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Is Gaza Occupied

Is Gaza Occupied

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Published by Mark LeVine
Discussion of legal issues surrounding determination of whether Gaza remains occupied territory after 2005
Discussion of legal issues surrounding determination of whether Gaza remains occupied territory after 2005

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Published by: Mark LeVine on Nov 21, 2012
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Otherwise Occupied
: The Status of the Gaza Strip fromthe Perspective of International Humanitarian Law
Shane Darcy* and John Reynolds**
The status of the Gaza Strip as occupied territory has been the subject of renewedpolicy, judicial and academic debate following a series of noteworthy develop-ments in the territory since 2005. This article considers the present status of Gazafrom the perspective of international humanitarian law in light of these events,which include Israel
from the Gaza Strip in 2005, its declarationof Gaza as a
hostile territory
in 2007, and the military action labelled
OperationCast Lead
which commenced in late 2008. It addresses the concept of occupationand the application of the laws of belligerent occupation, making recourse to the
travaux préparatoires
of relevant treaties, and international and national jurispru-dence. In focusing on the situation in the Gaza Strip, the article assesses the vari-ous criteria identi
ed in customary international law for determining the existenceof a situation of occupation.
1. Introduction
The Israeli
Palestinian con
ict has frequently given rise to challenging questionsof international law, as well as to debate on the role of law and legal institutionsin regulating the con
ict. Like the con
ict itself, every
ne detail of law is vig-orously contested, with an extensive array of legal rules implicated. Since theIsraeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was instituted in 1967, therehave been fractious disputes regarding issues such as the application of inter-national humanitarian law to the occupied territories, the lawfulness of territorialannexation therein, the extent of a State
s human rights obligations extra-territorially, the legality of colonial-type
and separation wallsin occupied territory, and the scope of a State
s right to self-defence. Extensiveanalysis has been conducted with regard to the effects on various matters of law of an unusually prolonged belligerent occupation,
with discussion also
* LLM, PhD, Lecturer, Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland,Galway.** LLM, Government of Ireland Scholar, NUI Travelling Scholar and PhD Candidate,Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway. The authorswould like to thank Kathleen Cavanaugh, Noam Lubell, Ray Murphy, and the
s reviewers for the helpful comments.
See eg E Playfair (ed)
International Law and the Administration of Occupied Terri-tories
(OUP, Oxford 1992).
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 Journal of Con
ict & Security Law
(2010), Vol. 15 No. 2, 211
 Journal of Conflict & Security Law
© Oxford University Press 2010; all rights reserved.For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.orgdoi:10.1093/jcsl/krq011Advance Access published on August 11, 2010
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  a t   a t  i   on al    U ni   e s i   t   y  of  I   el   an d  , G al  w a y  on u g u s  t   , 0  0  t   t   p /   /   j   c  s l  . of   o d  j   o un al   s . o g ownl   o a d  e d f   om 
converging around the legality of Israel
s continuing occupation itself and of the characteristics it may have assumed.
Most recently,
Operation Cast Lead
, launched by the Israeli military againstthe Gaza Strip in December 2008, has given rise to an unprecedented level of debate on issues pertaining to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the doc-trine of proportionality and the legality of the use of force under the UN Char-ter; extending well beyond circles of legal academia and practice to themainstream media and public domain.
The question of whether the Gaza Strip may be considered as occupied terri-tory for the purposes of international humanitarian law, an issue which was thesubject of much debate in the aftermath of Israel
from the ter-ritory in 2005,
has again come to the fore and remains a disputed issue amongstparties to the con
ict and other relevant actors. In the aftermath of 
OperationCast Lead
, the Israeli government stated that:the Gaza Strip is neither a State nor a territory occupied or controlled byIsrael. In these
sui generis
circumstances, Israel as a matter of policy ap-
See eg O Ben-Naftali, AM Gross and K Michaeli,
Illegal Occupation: Framing theOccupied Palestinian Territory
(2005), 23
Berkeley J Intl L
Occupation, Apart-heid, Colonialism? A Re-assessment of Israel
s Practices in the Occupied PalestinianTerritories under International Law
(Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town2009).
By way of example, see the
s extensive
Gaza War Crimes Investigation
coverage and analysis at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/series/gaza-war-crimes-investigation. See also eg S Erlanger,
Weighing Crimes and Ethics in Urban Warfare
New York Times
(New York 17 January 2009); M Paulin,
