Sunday, January 4, 2009

Israel announces naval blockade of Gaza

By Marian Houk in Jerusalem, Posted on, January 3rd, 2009

The IDF spokesperson has announced a naval blockade of Gaza.

This announcement says that “In accordance with the decision of the Defense Minister and current security assessments, as of Saturday January 3rd, 2009, the IDF has begun enforcing a naval blockade for 20 nautical miles from the Gaza Strip. The length of Gaza’s shore is used by the Hamas terror organization, and the presence of its operatives on the shoreline and in the open sea constitutes a threat against the citizens of southern Israel”.

This announcement will apparently have legal consequences — but it basically encodes a situation that existed previously — and for rather a long time. Only some five Free Gaza expeditions of international activists have actually managed to pass into and out of Gaza’s maritime space. And Gaza’s fishermen have been forced to operate, for years, in far less than their alloted, allocated and agreed, fishing territory.

The 20-mile designation is interesting also — it is the limit of a “fishing” (and “economic”) zone allocated to Gaza in the Oslo Accords.

Gaza's maritime space as delimited by Oslo Accords - Israeli MFA website

One of the main aims may be to try to reinforce the Israeli claim that Gaza is not occupied — because Israel is not “controlling” Gaza’s maritime space (which would be one of the tests for a situation of occupation- Rather, the IDF announcement is saying, Israel has “begun enforcing a naval blockade” — which is an act of war, and/or a sign of an actual state of war.

This move also puts pressure on BG negotiators, who have re-opened discussions at Israel’s insistence after freezing them just over a year ago, on the development of the Gaza Gas wells located precisely within this Gaza maritime space … And one of the reasons (though not the main one) why the discussions on this gas deal have not been concluded already is precisely the questions posed about its status with Hamas in power in Gaza…

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