Legal aspects of Gaza blockade

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Legal aspects of Gaza blockade

Post by Zoya on Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:38 pm

26 May 2010
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs legal expert Sarah Weiss Maudi on the legal aspects of Gaza aid


31 May 2010
The Gaza flotilla and the maritime blockade of Gaza - Legal background



1. A maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. Such blockade has been imposed, as Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime that controls Gaza, which has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel with weapons that have been smuggled into Gaza via the sea.

2. Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law that may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at sea.

3. A blockade may be imposed at sea, including in international waters, so long as it does not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral states.

4. The naval manuals of several western countries, including the US and England recognize the maritime blockade as an effective naval measure and set forth the various criteria that make a blockade valid, including the requirement of give due notice of the existence of the blockade.

5. In this vein, it should be noted that Israel publicized the existence of the blockade and the precise coordinates of such by means of the accepted international professional maritime channels. Israel also provided appropriate notification to the affected governments and to the organizers of the Gaza protest flotilla. Moreover, in real time, the ships participating in the protest flotilla were warned repeatedly that a maritime blockade is in effect.

6. Here, it should be noted that under customary law, knowledge of the blockade may be presumed once a blockade has been declared and appropriate notification has been granted, as above.

7. Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no boats can enter the blockaded area. That includes both civilian and enemy vessels.

8. A state may take action to enforce a blockade. Any vessel that violates or attempts to violate a maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked under international law. The US Commander's Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations sets forth that a vessel is considered to be in attempt to breach a blockade from the time the vessel leaves its port with the intention of evading the blockade.

9. Here we should note that the protesters indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade by means of written and oral statements. Moreover, the route of these vessels indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade in violation of international law.

10. Given the protesters explicit intention to violate the naval blockade, Israel exercised its right under international law to enforce the blockade. It should be noted that prior to undertaking enforcement measures, explicit warnings were relayed directly to the captains of the vessels, expressing Israel's intent to exercise its right to enforce the blockade.

11. Israel had attempted to take control of the vessels participating in the flotilla by peaceful means and in an orderly fashion in order to enforce the blockade. Given the large number of vessels participating in the flotilla, an operational decision was made to undertake measures to enforce the blockade a certain distance from the area of the blockade.

12. Israeli personnel attempting to enforce the blockade were met with violence by the protesters and acted in self defense to fend off such attacks.

25 May 2010
The Israeli humanitarian lifeline to Gaza

Despite attacks by Hamas, Israel maintains an ongoing humanitarian corridor for the transfer of perishable and staple food items to Gaza. This conduit is used by internationally recognized organizations including the United Nations and the Red Cross.

Well over a million tons of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza from Israel over the last 18 months equaling nearly a ton of aid for every man, woman and child in Gaza. Millions of dollars worth of international food aid continually flows through the Israeli humanitarian apparatus, ensuring that there is no food shortage in Gaza.

Food and supplies are shipped from Israel to Gaza six days a week. These items were channeled through aid organizations or via Gaza's private sector.

Large quantities of essential food items like baby formula, wheat, meat, dairy products and other perishables are transferred daily and weekly to Gaza. Fertilizers that cannot be used to make explosives are shipped into the Strip regularly, as are potato seeds, eggs for reproduction, bees, and equipment for the flower industry.

In 2009 alone, more than 738,000 tons of food and supplies entered Gaza. Pictures in local newspapers show local markets aplenty with fruit, vegetables, cheese, spices, bread and meat to feed 1.4 million Gazans.

In the first quarter of 2010 (January-March), 94,500 tons of supplies were transferred in 3,676 trucks to the Strip: 48,000 tons of food products; 40,000 tons of wheat; 2,760 tons of rice; 1,987 tons of clothes and footwear; 553 tons of milk powder and baby food.

In a typical week the IDF coordinates the transfer of hundreds of trucks containing about 15,000 tons of supplies. During the week of May 18, 2010 there were more than 100 truckloads of animal food, 65 trucks of fruit and vegetables; 22 truckloads of sugar, some 27 truckloads of meat, poultry and fish; and 40 trucks of dairy products. At holiday times, Israel increases transfers. During the Muslim holy days of Ramadhan and Eid al-Adha, Israel shipped some 11,000 heads of cattle into the Strip.

The medical corridor

No Palestinian is denied medical care in Israel. However, if the Hamas regime does not grant permits for medical care, the Israeli government can do nothing to help the patient. Israel will facilitate all cases of medical treatments from Gaza, unless the patient is a known perpetrator of terror.

Israel maintains a corridor for the transfer of medical patients out of Gaza, and about 200 medical staff members go through the crossings every month. Israel also helps coordinate the transfer of Jordanian doctors into Gaza.

In 2009 alone, 10,544 patients and their companions left the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israel. Moreover, there were 382 emergency evacuations from Gaza for medical purposes.

The Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem donates $3 million in aid annually to treat Palestinians in Israel. Following fears of a swine flu outbreak, three Israeli hospitals were assigned to treat cases in the Gaza Strip and 44,500 immunizations were transferred to the Strip.

Since 2005, Palestinians exploited medical care arrangements more than 20 times to carry out terror attacks.

Medical equipment

In 2009, some 4,883 tons of medical equipment and medicine were brought in.

In the first quarter of 2010, Israel shipped 152 trucks of medical supplies and equipment into Gaza. In a typical week (in May 2010), some 37 truckloads of hygiene products were shipped to Gaza through the land crossings. In addition, a new CAT scan machine was recently shipped to Gaza.

In 2009, Israel coordinated the transfer of medical supplies for the disabled including wheelchairs, crutches and first aid kits. Other equipment shipped to Gaza include heart-monitors, baby feeding tubes, dental equipment, medical books, ambulance emergency equipment, artificial limbs and infant sleeping bags.

Building materials

While the import of cement and iron has been restricted into Gaza since these are used by the Hamas to cast rockets and bunkers, monitored imports of truckloads of cement, iron, and building supplies such as wood and windows are regularly coordinated with international parties. Already in the first quarter of 2010, 23 tons of iron and 25 tons of cement were transferred to the Gaza Strip.

On 13 May 2010, Israel allowed approximately 39 tons of building material into Gaza to help rebuild a damaged hospital. The construction material for al Quds hospital was transferred after safeguards in place and French assurances ensured that the construction material would not be diverted elsewhere.

On 24 May 2010 Israel opened the Kerem Shalom crossing to 97 trucks loaded with aid and goods, including six trucks holding 250 tons of cement and one truck loaded with five tons of iron for projects executed and operated by UNRWA.

Electricity

According to the UN report of May 2010, 120 megawatts (over 70%) of the Strip's electricity supply comes from the Israeli electric grid, while 17 MWs come from Egypt and 30 MWs are produced by the Gaza city power station. Since January 2010, there has been deterioration in the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip since the Hamas regime is unwilling to purchase the fuel to run the Gaza City power station.

Throughout 2009 Israel transferred 41 trucks of equipment for the maintenance of Gaza's electricity grid.

Israel facilitates the transfer of fuel through the border, and maintains that the diversion of fuel from domestic power generators to other uses is wholly a Hamas decision. Over 133 million liters of fuel entered Gaza from Israel over the last 18 months.

Sewage

During the first quarter of 2010, the UN coordinated with Israel the transfer of equipment for UNWRA to upgrade the sewage pumping station. In 2009, 127 trucks containing more than 3,000 tons of hypochlorite entered the Gaza Strip for water purification purposes. Moreover, 48 trucks of equipment for improving the sanitation infrastructure led to a substantial reduction in the Beit Lahya facility's waste levels.

Economy

The United States, Israel, Canada, and the European Union have frozen funds to the Palestinian Hamas government since 2006, recognizing it as a terror organization. Israel has taken measures to support trade and commerce, the banking system, and the existing financial market in the Gaza Strip.

Gazans produce much of their own food products including olives, citrus, vegetables, Halal beef, and dairy products. Primary exports from Gaza are cut flowers and citrus, with trade partners being Israel, Egypt and the West Bank. During 2009, 7.5 million tons of flowers and 54 tons of strawberries were exported from Gaza with Israeli cooperation.

In 2009, 1.1 billion shekels (about $250 million) were transferred to the Gaza Strip for the ongoing activity of international organizations and to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority workers. 40 million damaged bank notes were traded for new bills, and at the request of the Palestinian Monetary Fund, 282.5 million shekels were transferred from Gazan to Israeli banks.

In February 2010, an agreement was reached with the Palestinian Authority's National Insurance Department to ensure that pensions reached those formerly employed in Israel. The funds were deposited in banks in Judea and Samaria, while the Palestinian Authority was given the responsibility of distributing the funds to the pensioners in Gaza.

The cycle of life

  • Projected life expectancy in the Gaza Strip (2010) is 73.86, greater than Estonia, Malaysia, Jamaica and Bulgaria.

  • The infant mortality rate in Gaza is 17.71 per 1000, lower than that of China, Jordan, Lebanon and Thailand.

  • Fertility rates are about five children per family, equal to many African nations such as Rwanda and Senegal.


Healthcare

Palestinian families receive the same subsidized healthcare as Israelis, about 10% of the cost for the same treatment in the United States.

Schoolchildren

Israel transfers school equipment supplied by UNRWA including notebooks, school bags, writing implements and textbooks. Israel is currently coordinating the transfer of 200,000 laptops for Gaza schoolchildren and the shipment of 74 maritime containers for conversion into Gaza classrooms.

In the first quarter of 2010, Israel transferred 250 trucks with equipment for the UNWRA summer camp, including arts-and-crafts equipment, swimming pools, inflatable toys, ice cream machines, musical instruments, clothing, sports equipment.

Electronic life

About 20% of the population in Gaza owns a personal computer - this is more than Portugal, Brazil, Saudi Arabia or Russia. They have access to ADSL and dial-up Internet service, provided by one of four providers.

About 70% of Gazans own a TV and radio and have access to satellite TV or broadcast TV from the PA or Israel.

Gaza has well-developed telephone landlines, and extensive mobile telephone services provided by PalTel (Jawwal) and the Israeli provider Cellcom.

According to USAID report, 81% of households in Gaza have access to a cell phone. The PA-owned cell phone provider Jawwal has more than 1 million cellular subscribers.

Travel

Despite the inherent dangers involved, Israel permits Gazans and visitors to travel between Gaza and Israel, from Gaza to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and even abroad for medical treatment, religious pilgrimages, and business trips. Whenever possible Israel allows for diplomatic activities and trade and commerce with the Gaza Strip.

In additional to medical travel, 21,200 activists from international organizations and over 400 diplomatic delegations were permitted entry into Gaza, while 2,200 Palestinians employed by international organizations were given exit permits from the Gaza Strip.

147 permits were given to Palestinian students for academic studies around the world and special permission was given to Gazan footballers to train in Judea and Samaria and compete in international matches abroad.

During the Christmas holiday, approximately 400 permits were given to visit Bethlehem from Gaza as well 100 permits to travel abroad. In addition, 257 permits were given to businessmen from Gaza to facilitate business operations.
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Hamas stops flotilla aid delivered by Israel

Post by Zoya on Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:45 pm

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 2, 2010 2:03 p.m. EDT

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israel has attempted to deliver humanitarian aid from an international flotilla to Gaza, but Hamas -- which controls the territory -- has refused to accept the cargo, the Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday.

Palestinian sources confirmed that trucks that arrived from Israel at the Rafah terminal at the Israel-Gaza border were barred from delivering the aid.

Ra'ed Fatooh, in charge of the crossings, and Jamal Khudari, head of a committee against the Gaza blockade, said Israel must release all flotilla detainees and that it will be accepted in the territory only by the Free Gaza Movement people who organized the flotilla.

Israel said it had 20 trucks of aid found on the ships, such as expired medications, clothing, blankets, some medical equipment and toys.

Israel has released all foreign flotilla detainees by Wednesday, but four Israeli Arabs remain in custody.

Nine people died Monday when Israel intercepted an aid vessel bound for Gaza.

Under Israeli policy, humanitarian aid must come through Israel and be checked by Israeli authorities who are looking to intercept smuggled weapons bound for militants aiming to attack Israel.

As part of this policy Israel forbids ships from dropping off goods at Gaza ports and works to thwart smuggling via tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.

Source: CNN
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Turkey's Two-Faced Aid For Gaza

Post by Zoya on Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:54 pm

06.04.10, 05:00 PM EDT By Claudia Rosett

From the fury with which Turkey's leaders are demanding carte blanche access for aid to Gaza, you might suppose the Turkish government had exhausted every available route for pouring its own bounty into the Palestinian enclave. Think again. While Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan whips up passions about Israel stopping a blockade-busting "aid" flotilla, his own government has racked up a record as one of the cheapskates of Gaza relief.

