Gaza Raid Triggers International Outcry and Question of International Law

International outcry over the commando raid on a flotilla bringing food and medicine to Gaza continues to grow. Israel insists that its soldiers were merely defending themselves in the shootings that left 9 people dead. Human rights activists insist that the troops opened fire on civilians onboard the ships. Whatever the final facts, the tragedy has brought even greater scrutiny of the long-condemned blockade in Gaza that has led to a humanitarian crisis.

It appears that all nine fatalities were Turkish citizens and Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador to Israel. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the raid “banditry and piracy” on the high seas and “murder conducted by a state.”

Seven Israeli soldiers were also wounded, one seriously.

Israel has been criticized for years over the blockage, which has barred medical and other supplies from countries from France to Turkey to England. Israel imposed the blockade in response to Hamas winning elections in Gaza. Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Israeli military’s chief liaison with the Palestinian-controlled territories, said “We will not allow ships to come to Gaza while Hamas is in control there.”

While various organizations and countries have denounced the blockade as causing great hardship, Israel recently taunted critics by releasing a video of the Roots restaurant — one of the finest restaurants left in Gaza to show that fancy meals are still be served. The IDF noted “we have been told the Beef Stroganoff and cream of spinach soup are highly recommended.”

That move backfired as humanitarian groups alleged that the pictures were dated and the food was smuggled through tunnels for a small percent of wealthy Gazans. Eighty percent of Gazans are being supported by international relief supplies and the United Nations has said that the blockade is causing a health crisis in Gaza.

The blockade itself raises serious legal questions, particularly as a form of collective punishment against Gazans for their election of Hamas party members. Under international law, Israel cannot deny basic supplies to the population. There is also the question of the right of Israel to board the vessels in international waters. Furthermore, there are strict guidelines on the response by military and police in law enforcement situations. The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994, is viewed as customary international law and limits such claimed acts of self-defense to proportional acts:

3. The exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations is subject to the conditions and limitations laid down in the Charter, and arising from general international law, including in particular the principles of necessity and proportionality.

4. The principles of necessity and proportionality apply equally to armed conflict at sea and require that the conduct of hostilities by a State should not exceed the degree and kind of force, not otherwise prohibited by the law of armed conflict, required to repel an armed attack against it and to restore its security.

Arguments that these searches were acts of self-defense are undermined by Israeli officials tying the blockade to the Hamas election as opposed to gun running. There is no question that Hamas is a legitimate concern for Israel and that Israel has a legitimate interest in ending the attacks on its borders. However, international law requires proportionality and protects foreign flagged vessels in international waters. To the extent that these searches are viewed as collective punishment, they would be viewed widely as an international violation.

While Israel has said that the ships can land in Israel for inspection and transfer to Gaza, international groups charge that the government holds on to the supplies and slows supplies to a trickle to punish Gazans for their support of Hamas. The World Health Organization has charged that Israel is stopping medical supplies and needed machines, like x-ray machines, from entering Gaza, here.

Prominent Jewish figures have also joined in condemning the blockade, here.

One country likely to face increased pressure is Egypt which under U.S. and Israeli pressure has closed its border to these goods passing through to Gaza. With the ongoing scandal over Israel’s assassination in Dubai in violation of the laws of various allies (here), this latest incident has already sparked massive protests around the world.

UPDATE: As expected, Egypt has opened its border to goods in response to the raid, here.

For the full story, click here and here.

153 thoughts on “Gaza Raid Triggers International Outcry and Question of International Law”

  1. Lottakatz:

    I think this is a horrible tragedy and I hope it doesn’t harm the environment. I look at that article you posted as good news and hope the same thing happens in this case. I also think BP should pony up for damages to the legal limit allowed by law (and I disagree with putting a cap on damages for something of this nature), you take the risk to get the reward well that knife cuts both ways.

    Free markets are a double edge sword and that is why I think they are the best medium for human trade. They demand honesty and integrity and attention to detail, otherwise the competition will eat you for lunch.

    And by the way I am a big believer in boycotts by private citizens to change company behavior. Personally I will be avoiding BP service stations until they have taken care of their mess.

  2. Byron, My apologies, I was looking in the wrong section of the article and wrongly stated that you were incorrect about the quote.

    Sand and gravel deal with oil differently. I’m personally wondering about beaches made of shells- how long is Sanibel island or a couple of seashell beaches I visited going to look after 5, 10, or 20 years. The beaches I dug the substrate for my aquariums from are beaches I now have no desire to visit again.

  3. Lottakatz:

    it doesnt? Here is the information from the end of the article:

    “But although Ixtoc was a big disaster, it did not develop into the long-term catastrophe that scientists initially thought was inevitable.

    “This is not to say there were no consequences. Just that the evidence is that these are not as dramatic as we feared,” says Luis Soto, a marine biologist from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “After about two years the recuperation was well on the way.”

    Wes Tunnell, now at the Texas Harte Research Institute, took samples before and after the oil arrived in Texas that showed an immediate 80% drop in the number of organisms living between the grains of sand that provide food for shore birds and crabs.

    “Sampling a couple of years after the spill indicated the populations were back to normal,” he says. Six years after Ixtoc 1 exploded it was hard to find any evidence of the oil, he says. “It is rather baffling to us all. We don’t really know where it went.”

  4. British broadcaster rakes Israeli mouthpiece over the coals:

  5. Byron, The article I linked to regarding the Ixtoc well doesn’t say that after 6 years things were back to normal. It says (from someone there then and today):

    “The oil covered the reefs and washed up on the shore. Fish died and the octopuses were buried under the oil that filled the gaps between the rocks where they live,” he recalled in a phone interview. “Even today you can find stains on rocks a few centimeters deep, and if you stick something metal in them the smell of oil still escapes.”

    It’s just like Prince William Sound beaches (Exxon Valdez oil spill), turn a shovelful of gravel and you hit oil. It doesn’t go away, it remains and remains toxic.

  6. I think Byron raises an important practical point. Dismissing the value of this type of economic system in the Gulf seems foolish to me. I do not agree that BP should receive the “death penalty” along with every other off-shore drilling companies as has been implied. These companies certainly have every obligation to clean their messes, compensate their victims fully, and insure that safety practices are rigorously enforced to avoid this in the future. However, I am aware of no provision in law that requires the destruction of an industry for negligence. The law requires restitution and prevention (and sometimes punishment by punitive damages), but not eradication. It’s akin to ending transportation by motor vehicle due to the 34,000 deaths on the highways per year. All human activity involves some risk which the law seeks to minimize by providing incentives in the form of damages to victims for either negligence or intentional conduct.

  7. Byron,

    Since web addresses are *public*, please post the address of your company in one of today’s “oil” threads–preferably the Palin thread.

    I will be commenting on the other ‘Oil Gusher’ threads later today because this topic thread is Gaza-related.

    I worked as a roustabout and for an oil well logging/perforating company (Blue Jet Inc.) in Farmington NM, 34-years ago.

  8. Landrieu and Vitter should realize that everyone who reads their kowtowing crap realizes just precisely how bought off both of those clowns really are. Jobs? They only care about two jobs: theirs. From 2002-2007, Vitter and Landrieu took in a total of $328,246 and $282,505 respectively from oil companies.

    It’s pretty obvious who their real bosses are.

  9. “Obviously we need to learn the lessons from this incident … but to completely shut down deepwater (drilling) and even threaten shallow water is a huge economic blow,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., told Fox News on Friday. “And on top of the recession and on top of the hit that the oil is directly making on our economy, that is another big, big economic blow that is going to knock us down.”

    Vitter suggested the administration instead start an “immediate and very rigorous” safety inspection program, while only shutting down those rigs that have problems that can’t be addressed immediately. Vitter said he planned to speak with Obama about the issue during his visit to the Gulf coast Friday — the president’s third since the oil leak began.

