Israel using 'starvation as weapon of war' in Gaza Strip: HRW

Israel using 'starvation as weapon of war' in Gaza Strip: HRW
Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of using starvation as a means of war in the Gaza Strip, noting that it has cut off food, water, and fuel.
3 min read
18 December, 2023
The humanitarian situation in Gaza is catastrophic due to Israel's siege and ongoing bombardment [Getty]

The Israeli government is using starvation as a weapon of war in the Gaza Strip, constituting a war crime, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Monday.

The delivery of food, water, fuel, and humanitarian aid to Gaza is being hindered by Israel, the rights group said, leading to catastrophic conditions for civilians.

Israel is also bulldozing agricultural lands in Gaza, depriving the civilian population of indispensable resources essential for survival.

Referring to international humanitarian law, as stipulated by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, HRW said starving civilians was a war crime.

"Criminal intent does not require the attacker’s admission but can also be inferred from the totality of the circumstances of the military campaign."

It added that the 16-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which started shortly after Israel’s withdrawal from the enclave in 2005, also constituted a war crime.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel, as the occupying power, is obliged to provide food and medical supplies to the people of Gaza, HRW added.

"In addition to the crushing siege, the intensive Israeli army air strikes on the Gaza Strip caused extensive damage or destroyed materials necessary for the survival of the civilian population," the NGO added.

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said world leaders should be speaking out against this "abhorrent war crime."

"For over two months, Israel has been depriving Gaza's population of food and water, a policy spurred on or endorsed by high-ranking Israeli officials and reflecting an intent to starve civilians as a method of warfare," he said.

Shakir added that Israel’s government was "compounding its collective punishment" of Gaza’s population, calling for the international community to take urgent and effective measures to address the "deepening humanitarian catastrophe" in the Palestinian territory.

Since 7 October, Israel’s indiscriminate air and ground attacks in the Gaza Strip have killed over 18,800 people, most of them women and children, according to the Palestinian territory’s health ministry. Over 50,000 more have been wounded.

Nearly all the region’s inhabitants have been forcefully displaced by the Israeli military’s bombardment, launched on the same day Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing close to 1,200 people and taking hundreds more hostage.

There have been international calls to place Israeli officials on trial for the Gaza genocide, considering the disproportionate use of force, huge death toll, and fears of expelling the Palestinians from the area.