Follow closely the situation in Gaza and Israel thanks to the international law professor, Nicolas Boeglin.


On October 31, 2023, Bolivia formally announced the severance of its diplomatic relations with Israel, in view of the human drama to which the Palestinian civilian population has been subjected by Israel since the afternoon/evening of October 7, 2023.

It is an intense bombing campaign on an area with one of the highest population densities in the world, which has already caused, since October 7, the death of more than 9,000 people in Gaza, of which more than 3,700 are children and more than 2,300 are women.

The latest count (as of November 12) of fatalities and injuries in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank by a United Nations agency is available in detail at this link and reports that most of the fatalities are children and women:

The Palestinian fatality toll in Gaza as of 10 November at 14:00 (latest update provided) stood at 11,078, of whom 4,506 were said to be children and 3,027 women. About 2,700 others, including some 1,500 children, have been reported missing and may be trapped or dead under the rubble, awaiting rescue or recovery. Another 27,490 Palestinians have reportedly been injured. // No fatalities among Israeli soldiers operating in Gaza have been reported over the past 24 hours. The total number of soldiers killed since the start of ground operations stands at 47, according to Israeli official sources”.

About 10 days earlier, in the same count as of November 2, available in detail at this link, it was indicated that:

Since 7 October, 9,061 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 3,760 children and 2,326 women, and about 22,911 have been injured, according to the MoH in Gaza. // Rescue teams, primarily from the Palestinian Civil Defense, are struggling to carry out their missions, amid continuous airstrikes, severe shortage of fuel to run vehicles and equipment. This is particularly concerning as thousands are estimated to be trapped under rubble. The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) announced that, due to the lack of fuel, it had been forced to reduce the number of ambulances it operates. // According to the MoH in Gaza, over two thirds of the fatalities were killed in their homes. Relatedly, as of 26 October, a total of 192 Palestinian families had lost ten or more of their members, 136 Palestinian families had lost six to nine members, and 444 families had lost two to five of their members, the Ministry says“.

It should be noted that, of the more than 27,000 wounded Palestinians, many of them are seriously wounded and are lying in hospitals or partially destroyed shelters in extremely critical conditions, without sufficient water, food, medical care, medicines or sufficient energy flow to feed some hospitals, as will be detailed below.

Outrage was further heightened on October 31 with Israel’s deliberate shelling of the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, (see note from Libération)which clearly qualifies as a war crime. A second bombing was observed at the same site on November 1 (see note from El Independiente), causing even greater outrage. In the first, Israel claimed, through its army spokesman, to have carried out this operation to physically eliminate a single Hamas fighter.

On October 30, the only Turkish-funded cancer hospital in Gaza was bombed, prompting an immediate reaction from Turkey (see official statement).

Parallel to the drama in Gaza, violence in the West Bank has escalated since October 7 between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, with more than 130 Palestinian deaths, including more than 40 children, victims of Israeli security forces and settlers (see official statement of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of 3/11/2023).

Follow closely the situation in Gaza and Israel thanks to the international law professor, Nicolas Boeglin.
Vigil in memory of the Palestinian victims in Gaza, organized in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica on the afternoon/evening of November 2, 2023. Photo courtesy of the Palestine Solidarity Network / Costa Rica..

Brief Notes From A Public International Law Perspective

From a legal perspective, and in particular that of public international law, it is clear that international humanitarian law is fully applicable to the situation in Gaza since the evening/night of October 7, and that both sides must respect its rules when carrying out their military operations. One in particular, which is to clearly discriminate, in their operations, between military targets and the civilian population.

Recently, a notorious number of professors of public international law and foreign relations in Spain have circulated a collective letter (see full text), which has been joined by several Latin American academics, demanding respect for these rules of international humanitarian law.

In points 6 and 7 it is indicated that:

On the other hand, in points 10 and 11 of this collective letter (whose complete reading, as well as its re-reading, we recommend), it is pointed out that:

In the same sense, the Spanish Association for the Application of International Human Rights Law (AEDIDH) had pronounced earlier, also from Spain, in a communiqué whose reading is recommended, recalling that the similar Israeli military offensive in Gaza in 2014 by Israel is already of interest to a specific branch of public international law: international criminal law. On this last aspect, we had at the time the opportunity to analyze a decision of February 4, 2021 of a Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorizing the Office of the Prosecutor to carry out investigations in all Palestinian territories, without exception of any kind: a decision, as has become customary, little publicized in some international media (Note 1).

Returning to the human tragedy that has been unfolding in Gaza since October 7, we thank our esteemed readers for sending us similar pronouncements from associations of professors of international law, as well as from similar human rights organizations, extremely cautious and cautious in Latin America and in some other latitudes, despite the images of what is happening to the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza.

In the particular case of the United States, the American Journal of International Law(ASIL) issued a statement on October 13 condemning the Hamas attack (see full text) from the perspective of international law. After this statement, he has chosen not to refer any more to what is happening in Gaza.

By contrast, in Ireland, in a collective appeal by professors calling on Irish universities to suspend sine die their relations with Israeli entities (see letter con fecha del 4/11/2023), it reads that:

Bolivia’s Communiqué Shortly

The official communiqué issued by the Bolivian diplomacy (see text) reads:

It should be noted that diplomatic relations between Bolivia and Israel were formally reestablished in November 2019. It should also be recalled that, on the occasion of the Israeli military ground offensive in Gaza in July 2014, several Latin American States had similarly reacted to the disproportionate and indiscriminate nature of Israel’s attacks against the civilian population of Gaza (see BBC article). On that occasion, we had the opportunity to write that:

Note 2

In August of this same year 2014, Ecuador announced that its president was canceling a planned official visit to Israel, after recalling its ambassador to Israel for consultation the previous month (see note from the BBC August 2014).

It is also worth recalling that, in the Americas, Nicaragua broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2010, following Israel’s attack on a humanitarian flotilla (see press release from LaPrensa, June 2010), while Cuba has not had relations with Israel since 1967. Venezuela severed diplomatic relations with Israel in January 2009, following the dramatic military offensive in Israel observed between December 2008 and January 2009 (see press release from El Pais/Spain). Like Venezuela in 2009, Bolivia also broke off diplomatic relations with Israel and officially resumed them a few years ago, at the end of November 2019 (see press release from 2019 of the Turkish news agency TRT).

The conclusions of the report issued by the Commission of Inquiry (created within the United Nations – Human Rights Council – in relation to the Israeli offensive carried out between December 2008 and January 2009) continue to be a constant source of concern, particularly in light of what has been happening in Gaza since October 7 (Note 3). Similarly, in 2014, a commission of inquiry was created within this same Human Rights Council on July 23, 2014, with a voting board in Geneva recording a single red vote against: that of the United States (Note 4).

A Strange Feeling Of “Déjà Vu”

In this regard, it should be noted that, in the past, military offensives in Gaza officially carried out by Israel to also “eliminate Hamas terrorists” have shown dramatic deadly results for the Palestinian civilian population, very little reported in some international media:

  • in 2014, following the military offensive in Gaza (70 dead on the Israeli side, including 67 soldiers killed during the ground offensive), 2,251 people were killed on the Palestinian side, including 551 children (see link to access the report prepared by the United Nations and its summary). We invite our esteemed readers to review the figures and establish a macabre “ratio” of Palestinian casualties for every life lost to Israel.

An interesting publication in Israel that gathers the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who participated to this 2014 ground offensive (see full text of the publication entitled “This is how we fought in Gaza“) allows to know the type of instructions received by their military superiors and to better understand how such a high “ratio” could have been reached.

  • in 2009, the military offensive carried out in Gaza between December 28, 2008 and January 17, 2009 by Israel (see link)resulted in the deaths of 13 Israelis and approximately 1,400 Palestinians (see casualties section, paragraphs 352-364 from this report of the United Nations).

Annex II (page 434 onwards) of the aforementioned report on the 2009 military operation includes the sustained correspondence with Israel in the face of its persistent refusal to cooperate with the members of the UN commission of inquiry.

As a point of interest, a recent report on the damage caused in Gaza during the only Israeli military offensive in 2014, prepared by UNDP, estimates the amount to be over US$ 1.7 billion, stating that:

(véase informe, p. 26).

It is likely that the Israeli military response which, these days, consists of “avenging” the 1400 Israeli victims of last October 7, will once again condemn a large part of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza to suffering and pain, due to military operations carried out by Israel in an indiscriminate and disproportionate manner.

Last October 10, 2023, the aforementioned international commission of inquiry – created within the Human Rights Council since 2021 (see link) – announced that it was starting to gather information on what happened since October 7 (see its official statement).

As part of the Israeli military strategy, several journalists’ teams have been directly targeted by shelling, both in Gaza and on the border with Lebanon, as well as buildings housing news agencies: the Committee to Protect Journalists has counted the deaths of 33 journalists since October 7 (seepress release del 1/11/2023).

