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Military occupation of Palestine by Israel

Conflict type: Military occupation

Israel is occupying the territory of Palestine. Israel is internationally recognised as the occupying power in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip since the end of the Six-Day War in 1967. Today, this prolonged occupation of the territory of Palestine takes a unique form. For an overview of the conflict more generally and key developments that occurred during 2017, see M. Ferrer, 'The War Report 2017: The Armed Conflict in Israel-Palestine', Geneva Academy, January 2018.

  • Israel is the occupying power in the West Bank. However, as a result of the Oslo Accords, direct authority over the West Bank is divided between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Despite the modalities of this agreement, Israel retains overall control over the entire territory.
  • Israel withdrew its ground forces from the Gaza Strip in 2005, as part of a unilateral disengagement plan. However, consequent to the level of control still exercised by Israel over the Gaza Strip, Israel continues to be recognised as the occupying power.

Israel exercises different forms of control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The occupation in the two territories will be dealt with separately.

West Bank

At the end of the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel seized control of the West Bank from Jordan, establishing a belligerent occupation of the territory. In the context of this occupation, Israel also initiated measures that resulted in the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem. Following the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority was established and the West Bank was divided into three areas:

  • Area A (18% of the territory) is placed under the Palestinian Authority’s control.
  • Area B (22% of the territory) is placed under the Palestinian Authority’s partial control; Israel retained security control, exercised through a continued military presence.
  • Area C (60% of the territory) remains under the full control of Israel.

This mechanism was planned as a temporary solution, with the aim of achieving a gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops and a transfer of responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority. To date, however, these arrangements are still enforced by the Israeli government. See B’Tselem, ‘What Is Area C?’, 18 May 2014; UNOCHA occupied Palestinian territory, ‘Restricting Space: the Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank’, Special Focus December 2009; Report of the Secretary-General, ‘Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the Occupied Syrian Golan’, UN doc A/HRC/31/43, 20 January 2016. See also ICC Office of the Prosecutor, Report on Preliminary Examination Activities, 2018, §§256–259.

Following the tensions between Israeli forces and Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem, on 10 May 2021 Hamas fired rockets from Gaza while Israeli forces conducted several airstrikes, which killed at least 20 people, including 9 children, in the northern part of Gaza. Accordingly, militants in Gaza fired rockets in the Jerusalem area for the first time after the 2014 war. P. Kingsley and I. Kershner, ‘After Raid on Aqsa Mosque, Rockets from Gaza and Israeli Airstrikes’, The New York Times, 10 May 2021; O. Holmes and P. Beaumont, ‘Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza Strip after Hamas rocket attacks’, The Guardian, 10 May 2021; N. Al-mughrabi and J. Heller, ‘Jerusalem violence leads to rockets, air strikes’, Reuters, 11 May 2021.

Israeli airstrikes (and tank-artillery shelling) in Gaza continued during the following week, causing several deaths and bombing of civilian residents, such as two media towers in Gaza, including one that housed the Associate Press and Al Jazeera’s offices. ‘‘Give us 10 minutes’: how Israel bombed a Gaza media tower’, Al Jazeera, 15 May 2021. Notably, the death toll in the Gaza Strip following Israeli airstrikes rose to around 200 persons, including 59 children and 35 women, while Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killing 10 in total. U. Uras and U. Siddiqui, ‘Gaza death toll nears 200 amid surge of Israeli raids’, Al Jazeera, 16 May 2021; S. Winer and T. Staff, ‘A child, a teen, a man unable to run: 10 Gaza rocket victims in Israel’, The Times of Israel, 16 May 2021. Protests are not just occurring in the Occupied Territories but also among the Palestinian citizens of Israel. M. Nassar, ‘Protests by Palestinian citizens in Israel signal growing sense of a common struggle’, The Conversation, 13 May 2021. On the 16 May, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting over the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine. ‘U.N. Security Council Meets Over Israeli-Palestinian Violence’, NPR, 16 May 2021.

Following uncertainty about Israel’s position regarding voting participation by residents of East Jerusalem, Palestinian President Abbas cancelled the elections, which were expected to take place in May 2021, for the first time after 15 years. J. Krauss, ‘Abbas delays Palestinian elections; Hamas slams ‘coup’’, AP, 30 April 2021. 

East Jerusalem

The West Bank includes East Jerusalem, which was unilaterally annexed in 1967 with a series of administrative acts such as the extension of West Jerusalem Municipality’s jurisdiction to East Jerusalem, the expropriation of land and properties, and the application of Israeli laws to the city and its Palestinian inhabitants. In its resolution 252 (1968), the United Nations Security Council 'considers that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel are invalid and cannot change that status'. See UNSC Res 252 (1968), 21 May 1968. Israel formalised the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem with the passing of a law in 1980, which, amongst others, declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. See Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, 30 July 1980. The Security Council affirmed that the law 'constitutes a violation of international law' and that 'all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the recent "basic law" on Jerusalem are null and void' and called upon 'all Member States to accept this decision' and for those who have establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem to withdraw them.The status of Jerusalem is to be settled by negotiations. See  UNSC Res 478 (1980), 20 August 1980. See also  UNSC Res 2334 (2016), 23 December; Z. Tahhan and F. Najjar, 'Why Jerusalem Is Not the Capital of Israel', Al Jazeera, 10 December 2017; B’Tselem, ‘East Jerusalem’, updated 27 January 2019.

In December 2017, the United States announced its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to relocate its embassy there. In response, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on 21 December 2017 to reaffirm that in accordance with relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions any decisions and actions that purport to alter the status of Jerusalem are null and void and called upon states to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem. See 'General Assembly Overwhelmingly Adopts Resolution Asking Nations Not to Locate Diplomatic Missions in Jerusalem', General Assembly, Tenth Emergency Special Session, 37th meeting, 21 December 2017. The resolution is not binding. A similar resolution in the Security Council was vetoed by the United States. For a thorough analysis of international law issues relating to the decision to recognize Jerusalem, see V. Bílková, 'Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital City of Israel - Acknowledging the Obvious, or an Illegitimate Act', International Law Reflection 2018/1/EN, Centre for International Law, Institute of International Relations Prague, 2018. See also L.Sayej, 'President Trump's Recognition of Jerusalem: A Legal Analysis', Oxford Human Rights Hub, 11 December 2017. On 14 May 2018, the United States inaugurated its embassy in Jerusalem followed, two days later, by the opening of Guatemala’s embassy in the city. R. Eglash, 'As Criticism of Israel Mounts, Guatemala Opens Its Embassy in Jerusalem', The Washington Post, 16 May 2015. In November 2019 the US said that Israeli settlements would no longer be considered illegal as for international law. Furthermore, in January 2020 it released the “Peace Plan” for the Middle East, which included the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the settlements in the West Bank. International Crisis Group. Crisis Watch: Palestine.

In April and May 2021, tensions between local residents and the Israeli forces escalated in occupied East Jerusalem (notably in the predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah), as a result of the possible eviction of several Palestinians from their homes, intending to replace them with Jewish settlers. ‘Palestinians fight eviction from home in East Jerusalem’, CNN, 10 May 2021; A.R. Arnaout, ‘Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem: the full story’, AA, 8 May 2021; R. Ayyoub, Z. El-haroun, S. Farrell, ‘East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah becomes emblem of Palestinian struggle’, Reuters, 11 May 2021. Attacks on Palestinians took place also in the Al-Aqsa mosque in concomitance with the prayers for the holy month of Ramadan. ‘Hundreds hurt as Palestinians protest evictions in Jerusalem’, Al Jazeera, 7 May 2021; S. Farrell and R. Ayyub, ‘Israeli police, Palestinians clash at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa, scores injured’, Reuters, 8 May 2021. It has been reported that the attacks in Jerusalem injured hundreds of Palestinians. International Crisis Group, Crisis Watch: Israel/Palestine, April 2021.

A number of human rights organizations condemned the excessive use of force by the Israeli police against protests occurring in East Jerusalem. See, e.g., Amnesty International, Israel / OPT: end brutal repression of Palestinians protesting forced displacement in East Jerusalem, 10 May 2021. Moreover, the OHCHR called on Israel to immediately stop forced evictions, while the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over the escalation of violence in East Jerusalem. ‘Stop evictions in East Jerusalem neighbourhood immediately, the UN rights office urges Israel’, UN News, 07 May 2021; ‘UN chief and senior officials express deep concern over East Jerusalem violence’, UN News, 10 May 2021. 

Effective control

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.

An occupation may continue after the withdrawal of troops from the territory under certain conditions: if the occupying power continues to exercise effective control the law of occupation will apply. For further information, see ‘military-occupation – functional occupation’ in our classification section. See also T. Ferraro and L. Cameron, ‘Article 2 Application of the Convention’, ICRC, Commentary on the First Geneva Convention, 2016, §§307-8; T. Ferraro, ‘Determining the Beginning and End of an Occupation Under International Humanitarian Law’, 94 International Review of the Red Cross 885 (2012), 134 ff.

