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The Suez-Sinai Campaign: Egyptian Decree Regarding Suez Canal

(February 6, 1950)

In May 1948, as Egyptian forces were invading Palestine, the Egyptian Government established a maritime blockade against Israel-bound shipping. Ships suspected of sailing to Israel were detained and searched, goods bound for Israel or suspected of being destined for Israel were confiscated Shipmasters had to produce a guarantee that their ships would not call in Israeli ports. This practice was in defiance of the Israel-Egypt armistice agreement and its interpretation by Dr. Ralph Bunche dated 26 July 1949. On 6 February 1950, the Egyptian Government promulgated a decree regarding navigation in the Suez Canal and published it in the Egyptian Official Journal (No. 36) on 8 April 1950. Text follows:

Decree on the procedure of ship and airplane searches and of seizure of contraband goods in connexion with the Palestine War

We, Farouk I, King of Egypt,

Having regard to article 4 of law No. 32 of 1950 concerning the Prize Council,

On the proposal of the Minister of War and the Navy and the Minister of Finance and with the approval of the Council of Ministers,

Do hereby decree as follows:

Article 1. The searching of ships for purposes of seizing war contraband shall take place in accordance with the provisions hereunder.

Article 2. One or more officials of the customs administration shall scrutinize the ship's manifest and check the nature of the cargo so as to ensure that it contains no arms, munitions, war material or other articles considered war contraband and shipped directly to institutions or persons on Palestinian territory under Zionist control.

Article 3. Force may at all times be used against any ship attempting to avoid search, where necessary by firing so as to force it to stop and submit to search. Where the search subsequently reveals that the ship is not carrying any contraband it shall be permitted to continue its voyage.

Article 4. If the crew of the ship resists the search by force, the ship shall be deemed to have lost its neutrality by reason of the hostile act. In that event the ship may be arrested, even if the search reveals that it was not carrying contraband and the cargo may be impounded for that reason, unless the owner proves his innocence.

Every case of this nature shall be referred to the Prize Council.

Article 5. The searching party shall begin by scrutinizing the ship's papers, particularly the log book, the manifest and the bills of lading.

Article 6. The search may take place at any time by day or by night. It shall, nevertheless, take place in daytime if the master so prefers, provided the request is recorded in the report of the search which the master shall sign.

Article 7. Where it appears from the ship's papers that the ship is suspect, or where there is some special knowledge or other information giving grounds for suspicion, the ship may be searched exhaustively irrespective of its place of departure or destination.

Article 8. In order to facilitate the search formalities, the cargo may be unloaded If the search party deems such a course necessary, or if the master himself requests it to avoid delay.

Article 9. Any ship which has already been searched in an Egyptian port may not be searched a second time in another Egyptian port during the same voyage, except where the master has requested that the first search be partial and concluded in another port.

Article 10. The following articles when intended for the enemy shall be deemed war contraband and seized as prize:

(1) Arms, munitions, war material and their appurtenances, explosives, and explosive substances of every kind;

(2) Chemicals, drugs, apparatus and instruments capable of being utilized for chemical warfare;

(3) Fuel of every kind;

(4) Aircraft, ships and spares for either;

(5) Motor vehicles and trailers necessary for military forces;

(6) Cash, ingots of gold and silver, negotiable securities and metals, raw materials, planks, machinery, and other objects necessary to its manufacture or adaptable to that purpose.

Article 11. Cargo shall be deemed intended for the enemy whenever:

(1) It is being shipped directly to persons or institutions on Palestinian territory occupied by the enemy;

(2) It is being shipped indirectly to such persons or institutions. This shall be presumed in any of the following circumstances:

(a) If the cargo is loaded on a ship calling at Palestinian ports controlled by the enemy;

(b) If the cargo is shipped on a vessel proceeding to any Mediterranean port in the vicinity of a port controlled by the enemy;

(c) If the cargo is loaded on a ship which has previously been arrested or which is known to carry war contraband for the Zionists in Palestine;

(d) If there are on board no documents disclosing the destination of the cargo, or if such documents have been intentionally destroyed or lost;

(e) If the ship's papers contain a false particular or mistake;

(f) If the owner of the ship or the consignee of the cargo is associated with the Palestine Zionists or Government, or if their trade is closely connected with concerns situated on Palestinian territory controlled by the Zionists, or depends on such concerns;

(g) If the consignor or consignee is listed on the black list kept for that purpose as a carrier of contraband for the Zionists.

Each of the presumptions listed in sub-paragraphs (a), (d) and (e) shall be sufficient in itself to warrant search of the vessel and seizure of any war contraband that may be found therein. In the case of the other presumptions, at least two mutually corroborating presumptions must be present to establish that the cargo is intended for the enemy. The fact that the goods are shipped under a bill of lading to order or in the name of the shipper himself or of the shipping company to which the vessel belongs or of one of its subsidiaries shall not be considered a presumption of suspicion.

Article 12. A detailed inventory of the articles seized shall be drawn up. It shall give particulars of the type, quality and quantity of the articles seized and shall be signed by the master or his representative.

Article 13.

The articles seized may as a rule be released only upon a declaration that the Egyptian authorities have released these articles on the basis of documents and information supplied by the parties concerned after the seizure.

Article 14.

Perishable articles and articles excessively costly to store may be sold immediately and the proceeds placed on deposit pending a decision on their disposition.

Articles seized which have become spoiled or are unsuitable for local consumption owing to health or agricultural quarantine measures shall be destroyed, unless a bid is made for their purchase for the purpose of re-export.

Article 15.

The provisions of articles 10 and 11 may be amended by an order of the Minister of War and the Navy issued with the approval of the Council of Ministers.

Article 16. For the purposes of applying the foregoing provisions, aircraft shall be treated on the same footing as sea-going vessels.

Article 17. Our Ministers shall be responsible, each in the matters which concern him, for the enforcement of this decree which shall enter into force on the date of its publication in the Journal Officiel.

Done at Koubbeh Palace, 19 Rabi Tani 1369 (6 February 1950).

For the K

Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs