Is Gaza Starvation A War Crime?

Photo: Pixabay. Palestinian children standing near a bombed out building.
- Advertisement -

After months of warnings, a recent UN-backed report has offered hard statistical evidence that the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, where more than half the buildings have been destroyed by Israeli bombing is turning into a “man-made famine”, reports the BBC.

It has increased the pressure on Israel to fulfil its legal responsibilities to protect Palestinian civilians, and to allow adequate supplies of humanitarian aid to reach the people who need it.

The UN’s most senior human rights official, Volker Türk, said in a BBC interview that Israel bore significant blame, and that there was a “plausible” case that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza.

Mr Türk, who is the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that if intent was proven, that would amount to a war crime.

Israel’s economy minister, Nir Barkat, a senior politician in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, dismissed Mr Türk’s warnings as “total nonsense – a totally irresponsible thing to say”.

Like his cabinet colleagues, Mr Barkat insisted that Israel was letting in all the aid offered by the US and the rest of the world. Israel says the UN fails to distribute whatever is left once Hamas has helped itself.

But a long line of lorries fully loaded with aid supplies desperately needed in the Gaza Strip is backing up on the Egyptian side of the border with Rafah. They can only enter Gaza through Israel, after a complex and bureaucratic series of checks which Israel says are to make sure that terrorist supplies are not entering in relief trucks.

The absence of adequate supplies has forced Jordan, and now other countries including the US and UK, to drop aid from the air – the least effective way to deliver humanitarian supplies.

Palestinians on the ground fighting to secure a share have drowned as they try to swim to pallets that have landed in the sea, or have been crushed when parachutes fail.

The US Navy is also sending an engineering flotilla across the Atlantic to build a temporary pier to land aid by sea.

None of that would be necessary if Israel granted full road access to Gaza and expedited the delivery of relief supplies through the modern container port at Ashdod, only about half an hour’s drive north of the Gaza Strip.

In an interview from Geneva, Mr Türk said evidence had emerged that Israel was slowing down or withholding the delivery of aid.

Mr Türk condemned the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers on 7 October, including killing, rape and hostage-taking. But he also said that no side in the war should evade accountability for its actions, including for any attempt to withhold aid supplies from the people who need it in Gaza.

“All of my humanitarian colleagues keep telling us that there is a lot of red tape. There are obstacles. There are hindrances… Israel is to blame in a significant way,” he said.

“I can only say the facts speak for themselves… I understand that this needs to be controlled, but it cannot take days for it to be done.

“When you put all kinds of requirements on the table that are unreasonable in an emergency… that brings up the question, with all the restrictions that we currently see, whether there is a plausible claim to be made that starvation is, or may be used as, a weapon of war.”

Concern about humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip deepened last week with the release of a soberly written commentary alongside a series of maps, charts and statistics. It prompted more warnings from Israel’s allies that it should change the way it is fighting the war against Hamas to spare civilians from death from either high explosive or hunger.

The study is the latest report from a respected international network, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, known as IPC. It provides governments, the UN and aid agencies with apolitical data to measure the scale of hunger. The headline on the report was stark – “Gaza Strip: Famine is imminent as 1.1 million people, half of Gaza, experience catastrophic food insecurity.”

Its data explained how famine could come at any time in the next eight weeks or so if there was no ceasefire and relief aid did not pour into the Gaza Strip.

Israel has ignored the UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire. Nir Barkat, the Israeli economy minister, said that nothing would be allowed to get in the way of Israel’s war aim of smashing Hamas for good and freeing the hostages taken on 7 October.

Allies around the world, he said, supported Israel’s strategic goal. When I pointed out many of Israel’s friends, starting with US President Joe Biden, did not like the way Israel was fighting the war, Mr Barkat was blunt.

“That’s tough. We are going to finish the war. We’ll do everything we can to kill the Hamas terrorists and to minimise collateral damage as much as we can,” he said.

“With all due respect, we’re fighting evil, and we expect the world to help us fight evil until we finish Hamas off the map.”

Source: BBC.
- Advertisement -