Israel’s military presence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, satisfies the effective control test, and establishes Israel as the occupying power. This view is supported by several reports and declarations by relevant international bodies such as the United Nations, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). See for example UNSC Res 2334 (2016), 23 December 2016; ICJ, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, 9 July 2004, §78; ICRC, ‘Israel and the Occupied Territories', Annual Report 2017, June 2018, pp 468 – 472.

Area C, which includes Israeli settlements, is kept under Israel’s full government and security control. B’Tselem, ‘What Is Area C?', 18 May 2014; B’Tselem, ‘Reality Check: Almost Fifty Years of Occupation’, 5 June 2016; P. Malanczuk, ‘Some Basic Aspects of the Agreements Between Israel and the PLO from the Perspective of International Law’, 7 European Journal of International Law 4 (1996), 497; UNOCHA occupied Palestinian territory, ‘Restricting Space: the Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank’, December 2009; A. Gross, The Writing On the Wall, Cambridge University Press, 2017. Notwithstanding the fact that areas A and B are under the full and partial control of the Palestinian Authority respectively, Israel retains significant influence. This control may be demonstrated by Israel’s continuing military and security influences, as well as the control exercised in relation to Palestinians’ movement through checkpoints, physical obstructions, and control of all crossing points with Israel and Jordan. Israel has therefore the authority to determine the passage of persons and goods from and to the West Bank, to influence the movement within and between areas A and B (since they are made of non-contiguous zones surrounded by area C) and to approve any use of area C’s resources and land by Palestinians. B’Tselem, ‘Reality Check: Almost Fifty Years of Occupation’, 5 June 2016; Theodor Meron, ‘The West Bank and International Humanitarian Law on the Eve of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Six-Day War’, 111, American Journal of International Law, 2, April 2017, pp. 357-375; Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, A/73/45717, 22 October 2018, §§44-55. The Israeli military court system also continues to operate in the West Bank. Israeli Forces frequently enter the areas, carrying out security operations such as raids, detentions, home demolitions and curfews. Amnesty International, ‘Israel and Occupied Territories’, Amnesty International Report 2016/2017, 2017; HRW, ‘Israel and Palestine’, Annual Report 2019, pp. 307-311; ‘Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan’, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 30 January 2019.

In June 2019, the Israeli Court approved the demolition of about 100 housing near East Jerusalem, action that was carried out the following month. Accordingly, in August 2019 Israel approved the construction of about a thousand of housing for Israelis in the West Bank. Moreover, in January 2020 Israel approved the construction of hundreds of houses in Area C of the West Bank and approved the plan for the construction of new nature reserves and the expansion of several existing ones in the West Bank. In the meantime, Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed that, if elected, he would annex part of the West Bank and the Israeli settlements in the territory. In February 2020, Netanyahu announced that he would approve the construction of about 3,000 new housings for Israeli in the West Bank (E1 Area). Soon thereafter, the construction of almost 2,000 housings for Israelis in the West Bank was approved. International Crisis Group. Crisis Watch: Palestine.

In March 2020, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus pandemic, Israel closed the crossings with Palestine. Moreover, in August 2020 it closed the crossing with Gaza and the fishing zone on the Coast. International Crisis Group. Crisis Watch: Palestine.

In April 2020 tension escalated, as the Israeli government approved the construction of 7,000 new settlement units within the West Bank. Moreover, a military order was issued by Israel, ordering banks in the West Bank to avoid proceeding payments for Palestinian families of former or current prisoners in Israel. Israeli prime minister reaffirmed his intention to annex the West Bank: in response, the PA announced the suspension of all agreements with Israel. During the following months, Israel continued de facto annexation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Notably, in September 2020 it approved the construction of about 5,000 housings in the settlements; in October additional 5,000 settler housing units are approved in the West Bank; in November Israel demolished an entire Palestinian village, while Israeli authorities issued several eviction notices to Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Then US State Secretary Pompeo visited settlements in the West Bank and announced that food products from Area C would be labelled as “Made in Israel.” International Crisis Group. Crisis Watch: Palestine.

In 2021, the de facto annexation of the West Bank has continued. Notably, in January 2021 Israel announced the construction of thousands of new housing units for settlers and in February it demolished a Bedouin village in the West Bank, while a Jewish NGO authorised the direct purchase of West Bank land to expand Israeli settlements. International Crisis Group. Crisis Watch: Palestine.

The Gaza Strip

At the end of 1967 Six-Day War, Israel seized control of the Gaza Strip from Egypt and established a belligerent occupation. The Palestinian Authority was established in the 1990’s as part of the Oslo peace process. However, Israel remained present and in control of the Gaza Strip.

In 2005 Israel implemented a unilateral Disengagement Plan. This involved the removal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, the withdrawal of troops from the territory, and a formal end to its military rule. Israel claimed that, as a result of this withdrawal it could no longer be considered the occupying power, and that it therefore ceased to have any responsibility vis-à-vis ensuring public order and civil life in Gaza. The position of Israel is presented in a press release issued upon completion of the withdrawal, see Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Exit of IDF Forces from the Gaza Strip Completed’, Press Release, 12 September 2005.

A split between Fatah and Hamas in 2006 led to Hamas assuming overall control over Gaza. In response, Israel declared Gaza to be a hostile territory and initiated a closure of the territory, largely closing the border crossings and severely restricting the transportation of goods. The position of Israel is presented on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, see Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Behind the Headlines: Israel Designates Gaza a “Hostile Territory”’, 27 September 2007; see also  UNOCHA, ‘Gaza Blockade’.

Since the initiation of the closure in 2007, several conflicts between Hamas and Israel - such as Operation Protective Edge in 2014 ICRC, ‘Gaza-Israel Conflict: Disregard for Humanitarian Law Led to Unacceptable Toll on Civilians’, News Release, 8 August 2014; Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry Established Pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution S-21/1, UN doc A/HRC/29/52. It remains controversial whether the conflicts after the unilateral disengagement are to be classified as international or non-international. For the classification as a non-international armed conflict, see S. Casey-Maslen, ‘Armed Conflict in Gaza in 2012’ in S. Casey-Maslen (ed) The War Report 2012, Oxford University Press, 2012, p 110 ff; for international armed conflict, see I. Scobbie, ‘Gaza’ in E. Wilmshurst (ed) International Law and the Classification of Conflicts, Oxford University Press, 2012, p 290ff.; A. Bellal, ‘Armed Conflict Between Israel and Palestine in 2014’ in A. Bellal (ed) The War Report. Armed Conflict in 2014, Oxford University Press, 2014, p 38ff. For further references on various legal aspects related to the armed conflicts in Gaza since 2008, see Oxford University Press, ‘Debate Map: Israel-Gaza Wars 2008-2014’, last updated 13 November 2014. – as well as other episodes involving the use of force have occurred in the Gaza strip. See for instance, T. Staff, J. Ari Gross, ‘IDF strikes Hamas targets after Gaza rocket hits Israeli town’, The Times of Israel, 18 December 2017; ‘Eight killed in covert Israeli action in Gaza', BBC, 12 November 2018.

On 30 March 2018, mass protests began at the Israel-Gaza Strip border. Drawing international condemnation, the use of live ammunition by Israeli armed forces against the protestors led to the highest death toll since the 2014 conflict. 'Gaza Deaths: UN Secretary General Calls for "Transparent" Investigation',  The Guardian / Associated Press, 31 March 2018; H. Balousha and P. Beaumont, 'Death Toll Mounts As Palestinians Protest at Gaza Border', The Guardian, 7 April 2018. In a 25 February 2019 report, a Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights UN Human Rights Council, Resolution S-28/1, 18 May 2018 found that, from 30 March to 31 December 2018, Israeli Security Forces killed 183 Palestinians and injured 9,204 others with live ammunition, by bullet fragmentation, rubber-coated metal bullets or hits from tear gas canisters (according to OCHA estimates, the total number of Palestinians injured during the demonstrations is over 23,000); it also found that one Israeli soldier was killed and four injured at the demonstrations. The Commission concluded that “Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”, and that “[s]ome of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity”. OCHA, ‘2018: More casualties and food insecurity, less funding for humanitarian aid’, 27 December 2018; The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Gaza protests, ‘No Justification for Israel to Shoot Protesters with Live Ammunition’, Press briefing, 28 February 2019; Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, A/HRC/40/74, 25 February 2019.

Effective control

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.

An occupation may continue after the withdrawal of troops from the territory under certain conditions: if the occupying power continues to exercise effective control the law of occupation will apply. For further information, see ‘military-occupation – functional occupation’ in our classification section. See also T. Ferraro and L. Cameron, ‘Article 2 Application of the Convention’, ICRC, Commentary on the First Geneva Convention, 2016, §§307-8; T. Ferraro, ‘Determining the Beginning and End of an Occupation Under International Humanitarian Law’, 94 International Review of the Red Cross 885 (2012), 134 ff.

