High Court tells state to explain why it’s not now an ‘occupying power’ in Gaza

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

The High Court of Justice accepts the request of human rights groups for an interim order against the state, with judges instructing authorities to explain why they should not allow unfettered access of humanitarian aid, equipment and staff into the Gaza Strip in light of the severe humanitarian situation in the enclave as a result of the ongoing war.

The court also issues an order, as requested by the petitioners, instructing the state to explain why it should not be considered an “occupying power” and take responsibility for the provision of essential humanitarian aid to the local population.

The orders mean that the burden of proof is now on the state to demonstrate to the court that it is providing sufficient access of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and that it is not now militarily ruling the territory.

The High Court says that it is issuing the order regarding the humanitarian aid “without taking a position and in order to enable the court to get a full and comprehensive factual basis” for the case.

A final ruling that Israel is legally an occupying power in Gaza would have a significant legal impact, since the obligations of an occupying power are considerably greater than those required under the laws of armed conflict, which the state argues is the relevant legal framework for its operations in Gaza at present.

Despite the order regarding the supply of humanitarian aid, the justices of the High Court underlined on several occasions to the petitioners that the state and its agencies were better placed to know what the true humanitarian situation in Gaza is at present, given its direct access to local sources and its ongoing coordination with UN agencies and international aid groups.

The petitioners have nevertheless contended that the state has not provided a full and reliable account of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, pointing to testimony from medical staff working in the territory which contradicts the state’s account of the condition of medical services in the enclave.

Most Popular