United Nations records show that if Gaza has been lean on aid from Turkey in recent years, it's not because Turkish relief donations have been blocked by the Israelis. It's because Turkey, relative to its size as a rising economic power, and despite its claims of regional leadership, has been surprisingly stingy about sending aid via the already existing channels of the UN. Apparently, Turkey‘s leaders are glad to enlist the U.N. full force for punishing Israel and stripping Israel's defenses against the Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists who control neighboring Gaza. But the Turks are far less interested in the U.N. when it comes to handing over Turkish goods and cash for U.N. aid efforts.

The chief U.N. agency in Gaza is the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA. Love or hate it--and I am no fan--UNRWA, according to its website, is "the main provider of basic services--education, health, relief and social services--to 4.7 million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East." Many of those Palestinians live in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. But Gaza is the core of this operation. UNRWA‘s headquarters are in Gaza, where 1.1 million Palestinians--the bulk of Gaza's population--are registered on UNRWA's refugee rolls and eligible for its services.

UNRWA gets 98% of its funding from voluntary donations, mostly from U.N. member states. Turkey looks like a great candidate to be a big donor. In 2008 Turkey's economy was ranked by the World Bank as the 17th largest on the planet. Given the Turkish government's professed interest in the welfare of Palestinians, you might suppose that Turkey would be among the top 10 state donors to UNRWA? Or at least the top 20?

Turkey doesn't even make the cut.

The largest donor to UNRWA is the U.S., which in 2009, according to UNRWA's statistics, gave $268 million. Next is the European Commission, which in 2009 gave $232.7 million. Together, the U.S. and E.U. account for almost half of all UNRWA funding. Other major donors include the U.K., Spain, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Germany. Or, if you want to measure in terms of donations per capita, notes UNRWA on its website, "Scandinavian countries top the list," with Sweden in 2009 giving $48.6 million, Norway $39 million and Denmark $19.9 million.

Among UNRWA's top 20 donors for 2009, there are only two countries from the Middle East: Kuwait, which in 2009 gave $35.5 million, and Saudi Arabia, with $27.6 million.

And in 2009 UNRWA was clamoring even more than usual for donations. The year began with Israel sending troops into Gaza in Operation Cast Lead--an attempt to shut down the thousands of rocket and mortar attacks launched from the Hamas-terrorist-run enclave into Israel. The U.N. put out an emergency appeal for aid. Sympathy for Gaza ran high, and one of the most vocal figures was Turkey's Erdogan. That January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he made a public display of insulting Israel's President Shimon Peres and stormed off a shared stage.

But how much did Turkey donate in 2009 to UNRWA? According to an UNRWA spokesman, Turkey ranked 26th on the list, below Belgium, Finland and Ireland. With a Turkish gross domestic product well in excess of $700 billion, the Turkish government gave a total of $1.08 million to UNRWA, of which $578,058 was for the Gaza Emergency Appeal. Non-governmental organizations in Turkey provided another $318,413 worth of food and medical supplies.

This year, with Erdogan cheering for the Turkish-led terror-linked flotilla because it was "carrying aid to poor Palestinian people," how much have the Turks donated to UNRWA? According to the UNRWA spokesman, Turks have made "no private pledges," and for 2010 the Turkish government has so far pledged $500,000.

UNRWA statistics for the past decade show a similarly tight-fisted Turkey. Erdogan has been in power since 2002, but on UNRWA's list of the top 20 donors spanning that period, Turkey doesn't show up. In March 2009 U.N. Radio reported that Turkey's "steady" support for UNRWA from 2000-09 had stacked up to a total of $7.4 million. That's slightly less than Australia gave in 2009 alone.

In the U.N.'s sprawling bureaucracy there are of course other U.N. agencies operating in Gaza. In the U.N.'s database for overall contributions in 2009 to what the U.N. describes as "Occupied Palestinian Territory," Turkey looks slightly more generous, with donations totaling $2.6 million. But slice it how you will, Turkey is one of the penny-pinchers at the U.N. aid table. That's not for lack of appetite at UNRWA, which complains of being under-funded, with $1.2 billion budgeted for 2009, and $948 million received.

