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Home EJIL Analysis Is Gaza Still Occupied by Israel?

Is Gaza Still Occupied by Israel?

Published on March 1, 2009        Author: 

While the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas was still ongoing, I was wary of commenting on what is a very contentious legal issue – whether Gaza is still to be considered as occupied as a matter of international humanitarian law, even after Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005. I was wary of doing so primarily because the issue is a complex one, because these complexities can often get lost in the passion of the moment, and, well, because at the time I hadn’t yet done my homework. Even now I’d just like to offer some tentative thoughts, and point the readers to excellent new scholarship on the issue. The first work I’d like to strongly recommend is Yuval Shany’s article on Gaza, commenting on the Israeli Supreme Court’s Bassiouni decision, which is available on SSRN (h/t International Law Reporter).  The second is Yoram Dinstein’s book The International Law of Belligerent Occupation, which has just been published by CUP, and which promises to be one of the definitive works on the whole subject.

If you have been following the debates on Gaza closely, you will know that there are two reflexive answers to the question whether Gaza is occupied, on both ends of the spectrum. The first one is that of course Gaza still continues to be occupied by Israel. Israel controls all of the border crossings, the air, the sea, its soldiers can enter Gaza at will, so on and so forth. The second is that of course Israel no longer occupies Gaza. It has no actual, effective control of the place, which is the factual predicate for any occupation. It does not have troops on the ground and it is not running an administration of the territory. It is Hamas that has such control. Gaza is not under Israeli occupation, but under a siege and a blockade, and rightly so.

Now, before I get into the specific arguments on either side, it is important to explain why the issue matters, and why many in the human rights community in particular tend to (again, somewhat reflexively) adopt the first position. The answer is simple. Under IHL, a belligerent occupant has positive obligations to ensure the well-being of the civilian population, including the provision of food and other supplies. In a state of siege without occupation, however, the party to the conflict only has negative obligations not to interfere with relief consignments etc., and even these can be subject to military necessity. It does not have to provide food and supplies to the civilian population of its adversary (cf. Arts. 69 & 70 of Additional Protocol I). Indeed, to impose such a requirement would be manifestly absurd. The problem is of course precisely that the civilian population of Gaza is heavily dependent on Israel and need Israel not just to let humanitarian aid through, but also to provide electricity and other supplies of its own.

This is why the gentler souls among us international lawyers need to argue that Israel is the belligerent occupier of Gaza. It is the only legally certain way of assigning some positive obligations on Israel to provide for the civilians of Gaza – something that by the way I agree with entirely as a matter of policy. But the certainty is unfortunately only deceptive. Let me now turn to the specific argument and counterarguments.

(1) Israel is still the occupant because it controls the border crossings to Gaza, its territorial sea and air space.

This argument is usually put forward first as the strongest in favor of occupation, (see, e.g., Dinstein, at 177-178) but to my mind it is actually the weakest. The test for occupation is effective control; a territory ‘is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.’ (Art. 42 of the Hague Regulations). It is because the ‘authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.’ (Art. 43 of the Hague Regulations).

Control of the border crossings into a territory is not the occupation of that territory, but a siege. Nor is control over the sea and the airspace tantamount to the actual control of the territory itself. It is again Hamas that controls Gaza, not Israel. There hasn’t been a single instance of belligerent occupation that I am aware of where a state was considered to have been the occupant of a territory without having troops on the ground. That’s what occupation means, troops on the ground! To my mind at least, this argument simply flies in the face of reality. We would never consider the assumption of control over the borders or airspace as being sufficient for the imposition of a belligerent occupation of a territory (no-one, for instance, has argued that the various NATO states were actually occupying Serbia whilst they had total aerial control and were bombing the hell out of it in 1999). Why should then these suffice for the maintenance of occupation, when the troops themselves have been withdrawn?

(2) Israel could not have unilaterally terminated a legal condition such as occupation.

This argument is again heard very often, but it is quite simply manifestly wrong. Belligerent occupation is a legal condition, but it is precisely a legal condition which is created unilaterally through the imposition of a state of fact, of actual control of a territory by a hostile army during an international armed conflict. The legal condition cannot exist without its factual predicate. Of course a party to the conflict can unilaterally terminate an occupation, just as it had unilaterally created the occupation – but it can only do so by withdrawing its troops from the territory, thereby removing its control over it, something that Israel has arguably done. No agreement with the other party to the conflict (whatever it might be) is necessary for this to occur.

(3) Israel occupies the rest of the Palestinian Occupied Territories, i.e. the West Bank, and these territories form a single whole. Thus, while Israel continues its occupation of the West Bank, it still must be considered to be the occupant of Gaza as well.

Yoram Dinstein is for instance making this argument (at 277), but I again respectfully have to disagree. It is beyond dispute that Gaza and the West Bank are parts of a single territory of the former mandate of Palestine. But that does not mean that the occupation of these territories is an all or nothing proposition. An invading army can in fact occupy only a part of an adversary state – total occupation is exception rather than the rule. Indeed, Art. 42 of the Hague Regulations explicitly provides that ‘[t]he occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.’ There is therefore nothing illogical in saying that the West Bank remains occupied, while Gaza does not.

(4) Israel might not have effective control over Gaza at any given time, but it has the potential for such control which it can exercise at will. Thus, Gaza is still to be considered under Israel’s control, and occupation.

Of all the arguments in favor of a continued occupation of Gaza, this one is in fact the strongest. It is not simply result-oriented, but is based on principle and precedent. Indeed, in my view it is on this particular criterion, and on it alone, that our assessment of the status of Gaza should depend. I’ve personally never found a laundry list type of argumentation to be particularly helpful. Three unpersuasive arguments don’t jointly make a single persuasive one. (see, e.g., the various justifications offered for the use of force against Iraq in 2003 – only one of which actually matters, the alleged implicit authorization by the Security Council). The previous arguments really don’t favor Israel’s continued occupation of Gaza, but this one might – so let me explain it in more detail.

Occupation does not necessarily mean the control of all of the territory, all of the time, at the same level of intensity. Many occupations meet with significant and active resistance while they are ongoing. Consider, for example, the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq. The strength of the insurgency there was such that at any given time these states lacked control over, say, some parts of the Sunni Triangle or some parts of Basra. That does not mean that their occupation of those parts of Iraq ceased, because the occupants were able to reestablish their control at will, as they did. The lapse in control was merely temporary, due to the fact that the level of resistance was such that the occupants could not control all of Iraq, every bit of it, all of the time.

Another well-known example is the German occupation of Yugoslavia during World War II. The partisans fighting against the Nazis were from time to time able to temporarily liberate a bit of territory here or there, but that did not mean that Germany’s occupation ceased. This was so because, as the military tribunal at Nuremberg ruled in United States v. List, ‘the Germans could at any time they desired assume physical control of any part’ of Yugoslavia. The ICTY in Naletilic likewise ruled that an occupation exists so long as the occupying army has the ‘capacity to send troops within a reasonable time to make the authority of the occupying power felt’ (a similar standard is set in the US Field Manual; see Shany’s article cited above, at 6, for the citations).

Dinstein argues, for instance, that the fact that Israel believes that it is entitled to launch military incursions into Gaza satisfies this looser standard of effective control (at 279). It could also be argued that the latest conflict only confirms this. But this is in my view still highly problematic – not because of the rule, but because of the facts. Unlike Germany in Yugoslavia, or the US and UK in Iraq, Isreal really can’t reestablish its control over Gaza with ease. Doing so would require a military operation on a much higher scale than the one that we have recently seen (during which Israel certainly was the occupant of limited parts of Gaza). It would in effect require the wholesale reoccupation of Gaza, not the removal of some temporary lapse in control – and I believe that we can all agree on this purely factual point. That Israel moreover believes itself entitled to launch incursions into Gaza is immaterial. That is a jus ad bellum, not a jus in bello question.

To sum up, though a reasonable case can be made that Israel retains effective control over Gaza in this potential sense – especially if we factor its control over Gazan sea and airspace etc into this analysis, as we can – I honestly don’t think that the pro-occupation argument in the end withstands scrutiny on the facts. This is not an occupation – this is a siege.

Such was also the conclusion of the Israeli Supreme Court in the Bassiouni case, which Shany discusses at length in his article. But what then about the positive obligations of Israel towards the people of Gaza? Do they disappear with the occupation?

The Court thought that they didn’t, at least not completely, because of the state of dependence of Gaza on Israel that was created due to the many years of Israeli military rule. I am personally inclined to agree – this is indeed the reason why people are in fact advocating for the existence of these positive obligations in the first place. Yet, the Court gave very little reasoning to explain its position, and did not elaborate on the exact basis in international law for this result. Shany provides an insightful critique on this point, which I commend to everyone.