Follow closely the situation in Gaza and Israel thanks to the international law professor, Nicolas Boeglin.
Photo extracted from press release “Manifestation propalestinienne à Washington”, Le Figaro (France), 4/11/2023 edition.

A Rupture Of Diplomatic Relations At A Time When Palestinian Casualties Are Rising Dramatically

The breakdown of relations between Bolivia and Israel comes at a time when the casualty figures in Gaza are dramatically increasing. The images of a desperate population overwhelmed by incessant bombardment, composed mostly of children and women, are daily since Israel began its bombing campaign in the afternoon/evening of October 7.

As indicated at the beginning of these reflections, the latest situation status as of November 12, 2023 prepared by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA, see official link) indicates the following balance since the beginning of the death and injury count on October 7 in Israel and Gaza:

  • on the Palestinian side, 11,078 people have been killed and 27,490 injured in Gaza and 172 people have been killed and 2,586 injured in the West Bank.
  • on the Israeli side, on the Israeli side, 1200 people were killed (all on October 7 and in the following days: this figure was initially estimated at 1400 and was revised downwards). Of the deaths of people in Gaza, 47 are said to be Israeli soldiers in the battalions of the ground offensive.

The same situation status prepared 10 days earlier, as of November 2, 2023, showed the following balance:

  • on the Palestinian side, in Gaza, 9061 people were killed and 22,911 injured, to which should be added – in the West Bank – 132 people were killed and 2281 wounded; while in the Gaza Strip, the number of people killed and 2281 wounded was
  • on the Israeli side, 1400 people were killed and 5400 wounded, as well as 17 deaths in Gaza (with no indication of the wounded) and one death in the West Bank (and 13 wounded): of these 17 deaths in Gaza, 14 were Israeli soldiers taking part in the ground offensive.

The situation status as of October 31, 2023 showed the following balance:

  • on the Palestinian side, 8525 people were killed in Gaza and 21,543 injured, to which should be added – in the West Bank – 123 people were killed and 2209 wounded, while in the Gaza Strip – 123 people were killed and 2209 wounded.
  • on the Israeli side, 1400 people were killed and 5431 wounded, as well as 4 deaths in Gaza (and 3 wounded) and one death in the West Bank (and 13 wounded).
Follow closely the situation in Gaza and Israel thanks to the international law professor, Nicolas Boeglin.
Photo taken from this press release entitled “Bilan du Hamas: 5000 morts dont 2055 enfants, dans la bande de Gaza”, Le Journal de Québec, edition of 10/23/2023.

In order to have an idea of how these figures evolve, the statement of condition as of October 26, 2023 showed the following balance:

  • on the Palestinian side, 7028 people were killed and 18,482 injured in Gaza, to which should be added – in the West Bank – 103 killed and 1956 injured, while
  • on the Israeli side, 1400 people were killed and 5431 wounded, as well as one death in Gaza (and 11 wounded) and one death in the West Bank (and 3 wounded).

We can go back a little further in time, to the situation  as of October 21, 2023/strong>, which showed the following balance:

  • on the Palestinian side, in Gaza, 4385 people were killed and 13,561 injured, to which must be added – in the West Bank – 84 killed and 1653 injured; while in the Gaza Strip, 4385 people were killed and 13,561 injured, and in the West Bank – 84 killed and 1653 injured.
  • On the Israeli side, 1400 people were killed and 4932 wounded.

The figures show that between October 21 and November 2 alone, more than 5600 people died in Gaza. And if we update the data to November 12, we can state that between October 21 and October 12, 6693 people died in Gaza.

At a session of the United Nations Security Council held on October 30, 2023, it was read by a senior UN agency official (see full text) that:

We had the opportunity to analyze the content, the scope and the little support received by Israel (and its faithful US ally) on the occasion of the adoption by the UN General Assembly last October 27 of a resolution demanding a humanitarian truce in Gaza (Note 5). On that occasion, among the 14 votes against which Israel and the United States were able to muster, only Guatemala and Paraguay voted in Latin America. In Europe, only Austria, Croatia, Hungary and the Czech Republic voted against the resolution.

Chile And Colombia And Honduras: Ambassadors Recalled For Consultations

Este mismo 31 de octubre, Chile anunció haber llamado a consultas a su embajador en Israel, en señal de profunda indignación ante lo que ocurre en Gaza. Its official communiqué (see link) reads as follows (reproduced in full):

For its part, Colombia has proceeded in the same manner (see link to its press release), stating (text reproduced in its entirety) that:

This Friday, November 3, the head of Honduran diplomacy himself announced to the national press that he had taken a decision similar to that of Chile and Colombia (see press release from LaPrensa, Honduras).

