The IDF’s Lawfully Enforced Naval Blockade on the Gaza Strip

The Israel Navy is steadfast in its commitment to lawfully enforce the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, regardless of provocative attempts by international organizations to delegitimize Israel and its right to defend Israeli civilians from Hamas rocket attacks.

Below are a few commonly raised questions on the legality of Israel’s naval blockade.

Why did Israel impose a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip?

According to international law, it is lawful for Israel to impose a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip because it is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas terrorist organization, the ruling entity of the Gaza Strip (see the law of blockade for more information). The Hamas terrorist organization is designated as a terrorist entity by the US, UK, EU and state of Israel.

Since taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007, the Hamas terrorist organization has launched thousands of rockets into major Israeli population centers, populated by one million Israeli civilians. During the last decade, Hamas has orchestrated a long series of suicide bombings, killing hundreds of Israeli civilians. The Hamas terrorist organization continues to smuggle rockets into Gaza via the sea and underground tunnels.

What perimeters would turn the naval blockade into an unlawful act?

The naval blockade on the Gaza Strip will remain lawful so long as Israel does not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral states. According to international law, Israel must also continue to publicize the blockade’s existence to both belligerents and neutral states.

What are the restrictions of a naval blockade?

According to international law, if a lawfully imposed naval blockade is in effect, neither civilian nor enemy vessels may enter the blockaded area. Therefore, according to international law, if a vessel violates or attempts to violate a naval blockade, a state may intercept it in international waters.

A vessel leaving a port with the intention of breaking a naval blockade, regardless of the cargo it carries, is considered to be a violator of international maritime law, according to The US Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations.

Are organizers of the 2011 Gaza flotilla violating international law?

Given that the 2011 Gaza flotilla organizers issued written and oral statements indicating their intention to violate the lawfully enforced naval blockade on the Gaza Strip—according to international law—Israel may take enforcement measures once the flotilla leaves its port.

What steps is Israel taking in order to prevent a confrontation with flotilla passengers?

Once the 2011 Gaza flotilla enters international waters, Israel Navy personnel will relay explicit warnings to the ship captains by reaffirming Israel’s right to enforce the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. If the flotilla persists in breaking international law, the Israel Navy will attempt to peacefully take control of the ships participating in the flotilla.

If needed, international law permits the use of force when boarding a ship that is attempting to break a naval blockade. Therefore, Israeli soldiers will respond in self-defense if attacked by passengers aboard the vessels.

Why must Israel enforce the blockade in international waters?

International law permits Israel to enforce the naval blockade 12 nautical miles beyond Israel’s coast, a zone where Israel can operate in order to defend its borders or uphold its laws (see U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea).

How does Israel assist the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip?

While Israel lawfully enforces the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, it ensures that approximately 250 to 280 truckloads enter Gaza Sunday through Thursday, delivering approximately 6,000 of tons of goods and materials through the Kerem Shalom land crossing. Due to a deficit in orders from the Gaza Strip, the crossings capacity for truckloads is never maximized by Palestinian officials.

What are international assessments of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip?

According to an April 2011 World Bank report, “education and health in…Gaza are highly developed, comparing favorably to the performance of countries in the region as well as globally.” In addition, Palestinians have experienced a recent reduction in unemployment.

Regarding the legality of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, please refer to the Israeli Military Advocate General‘s website.

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