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Israel grants licence for gas exploration within Palestine's maritime boundary

February 16, 2024 at 11:24 am

Gaza beach in Gaza City, Gaza on January 8, 2021. [Ali Jadallah – Anadolu Agency]

Israel has given exploration licences for natural gas in locations that are considered to be within Palestine’s maritime boundary in preparation for “occupying” these areas.

Israel announced the results of the tender it organised for exploration in Palestinian waters in December 2022 on 29 October last year, just days after it intensified its genocidal attacks on Gaza.

Within the scope of the tender, the Israeli administration granted licences to six Israeli and international companies to explore natural gas in areas that are deemed to fall under Palestinian maritime borders in accordance with international law.

On 5 February, Adalah, the Legal Centre for the Protection of Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent a letter to the Israeli Energy Ministry demanding the cancellation of the licences.

Following Adalah’s request, the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights and the Ramallah-based human rights organisation, Al-Haq, along with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), issued similar warnings to companies holding licences not to carry out any activities in these areas.

“Israel is the occupying power in the Gaza Strip and exercises full and effective control over Palestine’s maritime areas. The issuance of the tender and the subsequent granting of licences for exploration in this area constitute a violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and customary international law,” Adalah said in a statement.

Besides casualties, Israel has also hit the Palestinian enclave’s economic zones, and power transmission lines and facilities [Elmurod Usubaliev – Anadolu Agency]

Infographic: Medical equipment Israel bans from entering Gaza

“The tenders, issued in accordance with Israeli domestic law, effectively amount to the de facto and de jure annexation of the Palestinian maritime areas claimed by Palestine, as they seek to supersede applicable IHL norms by instead applying Israeli domestic law to the area in the context of managing and exploiting natural resources,” Adalah added.

The statement stressed that under applicable international law, Israel is prohibited from using the limited non-renewable resources of the occupied territories for commercial gain and for the benefit of the occupying power, in accordance with the usufruct rules referred to in Article 55 of the Hague Regulations.

“Israel, as a de facto administrative authority in the occupied territories, cannot consume natural resources for commercial purposes that do not benefit the occupied population,” the statement read.

Attorney Suhad Bishara, director of Adalah’s Legal, Land and Planning Rights Unit, declared that Israel’s deposits in the sea adjacent to Gaza are illegal under international law.

Bishara argued that Israel decided to suspend all international legal frameworks that it should abide by and instead apply its own national law.

“These actions, including the licences issued by Israel, are illegal under international humanitarian law and under the laws of the sea. Israel has no authority to issue such bids and licences,” she explained.

According to information shared by Adalah, Al Mezan, Al-Haq and the PCHR, the Israeli Ministry of Energy announced that it had granted licences to six Israeli and international companies to explore for natural gas in what are considered Palestinian maritime areas under international law.

The Israeli Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure held its fourth offshore bidding round in December 2022, following which licences were granted.

Israel awarded gas exploration licences for Area G, a maritime area adjacent to the Gaza coast, 62 per cent of which lies within the maritime borders declared by Palestine in 2019 in accordance with the provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which Palestine is a party.

Of the other two areas where Israel opened tenders, 73 per cent of H and five per cent of E are located within the maritime borders declared by Palestine.

SOCAR, NewMed Energy and BP won the exploration tender in the I field, which is located in the non-disputed area.​​​​​​​

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