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Israel's Complaint to the Security Council Concerning Interference by Egypt with Shipping to the Israeli Port of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba, S/3168, Add. 1

(January 29, 1954)

On 28 January 1954, Israel complained to the Security Council against the naval blockade imposed by Egypt in the Straits of Tiran giving ingress to the Gulf of Aqaba and Eilat. Text of the complaint follows:

I have the honour to submit herewith a memorandum on the "Question of free passage in Suez Canal and Gulf of Eilat" in explanation of the issues involved in Israel's complaint against Egypt, referred to in my letter of 28 January 1954 [S/3168].

I herewith request that this memorandum be circulated as a Security Council document.


(Signed) Abba Eban
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
of Israel to the United Nations


Question of free passage in Suez Canal and Gulf of Eilat

1. On 1 September 1951, over two and a half years after the signature of the General Armistice Agreement between Egypt and Israel, the Security Council adopted a Resolution, without dissent [S/2322], calling upon Egypt "to terminate the restrictions on the passage of international commercial shipping and goods through the Suez Canal wherever bound and to cease all interference with such shipping beyond that essential to the safety of shipping in the Canal itself and to the observance of the international conventions."

2. This Resolution was adopted after the Security Council had decided that the Egyptian practice of interfering with shipping passing to and from Israel through the Suez Canal was "inconsistent with the objectives of a peaceful settlement between the parties and the establishment of a permanent peace in Palestine set forth in the Armistice Agreement"; and, moreover, that it was "an abuse of the exercise of the right of visit, search and seizure". These findings were based on the principle that, since the General Armistice Agreement of 1949 marked the permanent end of the military phase of the conflict and specifically forbade all hostile acts, "neither party [could] reasonably assert that it [was] actively a belligerent or required to exercise the right of visit, search and seizure for any legitimate purpose of self-defence". Despite the clear injunction of the Security Council on 1 September 1951, and its rejection of the Egyptian claim to exercise belligerent rights, the Government of Egypt has persisted in its illegitimate interference with shipping passing through the Suez Canal and has since extended the blockade to shipping passing to and from the Israeli port of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba.

3. All ships passing through the Canal are subject to arbitrary arrest and search. In cases where the cargoes contain articles defined as contraband under an Egyptian Government decree of 6 February 1950, these goods have been confiscated and the ships inscribed on a so-called black list. The practice of the Egyptian Government in regard to shipments destined for Israel has been continued despite the injunction of the Security Council. Recently the list of contraband in article 10 of the Egyptian decree has been extended by an amendment to that decree, under which "food and all other commodities which are likely to strengthen the war potential of the Zionists in Palestine in any way whatever" shall also be considered as war contraband. Under the same decree all the commodities enumerated in the catalogue of contraband are to be regarded as such even when passing Egypt's territory or territorial waters in transit. This second amendment constitutes a further aggravation of an already grave breach of international law. The Egyptian Government has defied the Security Council, the Charter of the United Nations and the General Armistice Agreement between Israel and Egypt, first, by maintaining regulations and practices ruled by the Security Council as illegitimate, and then by extending those regulations still further. More serious even than these confiscations has been the very existence of the regulations themselves with the aim and effect of depriving Israel and other States of their undoubtedly sovereign rights to trade freely in international waters.

4. Those illegal practices have been extended to a new area and recently aggravated. On 25 January 1954 regulations were instituted by Egypt to prevent passage of ships to the Israeli port of Eilat. Whether such interference is carried out at the Suez Canal or from Egyptian positions overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba they are equally piratical and illicit. The denial by the Security Council of Egypt's alleged rights of war renders the blockade practices in the Suez Canal and in the Gulf of Eilat comprehensively illegal.

5. The Government of Egypt has defined its policy in an explanatory memorandum to the amended decree in the following terms:

"The Anti-Israel Boycott Committee1 asked for the passing of legislation designed to tighten the siege against Israel both by confiscating all Israeli goods of all kinds and by seizing all ships carrying goods to or from Israel, as is being practiced in all other Arab countries. The Arab Governments also asked Egypt to take appropriate measures in order to confiscate food shipments going to Israel through Egyptian territorial waters in a manner similar to the measures undertaken by the Governments of Iraq, Syria and Jordan. These Governments have not made any distinction between war contraband and food. They are confiscating all shipments going to or coming from Israel as they consider them to be enemy property

"Similarly, the Director of the Coastal Guard Department submitted a memorandum pointing out that Israel was showing increasing economic activity and was establishing a merchant fleet to handle all its imports from South and East Africa. In conclusion the Director asked that the Decree of 10 February 1950 be amended in such a manner as to allow confiscation of food and other commodities, and he pointed out that the committee of Ministerial Under-Secretaries expressed agreement with this view.

"In view of the fact that modern wars are characterized by the total mobilization of all economic resources in support of the war potential, as well as by the direct or indirect participation of the peoples in the belligerent States, it has become difficult to distinguish between the fighting forces and the civilian populations, and between the supplies destined for one or the other of them. It has therefore become customary in international relations to regard all imports of a belligerent State as war contraband. Consequently Egypt has to take sterner measures to attain the desired end. "

6. The claim of Egypt to the exercise of rights of war against Israel is inherently offensive to the Charter and was specifically and categorically rejected by the Security Council in its resolution of I September 195 1. It follows, therefore, that the Egyptian practice of interference with shipping trading with Israel through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba, and all the official decrees on which such practice is based, are arbitrary acts of unilateral hostility in flagrant violation of this resolution and of other international obligations binding upon Egypt in respect of free passage through the Suez Canal.

7. During the past two years, the Egyptian Government has on occasion released certain confiscated cargoes, after receiving the protests of States whose sovereignty and maritime rights Egypt has thus dishonoured. But the release of an isolated ship or cargo does not in any way free the Government of Egypt from its clear obligation unconditionally to terminate all exercise of its illegal regulations, thus removing all threats and deterrents to the freedom of all countries to pass their shipping through the Canal to any desired destination.

3. It is very disquieting to find that a member State of the United Nations has maintained and aggravated such a major violation of the General Armistice Agreement for several years, even after final adjudication by the Security Council. There is no precedent in the history of the area for this protracted defiance of the Security Council's authority in the maintenance of international peace and security. The Government of Israel will refuse to acquiesce in this arbitrary violation of its international rights, carried out in the name of a hostile policy which the United Nations has condemned, and of an evil economic blockade to which the members of the United Nations and other States owe not the slightest degree of just deference.

9. The continued practice of these acts of war is bound to weaken the integrity of the armistice agreement, to deprive the decisions of the Security Council of their due authority, and to aggravate the threat to peace and security in the Middle East.

1. This Committee includes representatives of all member States of the Arab League.


Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs