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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

French yacht heading for Gaza

A French yacht sneaked out of a Greek harbor on Tuesday and was on its way to Gaza.
The "Dignite al Karama" is so far the only boat in a planned flotilla organized by pro-Palestinian activists to set sail from Greece, after the authorities there blocked other vessels from leaving the port of Athens, Piraeus.

The 63-foot yacht had nine passengers aboard and expected to be "off Gaza within an day or two," said a statement from the French Boat to Gaza campaign.

"They are going to break the blockade in the name of the Freedom Flotilla, in the names of all those who have supported this mobilisation, for justice and the law," the statement said.

Earlier, campaign spokesman Jean-Claude Lefort said the Dignite had managed to slip past the Greek authorities because "it wasn't spotted. It wasn't in Piraeus, it was somewhere else."
The Dignite al Karama was the last gasp from the flotidopes. It turned back.
Activists seeking to break Israel's blockade of Gaza with a flotilla of aid ships appeared close to defeat on Tuesday as a self-imposed deadline expired and many of the international campaigners due to sail began to return home.

Although some vowed to continue with their quest, no new date has been set for departure of the flotilla, which was supposed to be taking medicines, food, gifts and building materials to Gaza.


One small French craft did manage to evade the Greek coastguard and reach international waters on Tuesday, but those on board decided not to try for Gazan waters alone and have now turned back.
That's probably a good thing, because Israel would have considerable latitude to defend itself if the boats showed up off the Gaza coast.
From an international law perspective, Israel is in an armed conflict with Hamas, the de facto governing authority of Gaza. Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into southern Israel in recent years as part of its concerted plan, to quote from its 1988 covenant, "to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine." The fact that Israel is in armed conflict with Hamas means that any attempt by Israel to enforce its naval blockade must be assessed according to the law of armed conflict.

According to this body of law, premeditated lethal force can only be used against combatants and civilians who directly participate in hostilities (and only against such civilians for such time as they directly participate in hostilities). Force, in particular lethal force, cannot be used against civilians except as a last resort. Obviously, the key is to distinguish between these two types of civilians, a not always straightforward task.

When engaging with the planned flotilla, the IDF needs to proactively gather intelligence and assess it as a reasonable state would.

Its response, undoubtedly, will be colored by its experience of May 2010. This is neither surprising nor unreasonable, since the law in this area evolves in response to past "lessons learned."


According to someone tweeting from the boat, the French yacht is still heading to Gaza (Hat Tip: Elder of Ziyon, who has more here).

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