[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: With all the respect in the world for the
hardworking team at the Foreign Ministry - it is hard to understand why this
item wasn't prepared in advance and distributed the moment that the
operation began. ]
Ministry of Foreign Affairs 31 May 2010 - distributed May 31, 2010 5:18 PM
A maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. It has been imposed,
as Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime
that controls Gaza.
1. A maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. Such blockade has
been imposed, as Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the
Hamas regime that controls Gaza, which has repeatedly bombed civilian
targets in Israel with weapons that have been smuggled into Gaza via the
2. Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under
international law that may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at
3. A blockade may be imposed at sea, including in international waters, so
long as it does not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral states.
4. The naval manuals of several western countries, including the US and
England recognize the maritime blockade as an effective naval measure and
set forth the various criteria that make a blockade valid, including the
requirement of give due notice of the existence of the blockade.
5. In this vein, it should be noted that Israel publicized the existence of
the blockade and the precise coordinates of such by means of the accepted
international professional maritime channels. Israel also provided
appropriate notification to the affected governments and to the organizers
of the Gaza protest flotilla. Moreover, in real time, the ships
participating in the protest flotilla were warned repeatedly that a maritime
blockade is in effect.
6. Here, it should be noted that under customary law, knowledge of the
blockade may be presumed once a blockade has been declared and appropriate
notification has been granted, as above.
7. Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect,
no boats can enter the blockaded area. That includes both civilian and
8. A state may take action to enforce a blockade. Any vessel that violates
or attempts to violate a maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked
under international law. The US Commander's Handbook on the Law of Naval
Operations sets forth that a vessel is considered to be in attempt to breach
a blockade from the time the vessel leaves its port with the intention of
evading the blockade.
9. Here we should note that the protesters indicated their clear intention
to violate the blockade by means of written and oral statements. Moreover,
the route of these vessels indicated their clear intention to violate the
blockade in violation of international law.
10. Given the protesters explicit intention to violate the naval blockade,
Israel exercised its right under international law to enforce the blockade.
It should be noted that prior to undertaking enforcement measures, explicit
warnings were relayed directly to the captains of the vessels, expressing
Israel's intent to exercise its right to enforce the blockade.
11. Israel had attempted to take control of the vessels participating in the
flotilla by peaceful means and in an orderly fashion in order to enforce the
blockade. Given the large number of vessels participating in the flotilla,
an operational decision was made to undertake measures to enforce the
blockade a certain distance from the area of the blockade.
12. Israeli personnel attempting to enforce the blockade were met with
violence by the protesters and acted in self defense to fend off such