Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Geneva Convention

It is widely accepted that under international law, the Jewish settlements in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 are illegal.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war states: "The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies."

Within the international community the overwhelming view is that Article 49 is applicable to the occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

Almost the entire international community, including allies of Israel, have referred to the situation in these territories as occupation.

The position that the 4th Geneva Convention does apply to the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights is supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross, UN bodies, and the International Court of Justice.

Israel is a party to the Geneva Conventions, and bound by its obligations.

But its government argues that the international conventions relating to occupied land do not apply to the Palestinian territories because they were not under the legitimate sovereignty of any state in the first place.

Israel has over the years often chosen to use the term administered territories to refer to Gaza and the West Bank. It has annexed the Golan and East Jerusalem.

Israel therefore denies the formal, de jure, applicability of the 4th Geneva Convention in the occupied territories.

Israel does formally accept the applicability of the Hague Regulations on occupation, and says it is acting under authority granted to an occupying power in international law (including in provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention). The 4th Geneva Convention and the Hague Regulations contain detailed rules on the administration of occupied territory.

The Israeli Supreme Court (sitting as High Court of Justice in Beit Sourik Village Council v The Government of Israel 2004) has noted: "The general point of departure of all parties - which is also our point of departure - is that Israel holds the area in belligerent occupation (occupatio bellica)."

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