*an Israeli gunboat douses a Palestinian fishing trawler in Palestinian waters with a heavy-powered water cannon [photo: David Schermerhorn, October 2008]
A June 16 Reuters article on Israel’s vow to stop and preparations for the Freedom Flotilla 2 quotes an Israeli unnamed source as saying the blockade and siege on the Gaza Strip is legal:
The source, who declined to be named, said Israel’s maritime blockade would only be deemed legal if it imposed a total exclusion zone around the small Palestinian enclave and urged the flotilla organizers not to challenge the navy.
But, under international law, including the much-touted United Nations (isn’t the UN the scapegoat reason for bombarding Libya?) the blockade is illegal [source: under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the San Remo Manual (SRM) on armed conflicts at sea –which Israel cites–and according to which, a blockade must satisfy a number of legal requirements, including proportionality. If “it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade, it is illegal.]. Further, a UN fact-finding mission to investigate Israel’s attacks on flotilla boats has concluded the blockade is illegal and the attacks on the high seas are violations of international law.
The Israeli source later adds: “But a maritime security blockade can only be legal if it is effective and complete. You cannot keep a selective maritime blockade under international law. You can’t say who gets in and who doesn’t.”
Aside from it’s illegality, the blockade and the Israeli navy did not use the disproportionate assault force on the first 5 Free Gaza voyages (from August to December 2008) as it did on later Free Gaza attempts (including ramming one boat and abducting passengers on June 30 2009) and on last year’s Freedom Flotilla in international waters which saw nine Turkish activists killed (some shot point-blank in assassination style, said Keven Neish, a passenger and witness on board the Mavi Marmara; a UN report cites “six of those on board – one American and five Turkish citizens – were murdered execution-style“.) and dozens injured by heavily-armed Israeli commandos who rappelled onto the Mavi shooting with live ammunition.
On Wednesday, Israel carried out a large simulation exercise at sea to prepare for any new confrontation and the source said everything possible would be done to prevent direct clashes.
Video footage from Wednesday’s exercise broadcast by the military showed Israeli ships practicing the use of water cannon.
see ISM footage of Israeli gunboats water-cannoning Palestinian fishing boats: