Human Rights Watch has accused the Israeli government of deliberately withholding essential supplies, including water, food, and fuel, in the Gaza Strip in violation of international law.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Energy Minister Israel Katz have been implicated in statements expressing an intention to deprive Gazan civilians of basic necessities. In a report released on Monday, HRW argues that these statements reflect an official policy being implemented by Israeli forces and amount to a war crime.
The conflict began on 7 October with Hamas-led attacks in southern Israel that caused widespread casualties. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the subsequent Israeli bombardment and ground offensive has resulted in significant destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza. The Israeli military have also been accused of severely damaging Gaza’s health sector, potentially causing more deaths from disease than from the conflict itself.
“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,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at HRW.
According to the report, displaced Palestinians in southern Gaza reported water shortages, empty shops, long lines for basic goods, and high prices. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) had earlier said that a significant number of households in both northern and southern Gaza were experiencing days without food, putting them at high risk of famine.
Recalling that international humanitarian law prohibits the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, HRW said the ongoing blockade of Gaza for more than 16 years constitutes collective punishment and a war crime.
The watchdog called for an immediate end to the use of starvation as a method of warfare, the lifting of the blockade and the restoration of essential services. They urged concerned governments, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany, to suspend military aid and arms sales to Israel until these alleged abuses cease.