Self-Defence is no Defence
(London 21 January 2009) CiF <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/21/gaza-humanrights>; M Mandell,
Self-Defence Against Peace: Did Self-Defence Justify Israel
s War on Gaza?
(Washington DC 5 February2009) <http://www.counterpunch.com/mandel02052009.html>; RA Stoil,
IsraeliNGO: Try Hamas for War Crimes
Jerusalem Post 
(Jerusalem 23 January 2009);TZarchin,
(Israel 19 February 2009); R Falk,
s War Crimes
Le Monde Diplomatique
(3 March 2009); S Milne,
Will Israel be Brought to Book
(London 23March2009)CiF<http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/mar/23/israel-gaza>;A Hass,
Time to Believe Gaza War Crimes Allegations
(Israel 24 March2009); G Bisharat,
Changing the Rules of War
San Francisco Chronicle
(SanFrancisco 1 April 2009).
See eg I Scobbie,
An Intimate Disengagement: Israel
s Withdrawal from Gaza, theLaw of Occupation and of Self-Determination
5) 11
Ybk Islamic Middle East-ern L
3; Y Shany,
Faraway, so Close: The Legal Status of Gaza after Israel
s Dis-engagement
(2005) 8
Ybk Intl Humanitarian L
369; M Mari,
The IsraeliDisengagement from the Gaza Strip: An End of the Occupation?
(2005) 8
Ybk Intl Humanitarian L
356; G Aronson,
Issues Arising from the Implementation of Israel
sDisengagement from the Gaza Strip
(2005) 34(4)
J Palestine Studies
49; N Rostow,
Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon: Three Occupations under International Law
(2007) 37
Israel Ybk Human Rights
Shane Darcy and John Reynolds
  a t   a t  i   on al    U ni   e s i   t   y  of  I   el   an d  , G al  w a y  on u g u s  t   , 0  0  t   t   p /   /   j   c  s l  . of   o d  j   o un al   s . o g ownl   o a d  e d f   om 
plies to its military operations in Gaza the rules of armed con
ict govern-ing both international and non-international armed con
The relevant organs of the United Nations take a contrary view and hold thatGaza is occupied territory.
ndings in the recent report of the United Na-tions Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Con
ict (the
Goldstone Report
) in thisregard were unequivocal:Israel has without doubt at all times relevant to the mandate of the Mis-sion exercised effective control over the Gaza Strip. The Mission is of theview that the circumstances of this control establish that the Gaza Stripremains occupied by Israel.
IndependentFact-FindingCommit-tee on Gaza
, which held that
Gaza remains occupied territory and that Israel isobliged to comply with the Fourth Geneva Convention in its actions in Gaza
The debate over the territory
s status has been further fuelled by the labellingof Gaza as a
hostile territory
by the Israeli government in 2007
and by therecent attempt by the Palestinian National Authority to accept the jurisdictionof the International Criminal Court in light of allegations of war crimes commit-ted during
Operation Cast Lead
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
The Operation in Gaza, 27 December 2008
18January 2009: Factual and Legal Aspects
(July 2009) 11 [footnote omitted] <http://www.mfa.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/E89E699D-A435-491B-B2D0-017675DAFEF7/0/GazaOperationwLinks.pdf>.
See eg United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Res 1860 (8 January 2009) S/RES/1860; United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Res 63/96 (18 December 2008) A/RES/63/96;HumanRightsCouncilResolutionS-9/1(12January2009)A/HRC/S-9/L.1;
ReportoftheUnitedNationsHighCommissionerforHumanRightsontheimplemen-tation of the Human Rights Council resolution S-9/1, The Grave Violations of HumanRightsintheOccupiedPalestinianTerritory,ParticularlyduetotheRecentIsraeliMili-tary Attacks against the Occupied Gaza Strip
(13 August 2009) A/HRC/12/37.
Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Con
(15 Septem-ber 2009) UN Doc. A/HRC/12/48, 85 para 276.
Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Committee on Gaza: No Safe Place
(Pre-sented to the League of Arab States 30 April 2009) 16 <http://www.arableagueonline.org/las/picture_gallery/reportfullFINAL.pdf>. A Spanish court exploring issues of al-leged Israeli war crimes under the principle of universal jurisdiction has similarly heldthat Gaza constitutes occupied territory. See S Weill,
The Targeted Killing of SalahShehadeh: From Gaza to Madrid
(2009) 7
J Intl Crim Justice
617, 631.
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Security Cabinet Declares Gaza Hostile Terri-tory
(Press Release 19 September 2007) <http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2007/Security+Cabinet+declares+Gaza+hostile+territory+19-Sep-2007.htm>. See also C Urquhart,
Israel Declares Gaza Strip Hostile Territory
(London 20 September 2007) 22. In addition to
hostile territory
, Israeligovernment of 
cials have on occasion used the term
enemy entity
in this context.
Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Justice,
Declaration Recognizing the Jur-isdiction of the International Criminal Court
(21 January 2009).
Otherwise Occupied
: The Status of the Gaza Strip from the Perspective
  a t   a t  i   on al    U ni   e s i   t   y  of  I   el   an d  , G al  w a y  on u g u s  t   , 0  0  t   t   p /   /   j   c  s l  . of   o d  j   o un al   s . o g ownl   o a d  e d f   om 

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