Israel has a right under international law to impose a complete siege, which would be a land encirclement of the combat area of the Gaza Strip. Since Gaza has land borders with two countries—Israel and Egypt—a complete siege would require that Israel interdict land transfers from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. As of this writing, reports are conflicted on whether Israel has declared any such intent, and, indeed, on whether Egypt has any intent to open its side of the border with Gaza. It is thus unclear if Israel has imposed a siege.
Israel’s action thus raises three distinct legal questions:
a. Does Israel have a duty to supply goods of any kind to the Gaza Strip during the war?
b. Does Israel have a duty to facilitate the entry of goods supplied by third parties of any kind, or of humanitarian items in particular, and if yes, what kinds of goods, subject to what conditions?
c. Do the answers to the first two questions change if Israel has imposed a siege on the Gaza Strip, and is there currently a siege?
This memorandum addresses each of these issues in turn.