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Israel’s Military Offensive on the Gaza Strip Breaches Law on the Use of Force on Self-Defence Ad Bellum and is a Continuing Act of Aggression
06، Dec 2023

Israel’s most recent onslaught on the Gaza Strip is not an act of self-defence as it claims. The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) notes that Israel carried out preemptive strikes in 1967, in breach of international law,[1] establishing on the foot of this unlawful aggression, an illegal belligerent occupation still in force in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, 56-years later. The acts of Palestinian armed groups have been carried out in the context of this continuing international armed conflict, which Israel has been mandated to end since 1967 under numerous UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

Since 1967, under its continuing aggression on the occupied Palestinian territory, Israel has purportedly de facto and de jure annexed the occupied Palestinian territory, pillaging its natural resources. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israel has established a far-reaching settlement enterprise, which dispossesses Palestinians of their homes and lands, with the effect of fragmenting the Palestinian people and colonising the territory. Israel’s segregationist acts of apartheid prevent the Palestinian people from exercising their right to self-determination, violating peremptory norms of international law. Notably the use of force to deny the exercise of the right to self-determination is expressly prohibited under international law.

Against this backdrop, we warn that Israel’s argument that it is engaging in self-defence following the Al-Qassam Brigades and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operation on October 7 is a fallacy, as the October 7 operation did not signify a new onset of hostilities. Rather, Israel’s pre-emptive armed attack and consequent military occupation of the Palestinian territory in 1967, continues to be an illegal act of aggression.[2] Notably, the mere existence of the illegal 56-year-long military occupation is an act of aggression in itself  “cannot be retroactively justified by reference to the right of self-defence.”[3] As such, the right of self-defence under international law has not been available to Israel with respect to its dealings with the West Bank and Gaza Strip populations since 1967. States which argue that Israel holds the right to self-defence against Gaza are greenlighting Israel’s continuing acts of aggression in breach of the UN Charter.

Third States and the international community are therefore obliged to:

Intervene to bring Israel’s acts of aggression to an immediate end;

  1. States that authorise the continued transfer of arms, and other forms of military support to Israel to:
  • Immediately bring an end to such transfers in accordance with their international law obligations, and
  • Immediately halt the provision of any material equipment or other commodity that may foreseeably be used in the commission of serious international law violations including international crimes;
  1. Address Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid as the root cause of the current continuing hostilities, and intervene to ensure Israel’s total, immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the entire Occupied Palestinian Territory as provided for in numerous UN General Assembly and UN Security Council resolutions and the dismantling of the occupying administration;
  2. Ensure the realisation of the right to external self-determination of the Palestinian people as a whole, including refugees and exiles, and the right of the Palestinian people to return.

Please find the position paper here.


[1] United Nations Study on the Legality of the Israeli Occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem <,occupation%20is%20illegal%20ab%20initio>.

[2] UN CEIRPP, “The Legality of the Israeli Occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (2023) pp. 51-57.

[3] A/ES-10/867, Identical letters dated 21 May 2021 from the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council, (24 May 2021),  <>; A/RES/3314, UNGA Resolution (14 Dec. 1974), Art. 3(a), (stating that an act of aggression includes the “invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof”). See also an analysis of the illegality of the occupation: A/78/378, Letter dated 20 September 2023 from the Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People addressed to the Secretary-General, (20 Sept. 2023), (“Even assuming arguendo that Israel’s use of force was a legitimate act of self-defence in response to an armed attack, Israel’s continued belligerent occupation of the Palestinian territory for almost 56 years – decades after it concluded peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, key parties to the conflict, and after multiple Security Council calls for it to end – makes it clear that the belligerent occupation has exceeded the parameters of military necessity and proportionality for a legitimate act of self-defence”).