As for the terror-linked Turkish foundation that took the helm of the Gaza flotilla, the IHH, it has been accredited at the U.N. since 2004 as an NGO with consultative status at the General Assembly's Economic and Social Council. According to a January 2009 bulletin on the IHH website, the IHH has sent millions worth of aid into Gaza, including "monetary aids" of $3,988,048 million. Did the U.N.-accredited IHH donate any of this via UNRWA? Queried by e-mail about this, an UNRWA spokesman replied, "UNRWA has never received any monetary assistance from IHH."

None of this is meant to endorse UNRWA's aid empire in Gaza, which has a record of being too often entwined with the terrorist reign of Hamas. That ought to make the U.S. think twice, but it should hardly deter donations from Turkey, where the current government applauds the IHH and refers to Hamas as "brothers." What's jarring is that the Turks in the name of aid should be so urgently demanding right now that the U.N. help them break down all barriers meant to keep weapons out of Gaza, while for so many years the same Turks have made so little use of the U.N. aid corridors already in place. But then, it's not really about milk and medicine for children, is it?

Claudia Rosett, a journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for Forbes.

Source: Forbes
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Q&A: Is Israel's naval blockade of Gaza legal?

Post by Zoya on Sun Jun 13, 2010 2:47 pm

LONDON (Reuters) - Israel has said it will continue a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip despite growing global pressure to lift the siege after a navy raid on a Turkish ferry carrying aid killed nine activists this week.

What is the legality of the blockade and did Israel's intervention breach international law? Below are some questions and answers on the issue:

CAN ISRAEL IMPOSE A NAVAL BLOCKADE ON GAZA?
Yes it can, according to the law of blockade which was derived from customary international law and codified in the 1909 Declaration of London. It was updated in 1994 in a legally recognized document called the "San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea."
Under some of the key rules, a blockade must be declared and notified to all belligerents and neutral states, access to neutral ports cannot be blocked, and an area can only be blockaded which is under enemy control.
"On the basis that Hamas is the ruling entity of Gaza and Israel is in the midst of an armed struggle against that ruling entity, the blockade is legal," said Philip Roche, partner in the shipping disputes and risk management team with law firm Norton Rose.

WHAT ARE INTERNATIONAL WATERS?
Under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea a coastal state has a "territorial sea" of 12 nautical miles from the coast over which it is sovereign. Ships of other states are allowed "innocent passage" through such waters.
There is a further 12 nautical mile zone called the "contiguous zone" over which a state may take action to protect itself or its laws.
"However, strictly beyond the 12 nautical miles limit the seas are the "high seas" or international waters," Roche said.
The Israeli navy said on Monday the Gaza bound flotilla was intercepted 120 km (75 miles) west of Israel. The Turkish captain of one of the vessels told an Istanbul news conference after returning home from Israeli detention they were 68 miles outside Israeli territorial waters.
Under the law of a blockade, intercepting a vessel could apply globally so long as a ship is bound for a "belligerent" territory, legal experts say.

CAN ISRAEL USE FORCE WHEN INTERCEPTING SHIPS?
Under international law it can use force when boarding a ship.
"If force is disproportionate it would be a violation of the key tenets of the use of force," said Commander James Kraska, professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College.
Israeli authorities said marines who boarded the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara opened fire in self-defense after activists clubbed and stabbed them and snatched some of their weapons.
Legal experts say proportional force does not mean that guns cannot be used by forces when being attacked with knives.
"But there has got to be a relationship between the threat and response," Kraska said.
The use of force may also have other repercussions.
"While the full facts need to emerge from a credible and transparent investigation, from what is known now, it appears that Israel acted within its legal rights," said J. Peter Pham, a strategic adviser to U.S. and European governments.
"However, not every operation that the law permits is necessarily prudent from the strategic point of view."

OPPONENTS HAVE CALLED ISRAEL'S RAID "PIRACY." WAS IT?
No, as under international law it was considered a state action.
"Whether what Israel did is right or wrong, it is not an act of piracy. Piracy deals with private conduct particularly with a pecuniary or financial interest," Kraska said.

HAVE THERE BEEN ANY SHIPPING DISRUPTIONS AFTER THE RAID?
None so far but the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), an association which represents 75 percent of the world's merchant fleet, has expressed "deep concern" over the boarding by Israeli forces, arguing that merchant ships have a right to safe passage and freedom of navigation in international waters.
"These fundamental principles of international law must always be upheld by all of the world's nations," the ICS said.
For links to the maritime declarations click here and here

Source: Reuters
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