Following the implementation of the 2005 Disengagement Plan, Israeli armed forces are no longer present in the territory of the Gaza Strip. For this reason, some reject Israel’s classification as an occupying power. See, e.g.: M. Milanovic, ‘European Court Decides that Israel Is Not Occupying Gaza’, EJIL: Talk! Blog, 17 June 2015. For further references see ‘military-occupation – functional occupation’ in our classification section.

However, the majority of international opinion considers that Israel has retained effective control over the Gaza Strip by virtue of the control exercised over, inter alia, its airspace and territorial waters, land crossings at the borders, supply of civilian infrastructure, and key governmental functions such as the management of the Palestinian population registry. For this position, see S. Bashi and K. Mann, ‘Disengaged Occupiers: the Legal Status of Gaza’, Position Paper, Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, 21 January 2007; B’Tselem, ‘The Scope of Israeli Control in the Gaza Strip’, 5 January 2014; S. Bashi and T. Feldman, ‘Scale of Control: Israel’s Continued Responsibility in the Gaza Strip’, Position Paper, Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, November 2011. For a contrary view, arguing that Israel can no longer ‘make its authority felt’, see Y. Shany, ‘The Law Applicable to Non-Occupied Gaza: A Comment on Bassiouni V. Prime Minister of Israel, International Law Forum, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Research Paper 13-09, February 2009, available at SSRN; Y. Shany, ‘Faraway So Close: The Legal Status of Gaza After Israel’s Disengagement’ 7 2005 Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law (2007) p 359, available at SSRN.

This view is supported by several reports and declarations by relevant international bodies such as the UN and ICRC. UNOCHA, Statement on Gaza by the United Nations Agencies Working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 6 February 2007; ICRC, ‘Fifty Years of Occupation: Where Do We Go From Here?’, Article, 2 June 2017; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Press briefing note on Gaza and Guatemala, 6 April 2018; Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Human Rights Council, A/HRC/37/75, 14 June 2018.

The International Criminal Court (ICC)

In 2014, Palestine issued a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC and, in January 2015, it acceded to the Rome Statute (becoming the 123rd State Party to the ICC Statute). During the same month, the Prosecutor of the ICC opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine. Palestine, Declaration Accepting the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, 31 December 2014; International Criminal Court, Palestine declares acceptance of ICC jurisdiction since 13 June 2014, 5 January 2015; International Criminal Court, The State of Palestine accedes to the Rome Statute, 7 January 2015. In May 2018, Palestine issued a referral according to Articles 13(a) and 14 of the Rome Statute, asking the prosecutor to investigate past, ongoing, and future crimes committed on its territory. Accordingly, in April and October 2018 the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) announced that it was monitoring the situation. Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, 'Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, Regarding the Worsening Situation in Gaza', 8 April 2018; ‘Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, regarding the Situation in Palestine’, 17 October 2018. The first report on preliminary examination activities was issued by the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC in December 2019, after 5 years of investigations. A second report on the preliminary examination activities was published in December 2020. International Criminal Court, The office of the Prosecutor, Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (2019), 5 December 2019, pp. 53 – 59; International Criminal Court, The office of the Prosecutor, Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (2020), 14 December 2020, pp. 55 – 58. In January 2020, the Prosecutor requested a ruling on the ICC’s jurisdiction in Palestine under Article 19(3) of the Rome Statute. International Criminal Court, Pre-Trial Chamber I, Situation in the State of Palestine, Prosecution request pursuant to article 19(3) for a ruling on the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine, 22 January 2020. The Court’s ruling was issued in February 2021, finding that the State of Palestine is part of the Rome Statute and that the Court’s jurisdiction in the situation in Palestine extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 (notably, Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem). International Criminal Court, Pre-Trial Chamber I, Decision on the Prosecution request pursuant to Article 19(3) for a ruling on the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine, 5 February 2021. 

The law of military occupation is set forth 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, in the 1949 Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Person in Time of War, and the 1977 Additional Protocol I applicable to International Armed Conflicts. Israel is party to the Geneva Convention (IV), but has not ratified the 1977 Additional Protocol I. Palestine acceded to the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1977 Additional Protocol I, and the 1907 Hague Regulations in 2014. See ICRC,Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries: Palestine.

Customary international humanitarian law, including the Hague regulations, also applies. Customary international law consists 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 armed conflict. Israel is a party to both 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.

Last updated: Wednesday 19th May 2021