As can be seen, the initial expressions of deep solidarity towards Israel expressed after the events of October 7 by numerous States, including Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Honduras, have been progressively replaced by official manifestations of profound rejection of the type of military response chosen by Israel.

The Consultation Calling Technique

The recall of an ambassador for consultations should be understood as a political gesture by which a State makes known to another State its profound repudiation of actions considered offensive in some cases.

This is a fairly refined technique in international diplomatic practice, which sends a clear message that every diplomatic apparatus knows how to read.

The recall of an ambassador for consultations is generally considered as a first signal, usually opening a period of time for the State whose actions are questioned to either rectify, clarify or change its attitude.

It may constitute the preamble for subsequent more significant actions of a very diverse nature, particularly when it is considered that the State whose conduct gave rise to the call for consultation has not substantially modified its actions and has ignored this first warning.

South America And The Events In Israel And Gaza Since October 7, 2023

It should be noted that both Chile and Colombia had expressed, like many other Latin American and world States, their deep solidarity with the Israeli victims of the attack perpetrated by Hamas on October 7 in Israeli territory, in terms that we had the opportunity to reproduce at the time (Note 6).

For its part, on November 1, Brazil, whose initial official communiqué of October 7 also deserved to be reproduced and can be found in the aforementioned reference, expressed its deep satisfaction with the possibility of repatriating 34 people (including nationals and family members) from the Gaza Strip (see press release).

For its part, a press release (see official link/a>) dated the same November 1, reads from Argentina that the bombing of the Jabalia refugee camp also caused deep indignation, reading a vehement “nothing justifies“:

An earlier communiqué from Uruguay, much less vehement and explicit than Argentina’s, without mentioning Israel or Hamas, or even the civilian population of Gaza, dated October 25 (see full text) evidences in some way Uruguay’s deep disagreement with what is happening in Gaza.

As can be seen, the condemnation of Hamas and the solidarity initially expressed by States from various latitudes to the Israeli families who suffered the attack perpetrated on October 7 has gradually migrated to expressions of solidarity with the defenseless civilian population trapped in Gaza and the repudiation caused by the aerial bombing campaign that Israel has been carrying out since that date under the argument of wanting to “eradicate Hamas terrorists“: an argument, by the way, already heard in 2009 and 2014.

This same November 1st, Mexico also chose to raise the tone demanding an immediate ceasefire and respect for international humanitarian law in the face of the harsh images coming from Gaza (see press release official press release).

The Repercussions of the Bolivian, Chilean and Colombian gesture in the Arabian Peninsula and Beyond

Unless we are mistaken, since October 7, no State has announced that it will recall its representative in Tel Aviv for consultations or suspend diplomatic relations with Israel.

With this gesture by Bolivia, and those of Chile, Colombia and Honduras, it is very likely that other foreign ministries in Latin America will consider that the time has come to express some form of repudiation of Israel’s disproportionate and indiscriminate military actions against the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza. These reactions will not necessarily be limited to Latin America.

This is for example the case of Jordan, which announced a similar measure this November 1st in the morning hours in relation to its ambassador in Tel Aviv (see cable from Reuters).

This November 4, it was Turkey that adopted the same decision with a brief communiqué (see official link) that reads as follows:

On November 5, it was the Chadian authorities who proceeded to recall their representative in Israel for consultations (see account on FaceBook of Chadian diplomacy).

The day before, on November 4, South Africa issued through its diplomatic authorities an extremely vehement official communiqué towards Israel (see full text), announcing a greater gesture of repudiation in the coming days. Indeed, after having recalled all its diplomatic staff in Israel for consultations (and not only its ambassador), South Africa had to listen to statements by the Israeli ambassador to South Africa, who, on November 10, was publicly called upon to maintain sanity and respect for the South African authorities; see official communiqué of November 10, which states that

With regard to the Arabian Peninsula, it is appropriate to refer to a poorly publicized joint statement dated October 26, 2023 by nine states (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Koweit, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) demanding that Israel suspend its actions against the civilian population (see text reproduced in this link from the Bahrain News Agency – BNA) which also reads that:

This statement is important insofar as these States include some that have chosen to normalize their relations with Israel in recent years (Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates), in addition to Egypt and Jordan, which did so in 1979 and 1994 respectively.

