Israel to Declare Gaza 'Enemy Territory' to Avoid Payouts to Inhabitants

Decision would mean Israel would not be liable for damage incurred to residents of the Strip as a result of Israeli actions during Operation Protective Edge.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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A Palestinian child sits on a mattress on the rubble of a house in Abasan, near Khan Yunis. August 7, 2014.
A Palestinian child sits on a mattress on the rubble of a house in Abasan, near Khan Yunis. August 7, 2014.Credit: AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The cabinet is expected to declare the Gaza Strip as enemy territory. A senior Israeli official said the decision would mean that Israel would not be liable for damage incurred to residents of the Strip as a result of Israeli actions during Operation Protective Edge.

The resolution on the decision was posted to the website of the Prime Minister’s Office Thursday afternoon, but a few hours later it was decided that it would not be brought for a vote at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

In 2007, three months after Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip, the cabinet declared the area hostile territory, instituting restrictions on movement by its inhabitants and of merchandise and fuel into the area.

The proposal states that the decision is intended “to give additional legal expression to the status of the Gaza Strip in keeping with the law on civil damages.”

The Defense Ministry’s legal advisor, Ahaz Ben-Ari, wrote in an opinion appended to the proposal that “a difficulty exists on the international level in that the declaration will be perceived mistakenly as an attempt by the State of Israel to evade its responsibility to examine claims of breaching of the rules of armed conflict.” Ben-Ari said the preamble of the draft law would resolve this difficulty.

The preamble states that the declaration “will not affect the obligation of the State of Israel to investigate claims of ostensible breaches of the rules of armed conflict. The decision detracts not at all from this obligation.”

According to the Defense Ministry, such a decision would greatly reduce the resources needed to deal with suits that might be brought by Palestinians because of damage done by the Israel Defense Forces as well as by future IDF action. Ben-Ari wrote that “most of these suits are in any case rejected as they are the outcome of actions of war.”

Ben-Ari also wrote that the damage by the IDF “stemmed from the actions of Hamas which places its command posts, weapons stores and rocket-launching sites in built up areas in the Gaza Strip, hiding behind innocent civilians and preventing them from leaving their homes.”

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