Shany further proposes that a source of this obligation might be found in human rights law, rather than in IHL, because a flexible degree of power or influence might be taken as satisfying the threshold of state jurisdiction for the application of human rights treaties, even if it doesn’t satisfy the test of control for occupation. I am unfortunately skeptical on this point. This is not because some international case law would preclude this result – most of all Bankovic, a decision that I positively detest. Though this is a reasonable argument, it leads to complete uncertainty as to the threshold criterion of state jurisdiction in human rights treaties. I won’t belabor this point further (see more here), except by saying that human rights treaties are not a panacea for every situation that we consider to be unfair.

Yet I am at least at this point unable to offer an alternative solution, other than those that Shany himself proposes, the most important being Israel’s continuing obligation to provide reparation for its failure to maintain the infrastructure of Gaza while it was the occupant, and the creation of a state of dependency in the first place. This is in my view a more tangible theory than the human rights one, though of course not free of its problems.

At any rate, read Dinstein and Shany!

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Filed under: EJIL Analysis, Israel, Occupation
 

12 Responses

  1. Darryl Li

    Dear Marko:

    I agree that the best argument re ongoing occupation is the relative ease with which Israel can deploy its forces. A few additional facts may flesh this out:

    1. IDF units have operated on the ground inside the Gaza Strip quite regularly since disengagement. Not only offensive incursions, but also through the construction of fortifications in the northern area (this in addition to aerial policing through UAVs). Indeed, given how small Gaza is, one could argue that the primary difference in IDF deployments (outside of former settlement areas of course) is not a matter of scope or duration but simply the location of the barracks, which have just shifted a few kilometers to the east.

    2. Regarding what it would take to re-establish control over Gaza, the difference with Germany in Yugoslavia/US in Iraq is actually not at all intuitively obvious. The reconquest of Fallujah required two battles and the deaths of I believe around 100 U.S. military. The IDF has conducted multiple large-scale incursions into built-up areas in Gaza and has learned how to minimize its losses; in the past eight years, only about 20-25 troops were killed in such incursions (most IDF casualties were incurred during either patrols or Palestinian infiltrations of Israeli bases/settlements). I would not be surprised if the Israeli military could reconquer the city centers in the Gaza Strip while taking relatively few casualties, and at the very least seal off the most densely built-up areas so as to compel their submission. [The mantra about Gaza’s population density needs to be disaggregated between areas with dispersed high-rise dwellings versus tightly packed low-rise ones — the IDF typically limits its incursions to the former, where streets are relatively wide and the typical tank/drone/sniper combination can re-establish control with relative ease, not the latter, which are old refugee camp centers that would require infantry assault to be seized (or wholesale razing). Retaking the core camp areas would indeed be costly and difficult, but no more so than before disengagement.] Militarily speaking, restoring the pre-disengagement status quo (which didn’t involve deployment in the built-up areas) would be easy; restoring the pre-Oslo status quo would not, but it would probably not be more difficult than the retaking of Fallujah.

    A separate issue that you did not get into was Israel’s ongoing administrative control over certain governing institutions and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, relevant for the Geneva test. A few points to bear in mind: Israel controls Gaza’s monetary policy through the circulation of the shekel. The population registry, which enables the issuance of identity documents and essentially controls the bureaucratic existence of residents, remains in the hands of the MoD. Gaza’s land-line telephone network remains totally integrated with Israel’s (side anecdote: I once documented a case where the IDF delivered a telephonic ‘warning’ to a family minutes before the aerial demolition of their home, using a landline that had been disconnected months previously because the family had not paid the phone bill).

    I admit that the effective control analysis re governing functions is murky but my sense is that in the totality of circumstances the argument re ongoing effective control is still the stronger one. Or to put it another way: if Gaza was considered occupied before disengagement, it is not clear how the removal of permanent garrisons and colonies either significantly reduced Israel’s control over the territory or amplified the power of the Palestinian Authority, and the lopsided results of the recent war would seem bear this out. In any event, it is clear that with the exception of the few people who lived in the shadow of the settlements, and the issue of travel between the northern and southern halves of the Strip, Gazans themselves have not experienced any less Israeli control over their lives since 2005.

  2. Marko,

    First, let me say I appreciate your willingness and diligence to carefully explore this topic in an “impartial” fashion. And perhaps I’m only further fleshing out points made above by Darryl Li.

    What legal implications are there for the fact that, as Saree Makdisi points out, “It is…the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who decide what identity is conferred on which Palestinian, and they make [this] decision on the basis of criteria that have nothing to do with the ‘inside’ life of the individual person or family in question, but rather according to the division of ‘outsides’ on the basis of Israel’s own political and territorial claims and desires”? This of course is along the lines of Li’s comment that “it is clear that with the exception of the few people who lived in the shadow of the settlements, and the issue of travel between the northern and southern halves of the Strip, Gazans themselves have not experienced any less Israeli control over their lives since 2005.” That seems the singular salient fact we might fill out in ways that does indeed have some bearing on this issue.

    Relatedly, how important is the fact that (as pointed out by Saree Makdisi, among others) Jewish settlers are subject to Israeli civil law, whereas native Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law? In effect, two different administrative and legal structures are in place in the occupied territories.

    The argument for “effective control” (1) seems addressed in too cursory a fashion, focusing as it does, on “border crossings to Gaza, its territorial sea and air space.” For what does this amount to, everyday, on the ground? Consider:

    “Israel’s tight regulation of Gaza’s borders, imports and exports, fishing and agriculture, fuel and electricity, have eliminated any prospect of economic and social recovery. Its refusal to allow road or rail links between Gaza and the West Bank (despite having nominally accepted the terms of a U.S. brokered agreement on movement and access between the territories in November 2005, which was never implemented) means that Israel has physically separated the two Palestinian territories from one another. Following the Palestinian crisis of June 2007, Israel acted to further separate the West Bank from Gaza and to further isolate Gaza from the outside world. Its refusal to relinquish control over the population registry means that Israel alone determines who is a Gazan and who is not…. [….] According to Meron Benvenisti, the Israeli former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, the Israeli redeployment from Gaza amounted to ‘the confinement of one and a half million persons in a huge holding pen.'” The significance of drawing a legal boundary between an Occupation and a Siege almost appears irrelevant, as least with regard to the consequences for the daily lives of the Palestinians in Gaza: their lives (by objectivist welfarist criteria or quality of life indices) have deteriorated significantly since 2005, and it is the Israelis who bear the bulk of moral, legal, and political responsibility for that deterioration (statistics found in Makdisi’s Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, 2008).

    How can we give meaning to the idea of redeployment or disengagement as amounting to the claim that Gaza is no longer an occupied territory if such redeployment was designed to, or at any rate resulted in, the appalling deterioration of life in Gaza for most Palestinians? Here a military and legal change in status served to rationalize a far more effective de facto political and economic stranglehold (even humanitarian imports are restricted!–indeed, Makdisi reminds us that Israel ‘severely restricted the flow of medicines and medical equipment into Gaza, with results that are as lethal as any outright military incursion’) on Gaza. Is it legal for Israel to “impose arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of movement of the Palestinian population, or to arbitrarily cut off access to resources and markets [and control over ‘monetary policy’ noted above by Li]”? In short, writes Neve Gordon, “while Israel has withdrawn its troops from the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated areas on earth, with four thousand people per square kilometer, has been transformed into one big prison.” Both the West Bank and Gaza becoming, in effect, and spatially, “hermetic ghettos.”Call it occupation or siege, it entails “wreaking havoc on the Palestinian economy and destroying the [incipient] state institutions that had managed somehow to survive throughout the second intifada, the closure and economic sanctions imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip” directily contributing to the violence between Hamas and Fatah (and other factions). Israel is an exemplar par excellence of the “divide and conquer” strategy.

    As not a few commenters have reminded us, Israel’s management of the humanitarian crisis amounts to the ongoing “collective punishment” of Gazans (in part, for exercising their democratic right to elect a representative government), the nature of which worsened with the “end of the occupation.” Israel did everything within its considerable power to assure the ungovernability of Gaza, in part because of its plans to “outsource” responsibility (sans full authority, autonomy or effective means of governance) to the PA, which of course failed in the case of Gaza.

    With Neve Gordon in his (absolutely indispensable) latest book, aptly titled, Israel’s Occupation (2008), we might consider widening our understanding of the “means of control” exercised by Israelis to encompass more than simply the standard list of coercive mechanisms used to “prohibit, exclude, and repress people,” and include in addition “the entire array of institutions, legal devices, bureaucratic apparatuses, social practices, and physical edifices that operate both on the individual and the population in order to produce new modes of behavior, habits, interests, tastes, and aspirations.”

