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"Human Rights Watch argues that a blockade to strike at a terrorist organization constitutes a collective penalty against a civilian population, in violation of Article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention. This argument won’t stand up. Blockades and other forms of economic sanction are permitted in international law, which necessarily means that civilians will suffer through no fault of their own. Most attention has focused on the question whether Israeli commandos used excessive force while taking control of one of the flotilla ships, which resulted in nine deaths. Human Rights Watch says that Israel’s actions violated the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. However, that document is not international law; its principles are akin to a set of "best practices" for advising countries with poorly trained police forces. It is also vague and it would not apply to a military operation. Military operations must respect the principle of proportionality, which is a fuzzy, "know-it-when-you-see-it" test. But one thing is clear. Ships that run blockades may be attacked and sunk under international law. If Israel had exercised that right, far more than nine people would have been killed."