Within 48 hours of this joint statement, Bahrain expressed a vehement press release (see text) in which.

This communiqué can be seen as a prelude to greater diplomatic action by Bahrain in future days in the diplomatic sphere in repudiation of Israel, inspired by what has been announced by Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Honduras since November 3.

Similarly, Morocco’s official communiqué released this November 2 (see full text) anticipates a possible wake-up call to Israel.

Finally, we refer the reader to the final resolution (see full text) of a joint summit of Arab and Islamic states, held in Saudi Arabia on November 12, which denounces the manner in which Israel is carrying out its hostilities in Gaza. The text reads in particular that these states:

Condemn the killing of journalists, children, and women, the targeting of medics, and the use of internationally banned white phosphorus in the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip and Lebanon; denounce the repeated Israeli statements and threats to return Lebanon to the “Stone Age”; emphasize the importance of preventing the expansion of the conflict; and call on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate Israel’s use of chemical weapons. // Emphasize on that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and call on all Palestinian factions and parties to unite under its umbrella and shoulder their responsibilities under a PLO-led national partnership.

It seems that, unintentionally, Israel’s disproportionate and indiscriminate military actions by its army in Gaza since October 7 are helping to unite the states claiming to be of the Muslim faith around the world, as has rarely been observed. As for the gradual normalization achieved by Israel’s diplomacy since 2020 with some Arab states, it is being seriously questioned and may well be suspended in some cases.

In conclusion

As in July 2014, it is Latin America that has decided to significantly raise the tone with Israel in the face of the drama being experienced in Gaza by the Palestinian civilian population, besieged by continuous bombardment since the afternoon/evening of October 7.

Israel’s usual wrathful gesticulations (see press release from Times of Israel which gathers official reactions to the Bolivian gesture) should not make much of an impression. Many still remember the fact that Israel’s highest authorities called the International Criminal Court (ICC) “antisemitic” when its Office of the Prosecutor conducted an investigation into the events in Gaza in July 2014 (see note from Times of Israel March, 2021).

It is quite possible that Bolivia’s gesture, as well as those of Chile, Colombia, and Honduras, as well as the communiqué of Argentina, and to a lesser degree of Uruguay, will inspire other States: either by resorting to the same type of announcement (suspension or severance of diplomatic relations or recall of ambassadors to Tel Aviv for consultation), or by freezing trade relations with Israel, or by proceeding to some other type of sanction or public recrimination of their highest authorities, as a sign of deep indignation and rejection of the way in which Israel is carrying out its military operations in Gaza.

Text shared by Nicolás Boeglin, Professor of International Public Law, School of Law, University of Costa Rica (UCR). Contact: nboeglin@gmail.com


If you were interested in this article, here’s another one you might care about: Hamas attack from Gaza and the “total siege” of Gaza announced as an Israeli response: some notes from a public international law perspective (sensorialsunsets.com)


Notes

Note 1: See BOEGLIN N., “International Criminal Court (ICC)/Palestine: the end of impunity for perpetrators of war crimes committed in Palestine?“, February 5, 2021 issue. Full text available here.

Note 2: See BOEGLIN N., “A year after the beginning of the operation “Protective Margin”: brief notes from the perspective of international law“, CURI Studies (Centro Uruguayo de Relaciones Internacionales), No. 7/2015, p. 14. Full text available here. We also refer to another article BOEGLIN N., “Reacciones en América Latina a la operación “Margen Protector” del ejército israelí en la franja de Gaza“, CEMOAN, Universidad Nacional (UNA), No. 15, August 2014. Full text available here.

Note 3: The September 2009 “Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict prepared by the United Nations documented the scope of Israeli military actions in Gaza at that time. Its conclusions state that:

In addition, the Goldstone report stated that:

Note 4: The dashboard and the detail of the recorded vote can both be reviewed in the note that was prepared on July 23, 2014. The report of this commission of inquiry is available at this official UN link and includes a set of maps, satellite shots and statistical data that are of great interest when looking at what is happening in Gaza since the afternoon/evening of October 7, 2023.

Note 5: See BOEGLIN N., “Gaza / Israel: on the overwhelming majority by which the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a halt to violence in Gaza and respect for international humanitarian law“, October 27, 2023 edition. Text available here.

Note 6: See BOEGLIN N., “Hamas attack on Israel and the “total siege” announced as Israeli response: some notes from a public international law perspective“, La Revista cr, October 20, 2023 issue. Text available here.