    In other words, our understanding of backward-looking model of “blame-responsibility” on the order of stressing “Israel’s continuing obligation to provide reparation for its failure to maintain the infrastructure of Gaza while it was the occupant, and the creation of a state of dependency in the first place,” seems insufficient if only because it fails to account for Israel’s ongoing policies and practices that preclude the present or future development of anything remotely resembling an autonomous and viable legal, political and economic infrastructure.

  3. Marko Milanovic Marko Milanovic

    Darryl,

    Many thanks for your comments, they are most helpful. I am glad that we agree on the legal standard that needs to be applied – whether Israel still retains enough (potential) military control over Gaza to be able to reestablish the fullest extent of its control at will. The question is now whether the facts satisfy this standard. The way you present the facts on the ground, about which you are certainly more knowledgeable than I am, is quite persuasive. This is particularly so in regard of Israel maintaining fortifications and a regularized military presence in Gaza.

    As for the Fallujah comparison, if reassuming control would be as easy as you say, the case for Israel remaining the occupant of Gaza is that much stronger. But this is essentially a military question. If we were now before the ICJ, we would need to hear expert testimony on the matter to actually form an opinion. My initial impression was the opposite, but it might well be wrong.

    Finally, I don’t think that the fact Israel still possesses the population registry and has an economic stranglehold on Gaza is relevant for the purpose of the test outlined above. It is military control that matters – a belligerent occupation is a military occupation. Without that kind of control, no other type of administrative power suffices.

    Patrick,

    First of all, I don’t understand why you had to put the word “impartial” in scare quotes. I am (I think!) indeed as impartial about Gaza as I could possibly be, simply because I personally don’t care about either Israel or Palestine, as I do care, for instance, about the former Yugoslavia. I of course do care on a purely human level about the suffering of everyone involved, but I care about it as much as I care about the suffering in the Congo, Sri Linka, Darfur, or what have you. That I am not pro-Palestinian does not mean that I am pro-Israeli; as far as the leadership or the overall cause of both parties, my attitude is basically ‘a pox on both their houses.’ Take this as you may.

    Secondly, you again seem to be trying to persuade me that the suffering of Gazans inflicted directly or indirectly by Israel is great. There is absolutely no need to do that, because I fully agree. The question is to what extent that suffering is legally relevant, for one particular bit of international law dealing with the use of force, the law of armed conflict. Whether you like it or not, most of this suffering is NOT relevant for the question whether Israel continues to be the belligerent, MILITARY occupant of Gaza. Even if Israel’s disengagement from Gaza WAS designed to eventually lead to an appalling deterioration of the quality of life of Palestinians, that has no bearing on the question whether Israel still has military control over the place.

  4. I meant “impartial” entirely as a compliment and put it in scare quotes because it is used in so many different ways, although your response makes it clear to me now that I shouldn’t have done that. And I thought I understood your argument and was more or less filling out Darryl’s point, but perhaps I’m mistaken as it seems I failed here too to get that across.

  5. FWIW: It seems of late I’ve been utterly unable to communicate in the blogosphere what I mean to say so I’ve decided to no longer attempt the enterprise.

  6. Marko Milanovic Marko Milanovic

    Patrick,

    Apologies if I have mistaken your meaning.

  7. This was an excellent, well written, informative post.

    I question the argument about Israel’s ability to reoccupy Gaza, however. This argument seems to me to suggest that since any state with a more powerful military force has the ability to enter the territory of its neighbour that an occupation could be said to exist.

    For example, a military campaign by the US against Canada or by Syria against Lebanon would be difficult for the attacked to defend against. Certainly though, we do not argue that Canada or Lebanon are occupied.

    I think it is also necessary to combine the facts on the ground with the political mindset of the state in question, the actus reus and the mens rea, so to speak. Not only has Israel actually removed its forces and settlers from Gaza, but they have also renounced control of the territory and no member of the government claims that Israel occupies Gaza any longer.

    For these reasons, I respectfully disagree with you and would submit that the argument about the potential to reoccupy should fall.