    The senator wrote in a letter to Obama on Thursday that the deepwater drilling ban, which is estimated to affect 33 rigs in the Gulf, could eliminate up to 4,000 Louisiana jobs in the short-term and “possibly 20,000 jobs throughout the course of the year.”

  10. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., warned about the danger of a permanent flight of the industry from the region.

    “If these big rigs ever leave the Gulf … it’s not like you can make those every day or every year. Some of them take years to build. If they leave the Gulf and go drill under long-term contracts off the coast of Africa, they’re not coming home any time soon,” she said.

    The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, a trade group representing oil and gas interests in the Gulf region, estimates that lost wages from all 33 rigs could total $330 million per month.

    The National Ocean Industries Association, citing the figures, said in a statement that the six-month moratorium will “make things much worse by putting more Gulf citizens out of work.”

    Obama was looking to expand offshore drilling before the BP disaster. The explosion led him to rethink that element of his energy plan, as he delayed or canceled lease sales in the Gulf, off the coast of Virginia and off the coast of Alaska.

    The White House on Thursday acknowledged there will be job losses from the moratorium.

    “I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

    But he argued that the commission investigating the incident needs to be able to first determine what “failsafe” measures can be implemented to prevent future disasters.

    “I think that’s important. The president thought that was important. I think that the citizens of the Gulf think that’s important,” Gibbs said.

  11. FFLEO:

    John Chance and Associates Lafayette, La Offshore survey company Lafayette, La
    Geophysical Surveys (Seismic Survey Co) Lafayette, La
    Dixielyn Field Co. Riverton Wyo. Roughneck
    Sedco Dallas Texas Rig 708 (Bearing Sea) Roustabout and Roughneck.
    Sedco is now Transocean and the rig I worked on was a semi-submersible that was drilling in 400′ of water for ARCO (Atlantic Richfield).

    So I have set rigs and pipelines prior to GPS, I have seen how you do seismic surveys, I have done onshore and offshore drilling and I have an engineering degree (from univ. Mo. Columbia) and a masters degree in engineering management (from George Washington, Univ) plus graduate level engineering courses from University of Virginia.
    You email me at and I will send you my company web address, just let me know when you do so I can check as it isn’t my normal address.

    You shut down offshore drilling and you will put hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Who do you think supports those rigs? You said you even worked for a mud service company I believe. So you should know the many people that support a single rig, from housekeeping to the support boats to the wireline service companies to the well loggers to the companies that make equipment to companies that produce mud products and other chemicals.

    Plus include the many businesses like restaurants that depend on those people involved in offshore drilling.

    I don’t think it is an extraordinary claim.

    I went to Houston Tx for a World of Concrete Convention in 1988 and the oil business was in the toilet, I had a PhD in geology carrying my bags at the hotel. Oh that’s right I didn’t even include all of the engineers and geologists and other professionals that will be out of work and all the welders that build those rigs and repair them and lets not forget about the companies that manufacture welding machines and welding rods and the companies that produce gases used in welding and the companies that make the steel “bottles” used to hold the gases. And what about the boat builders who make the supply boats that support the rigs and the crane makers and the companies Like Cummins and Caterpillar that make the engines that are used in the boats and on the rigs.

    Should I go on or do you get the picture of the possible magnitude of this catastrophe in human terms?

    You have any other questions you want answered?
    By the way I have never claimed to be an expert but I certainly think I know enough to have an educated opinion, more so than most anyone else here making unsubstantiated claims about the environmental impact and most of whom wouldn’t know a barrel of oil from a barrel of molasses.

  12. This is just a neat melodic song (and beautiful video) to which I like to listen as a brief distraction from another one of man’s needless tragedies involving the oceans, seas, gulfs, and rivers and assaults against the once boundless beauty of nature. This seemed especially apropos since Japan is surrounded water—two Seas and the Pacific Ocean.

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