Israel has complete control over Gaza’s territorial waters and prevents movement of people and goods by sea. It also limits fishing to a distance of three nautical miles from Gaza’s coastline. In 2008, Israel made an exception and allowed six ships to reach Gaza1, but has since prevented the arrival of any vessels2. Israel has cited various legal sources as the basis for the ban on maritime travel off the Gaza coast3: until 2005 it maintained the ban was imposed pursuant to the laws of occupation; beginning in 2005, it justified its control of Gaza’s territorial waters as “security restrictions on fishing areas off the Gaza Strip coast” , and, at times, as an exclusion zone or a combat zone4. On January 3, 2009, in the midst of the large scale military operation “Cast Lead”, Israel declared a maritime blockade off Gaza’s coast, and though the operation ended that same month, the blockade has remained in force5. In 2001, despite its commitment to allow the construction of a seaport in the Gaza Strip, Israel destroyed the site facilities belonging to the foreign company which was about to begin construction of a port and has since prevented construction by failing to provide donors with assurances that such port would not be destroyed6.
- Military Advocate General, Position Paper on the Legal Aspects Relating to the Imposition of a Naval Blockade on the Gaza Strip and its Enforcement Provided by the IDF Military Advocate General to the Public Committee Investigating the Naval Incident of 31st of May 2010 (hereinafter: MAG. Position Paper), p. 39 [in Hebrew]; an English summary is available here. [↩]
- In December 2008, the Israeli navy prevented a number of ships from reaching the Gaza coast. Thus, for example, the navy prevented the arrival of a Libyan ship (Roni Sofer and News Agencies, Navy Prevents Libyan Ship from Transporting Equipment to Gaza, YNET, Dec. 1, 2008) [in Hebrew] , and a ship that sailed from Cyprus with an aid shipment (Roni Sofer and Yael Levy, Aid Ship Runs Into Israeli Naval Vessel in Gaza, YNET, Dec. 30, 2008) [in Hebrew]. [↩]
- Letter from Ruth Bar, Defense Minister Aide, to Sari Bashi, Executive Director of Gisha and Jessica Montell, Executive Director of B’Tselem (May 9, 2007) (on file). [↩]
- MAG Position Paper, supra note 4, p. 38. [↩]
- Id., cf: GISHA, THE TURKEL COMMISSION AND THE MARITIME CLOSURE OF GAZA. [↩]
- GISHA, DISENGAGED OCCUPIERS, supra note 1, p. 47-8. [↩]