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Israel risks breaking international law with Gaza siege: UK

Israel will break international law by denying Gaza food, water, UK FM Cameron says
2 min read
14 February, 2024
David Cameron has warned that Israel is breaching international law in Gaza while denouncing Tel Aviv’s planned offensive on Rafah.
Hundreds of protesters marched against Israeli attacks on Gaza and Rafah, in San Francisco, California, United States on February 13, 2024. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Israel could break international law if it blocks the entry of food, water, and aid to the people of Gaza, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron told lawmakers on Tuesday.

Cameron's remarks appear to be his sharpest criticism of Israel so far, despite a months-long total siege on Gaza and Israeli shelling and bombing killing over 28,000 Palestinians.

The comments follow Cameron's earlier statement in January on the same matter, when he told MPs under intense questioning that he was not sure whether withholding water to Gaza would constitute a war crime, saying that he is "not a lawyer".

“But my view is they ought to switch it on because [in] the north of Gaza, the conflict is effectively over there — and so getting more water and power into northern Gaza would be a very good thing to do,” he said at the time, inadvertently admitting that Israel had indeed blocked water supply to the Palestinian territory.

In the same hearing in January, Cameron avoided referring to Gaza as an occupied territory, but on Tuesday conceded that Israel must ensure the supply of food, water, and aid as the occupying power.

His latest remarks to parliament come as Israel plans for a full-blown offensive on Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where over 1.4  million people are seeking shelter.

"The people who are in Rafah on many occasions have already moved three, four or five times," Cameron told the House of Lords.

"And it’s not possible to move again, they can’t go north because they’d be going back to homes that have been destroyed. They can’t go south, because that would involve going into Egypt, which none of us want to see and the Egyptians do not want to see."

Images of the aftermath of Israeli bombing in Rafah shocked the world on Monday, including of human remains blown to pieces and allegedly a child left dead and hanging from the side of a building. The Israeli raid killed at least 67 Palestinians.

The Israeli army has forced Palestinians across Gaza to relocate multiple times to areas it claimed would be "safe", before pummelling residential buildings and infrastructure to the ground.

With more than half of the strip’s pre-war population of over 2 million now stranded in Rafah, humanitarian organisations have warned that an offensive would have catastrophic consequences.

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Many displaced Palestinians fear that Israel will try to push them over the border into Egypt, which Cairo opposes.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed over 28,000 Palestinians, including more than 12,000 children, according to health authorities in the coastal enclave.