The legal status of the Gaza Strip following the 2005 Israeli ‘Disengagement’, as well as the applicability of the laws of belligerent occupation with regard to this territory, have sparked, and continue to generate, a lively academic debate, involving states, organisations and legal scholars. Nevertheless, this debate has seldom included an examination of the de facto policy exercised by Israel vis-à-vis Gaza residents themselves.
This article seeks to fill the gap by providing a thorough examination of Israel's legal position towards the residents of Gaza, and a critical analysis of its policy and practice with regard to their movement as well as the movement of goods. This review, based on dozens of policy papers, regulations and procedures, as well as numerous judgments handed down by Israeli courts, reveals that Israel maintains a deliberately deficient and ambiguous legal position with regard to the status of Gaza residents. Under this position, the residents are merely ‘foreign residents’ who have no particular rights in relation to Israel. I argue that this position establishes a major legal vacuum in the protection afforded to Gaza residents and is therefore incompatible with both the reality of Israel's continuous control over Gaza as well as the objects and norms of international humanitarian law.