Since 1967, Israel has occupied the Shebaa Farms, over which Lebanon is recognised as sovereign.
For a territory to be considered occupied, it must be 'under the authority of the hostile army.' Article 42, 1907 Hague Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs on Land. For an occupation to exist, hostile foreign forces must exercise effective control. Three elements must be fulfilled for effective control to exist.
- First, the armed forces of a foreign state are physically present in the territory and the territorial state did not consent to their presence.
- Second, the presence of the foreign forces prevents the effective local government in place at the time of invasion from exercising its powers.
- Third, the foreign forces establish their own authority. For further information, see ‘military occupation – elements of occupation’ in our classification section.
Israel seized control of the Shebaa Farms during the 1967 Six-Day War, and has retained control since. The Shebaa Farms are administered by Israel as part of the Golan Heights. Israel’s presence and administration of the Shebaa Farms unequivocally satisfied the effective control test, and establishes Israel as the occupying power.
The Shebaa Farms measure 22 km2 and lie on the border between Lebanon and the Golan Heights. Maps used by the United Nations in demarcating the Blue Line were not able to conclusively show the border between Lebanon and Syria in the area, although they consider that at least part of the Shebaa Farms is in South Lebanon and over which Lebanon claims that Israel had violated its sovereignty. F.C. Hof, ‘A Practical Line: The Line of Withdrawal from Lebanon and Its Potential Applicability to the Golan Heights’, 55 Middle East Journal 1, (2001) 25-42 (restricted access). Syria agrees that the Shebaa Farms are within Lebanese territory; however, Israel considers the area to be inside of Syria's borders and continues to occupy the territory. A. Kaufman, ‘Understanding the Shebaa Farms Dispute’, 11 Palestine-Israel Journal 1 (2004).
The law of military occupation is set out in the 1907 Hague Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs on Land, the 1949 Geneva Conventions (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilians Persons in Time of War and the 1977 Additional Protocol I applicable to International Armed Conflicts. Israel and Lebanon are parties to the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, but only Lebanon is a party to the 1977 Additional Protocol I.
Customary international humanitarian law is also applicable during occupation, it complements the protection granted by treaties and binds all parties to the conflict. Customary international law consist of unwritten rules that come from a general practice accepted as law. Based on an extensive study, the International Committee of the Red Cross maintains a database on customary international humanitarian law.
In addition to international humanitarian law, international human rights law continues to apply during times of occupation. Israel and Lebanon are parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. Israel remains bound by its international human rights law obligations in the territory it occupies.