  8. Stefan

    Marko,
    Thank you for your dispassionate examination of this issue. You may like to characterise your critical distance as wishing a pox on both the Israeli and Arab houses but I would say that, in effect, your attempt to evaluate such a contentious matter in the way you have constitute a blessing rather than a curse.
    A few points:
    1. I agree with Charlie that, given your references to the Anglo-American experiences in Iraq and the WW2 situation in Yugoslavia, it is surely relevant to examine the stated aims of the occupying forces. In Iraq and Yugoslavia, the invading forces clearly wanted to regain control of the areas from which they had been pushed out. Israel, on the other hand, has no intention of re-occupying Gaza.
    2. I am not sure that Darryl is as knowledgeable about the facts on the ground in Gaza as he seems to be. I would be interested to know more about the fortifications he says Israel has built in northern Gaza. Could this be a confused reference to the border fence? Or to the cordon sanitaire which Israel wanted to enforce via monitoring and, if necessary, fire from its side of the border? (A response to the rocket fire on Israeli urban centres.)
    3. In paraphrasing the “occupation thesis” you mention that Israel controls all the borders. But it doesn’t. Egypt controls the Rafah crossing and closed it in June 2007 in response to Hamas taking power in Gaza. Egypt’s control of this Gaza border goes to explain the huge number of smuggling tunnels which operate underneath it.
    4. I do not understand the relevance of Patrick’s inclusion of the emotive cliche (in this instance voiced by the left wing academic Neve Gordon) about Gaza being one of the most densely populated places in the world. But, as it has been brought up, it’s worth contextualising. Tel Aviv, Warsaw, London and Mumbai are, in fact, just a few of the many places which are far more densely populated than Gaza.

  9. Li puts forth several falsehoods: The Israeli gov’t DOES NOT control the population registry in Gaza — Hamas does. Are you seriously contending that the Israeli gov’t is in charge of recording births/deaths in Gaza, issuing birth/death certificates and identity cards in Gaza on behalf of the Hamas gov’t?

    And every country — even Israel, sorry — is entitled to implement criteria regarding who passes into its borders. (Does Mexico dictate to the US who can enter its territory?) Are you saying Israel does not have the right to do this?

    Regarding monetary policy and telephone communications, the Hamas gov’t is perfectly capable of instituting its own monetary policy or seeking a different communications provider. That it chooses to continue to use the shekel or Israeli telephone networks is its own decision.

    Also, note that the ICRC now calls Gaza an “autonomous territory” — not “occupied territory” on its website.

    Anne Herzberg
    Legal Advisor
    NGO Monitor

    PS I think Mr. Li should make clear his affiliations with PCHR and HRW — two organizations that are ideologically wedded to promoting the claim that Gaza remains “occupied” territory after Disengagement.

  10. Darryl Li

    Two points of information in response to specific factual issues raised above:

    1. Re Stefan’s question about the fortifications in the northern area. I was referring to Tsahal ground operations inside the Gaza Strip to build a wall presumably located along the armistice line. This construction was tracked by, among others, UN OCHA and documented in several reports, e.g.: http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/8C2208606E132536852570A4005A7728.

    To my knowledge these incursions were not conducted in coordination with the PNA, nor would such coordination be required anyway under IHL if Israel is an occupying power. If Israel is not the occupying power, however, then a new incursion without PNA permission/coordination raises questions about whether this would constitute a renewed use of force.

    2. Re Anne Herzberg’s unsourced claim that Hamas controls the Gaza population registry: I stand by my original statement. Since Oslo, Israel has continued to control the population registry, delegating to the PNA the job of printing the documents and forwarding along to it proposed updates and changes for Israeli approval.

    As the Israeli human rights organization Gisha has shown, Israel continued to register Gazans and issue identity documents to them even after the Hamas takeover. For its part, Hamas attempted to issue local ID cards in Gaza for people who for various reasons cannot be placed in the Israeli-controlled population registry, but such documents are pretty much useless. Possession of an Israeli-issued ID (based on the Israeli-controlled population registry) is required for travel by both Israeli and Egyptian border authorities. Hamas-issued identity documents cannot even be used to open bank accounts in Gaza. See http://www.gisha.org/UserFiles/File/publications_/Rafah_Report_Eng.PDF, pp. 57-63.

  11. Stefan

    Darryl Li:
    By saying that Israeli forces made incursions into Gaza then you are simply reinforcing the view that Israel no longer occupies the territory!
    Also, you say the Israeli “fortifications” are “presumably located along the armistice line” which, even if incursions were necessary to build them, again reinforces the view that Gaza is not occupied.