Israel (inadvertently) admits it broke law in raiding flotilla

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With a Libyan aid ship perhaps trying to break the naval blockade of Gaza, Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a warning to the IDF not to stop the ship in international waters, Haaretz reports.

The Foreign Ministry advised the defense establishment yesterday to wait until the Libyan aid ship reportedly headed for Gaza approaches or enters the coastal strip’s territorial waters before making any attempt to stop it. The ministry made the recommendation to avoid the risk of breaking international law.

That warning is an implicit admission that when Israel attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31, it broke international law.  Before the Israeli Navy raided the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship was in international waters, 85 miles west of Haifa, according to this Ali Abunimah blog post.

After the flotilla attack, Craig Murray, an expert in maritime law, had this to say about the Israeli raid:

A word on the legal position, which is very plain. To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean however that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody’s territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

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