Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – Human Rights Watch announced that the Israeli government is using starvation as a method of war in the occupied Gaza Strip, which constitutes a war crime, stressing that the Israeli army is deliberately preventing the delivery of water, food, and fuel, while deliberately obstructing humanitarian aid, and appears to be bulldozing agricultural areas, depriving the civilian population of materials indispensable for their survival.
Omar Shaker, director of Israel and Palestine affairs at Human Rights Watch, said: “For more than two months, Israel has been depriving the residents of Gaza of food and water, a policy that was urged or supported by senior Israeli officials, and reflects the intention to starve civilians as a method of war,” stressing that “World leaders must raise their voices against this abhorrent war crime, with devastating effects on the people of Gaza.”
He continued: “The Israeli government is doubling its collective punishment of Palestinian civilians and preventing humanitarian aid by using the cruel use of starvation as a weapon of war. The worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza requires an urgent and effective response from the international community.”
The organization indicated in its statement that it met 11 displaced Palestinians in Gaza between November 24 and December 4, who described the severe difficulties they face in securing basic necessities. A man leaving northern Gaza said: “We had no food, no electricity, no internet, nothing at all. We don’t know how we survived.”
In southern Gaza, interviewees described scarcity of potable water, food shortages that led to empty stores, long queues, and exorbitant prices. “You are constantly searching for the things needed to survive,” said a father of two children.
Human Rights Watch continued: “International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.” The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stipulates that intentionally starving civilians (by depriving them of items indispensable to their survival, including intentionally obstructing relief supplies) is a war crime. Criminal intent does not require the attacker to confess, but can also be inferred from the overall circumstances of the military campaign.”
She stressed that the ongoing Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip, as well as its continuous closure for 16 years, amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population, which is a war crime, pointing out that “Israel, as the occupying power in Gaza under the (Fourth Geneva Convention), has the duty to ensure “Access of the civilian population to food and medical supplies.”
She continued: “In addition to the crushing siege, the Israeli army’s intense air strikes on the Gaza Strip caused extensive damage or destroyed materials necessary for the survival of the civilian population.”
Human Rights Watch stressed that “the Israeli government must immediately stop using starvation of civilians as a method of war,” stressing that it must commit to prohibiting attacks on targets necessary for the survival of the civilian population, and lift its siege of the Gaza Strip. She added: “The government must restore the provision of water and electricity, and allow the entry of urgently needed food, medical aid, and fuel into Gaza through the crossings, including Kerem Shalom.”
It considered that the concerned governments must demand that Israel stop these violations, and that the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, and others must suspend military aid and arms sales to Israel as long as its army continues to commit serious and widespread violations that amount to war crimes against civilians with impunity.