protection by by denying Gazan Palestinian civilians access to adequate amounts of the most basic food and medical supplies, not to mention a host of other supplies necessary for rebuilding after the destruction wrought by Israel’s overwhelming destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure in its 2009 attacks. Israel’s violation of its duties, extensively documented by international organizations, ultimately amounts to the collective punishment of 1.5 million civilians, in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israel’s claim that its occupation of Gaza ended with its 2005 withdrawal of troops and settlers from the Strip is an attempt to absolve itself of responsibility for Gazan civilians. Israel’s continued control of Gaza’s territorial waters, its airspace, the flow of people and goods through its land borders, and its continued ground and air incursions into the territory, verify that it exercises the “effective control” necessary to qualify as a foreign occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention. This has been acknowledged by the United Nations, the United States, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others.
Even if the Gaza Strip were not occupied, Israel is still constrained by the principle of proportionality in imposing the blockade. This means that the military advantage gained must outweigh the harm caused the civilian population. This also means that the blockade may be no more restrictive than is necessary for military purposes. Yet the blockade is far broader, and its explicit aims are political, not military. It is therefore illegal, and actions taken to enforce it are similarly illegal.
As an occupying power, Israel is required by the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure free, unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief to the occupied population. Even if Israel’s claims to have ended its occupation were true, according to the laws that regulate armed conflict, “If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies,” including medical supplies, provided the blockading party is allowed to make technical arrangements for the passage.
Israel’s denial of passage to the 2010 humanitarian flotilla, which was carrying solely humanitarian supplies and was searched by Turkish authorities prior to departure, was therfore illegal. The effect of the blockade on the Gazan civilian population is well documented, causing alarming levels of malnutrition and near starvation.
Israel’s stated objective in imposing the blockade is not military, but political in nature, namely, to weaken Gaza’s economy and decrease support for Hamas. The damage that the blockade has caused to the civilian population is therefore clearly disproportionate to any military advantage Israel could obtain from the blockade. Preventing humanitarian goods from reaching Gaza has no relation to any threat posed by Hamas. The UN Security Council’s Resolution 1860 of January 2009, demands Israel lift the blockade to allow humanitarian assistance, confirms that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is illegitimate.
Israel’s Blockade on Gaza is Illegal.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay “Israel’s blockade of Gaza is illegal and should be lifted” “International humanitarian law prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of warfare and…it is also prohibited to impose collective punishment on civilians” http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/06/05/us-israel-flotilla-un-idUSTRE6541JD20100605
UN Panel of Human Rights Experts published a report compiled by former UN war crimes prosecutor Desmond de Silva, a judge from Trinidad, Karl Hudson-Phillips, and a Malaysian women’s rights advocate, Mary Shanthi Dairiam ~ “the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave is illegal because of the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/23/un-panel-israel-war-crimes
Amnesty International “As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law.” http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/suffocating-gaza-israeli-blockades-effects-palestinians-2010-06-01
Gisha – an Israeli not-for-profit organization, founded in 2005, whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents – “The closure of Gaza is neither a siege, nor a blockade, nor an economic sanction – it is an illegal act of collective punishment and stands in violation of both international and Israeli law.” http://www.gisha.org/UserFiles/File/publications/GazaClosureDefinedEng.pdf
The International Committee of the Red Cross “the blockade violates the Geneva Convention, which bans “collective punishment” of a civilian population.” The ICRC called on Israel to lift the blockage. http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Red-Cross-Israels-Gaza-Blockade-Breaks-International-Law-96280463.html
Human Rights Watch “The blockade, which amounts to the unlawful collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population, has severely damaged the economy, leaving 70 to 80 percent of Gazans in poverty and dependent on humanitarian aid.” http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/05/31/israel-full-impartial-investigation-flotilla-killings-essential
Center for Constitutional Rights “Israel’s illegal, nearly three-year blockade of Gaza …. has resulted in denial of basic necessities like food and medicine to Palestinians living in Gaza. Since its inception nearly three years ago, CCR has condemned the blockade as a form of collective punishment.” http://ccrjustice.org/newsroom/press-releases/ccr-condemns-israel%26%23039;s-killing-freedom-flotilla-participants
OXFAM – an international confederation of 15 organizations working in 98 countries worldwide to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice – “Though Israel has the duty to protect its citizens, it cannot impose a blockade on every civilian in Gaza. This constitutes collective punishment, which is illegal under international law. The EU should make any future upgrade in economic and political relations dependent on the end of the blockade.” http://www.oxfam.org/pressroom/pressrelease/2010-03-17/eu-foreign-policy-chief-gaza-blockade
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.Mr. Richard Falk “In the Gaza Strip, the illegal blockade continued to violate the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza, despite the much proclaimed “easing” of the blockade by Israel in 2010.” http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10871&LangID=E
Ambassador Craig Murray, an internationally recognized authority on maritime jurisdiction and naval boarding issues. He is former Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. He was deputy head of the teams which negotiated the UK’s maritime boundaries with France, Germany, Denmark (Faeroe Islands) and Ireland. “San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict. Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict, and presumably does not wish to be. San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.” http://www.freedomflotilla.eu/en/information/13-opinion/130-the-blockade-is-illegal-no-matter-what-israel-claims
UNSC Resolution 1860 “Calls for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment” http://daccess-dds ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N09/204/32/PDF/N0920432.pdf?OpenElement
The principle of freedom of navigation is enshrined in international law, including in the Convention on the High Seas, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and has attained the status of customary international law by which all states are bound. Under this principle, all states have the freedom to sail ships flying their flags on the high seas. Sovereignty over a ship is exclusive to the state whose flag the ship is flying. Any attempt to board the ship of another flag-state is therefore considered a breach of that state’s sovereignty. Israel’s boarding in international waters of previous humanitarian vessels to Gaza, or a boarding of the upcoming flotilla, are therefore violations of international law and would violate the sovereignty of the states to which the ships are flagged.
Contrary to Israel’s assertions, maritime blockades must be restricted to ports or coastal areas under the enemy’s control, and may not be imposed in international waters. Israel’s attempt to impose and enforce its blockade in international waters is therefore illegal. Israel’s claim that it has a right to pursue a ship intending to breach its blockade from the time it begins its voyage, based on the so-called doctrine of continuous voyage, is a minority position in international law. Israel’s reliance on this questionable doctrine does not justify its attack on previous or upcoming humanitarian flotillas.
Given that an Israeli attack or boarding of a flag-state ship in international waters is itself illegal, any claim of acting in self-defense is unfounded. The principle of self-defense applies only when a state is repelling an attack against it. Certainly, the flotilla ships have not and will not be attacking Israeli naval forces. Moreover, even if Israel did have a right to board the ships, the use of force in doing is unnecessary and disproportionate to any threat the unarmed civilians aboard the ships may pose.
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