Conflicts & War

Rights group says Israel uses starvation as weapon of war in Gaza

Jerusalem, Dec 18 (EFE).- Israel is committing war crimes by depriving Gazans of food and water and weaponizing starvation in its offensive against the Islamist group Hamas, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

“Israeli forces are deliberately blocking the delivery of water, food, and fuel while willfully impeding humanitarian assistance, apparently razing agricultural areas, and depriving the civilian population of objects indispensable to their survival,” the rights group said in a statement.

This policy is “spurred on or endorsed by high-ranking Israeli officials and reflecting an intent to starve civilians as a method of warfare,” said Omar Shakir, the organization’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“World leaders should be speaking out against this abhorrent war crime, which has devastating effects on Gaza’s population,” he stressed.

The New York-based organization interviewed several Strip residents, who described shortages of clean water and food: “You are on a constant search for things needed to survive,” said one father of two.

The United Nations World Food Program reported on December 14 that 93 percent of internally displaced households had inadequate food consumption, while access to water remained very limited—less than 2 liters per person per day—when it is estimated that 17 are needed to survive.

“International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, prohibits the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare,” HRW recalled, adding that intentionally starving civilians by “depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies,” is a war crime.

The war broke out on Oct. 7 after Hamas launched thousands of missiles toward Israel and some 3,000 militiamen of the group infiltrated Israeli towns near the Strip, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping another 250.

Since then, Israel has continued counterattacks by air, land, and sea, leaving more than 19,000 dead and 51,000 injured—most of them women and children—in the Strip.

In addition to fatalities and injuries, 1.9 million people, who constitute 85 percent of the total population of the Strip, have been displaced.

They are living in tents in the middle of winter amid a deep humanitarian crisis due to the collapse of hospitals, the outbreak of epidemics, and the shortage of drinking water, food, medicine, electricity, and fuel.

Israel, which has blockaded the Gaza Strip since 2007 by air, land, and sea, imposed a complete services cut-off on Oct. 9, resumed water supplies to some parts of southern Gaza on Oct. 15, and starting on Oct. 21, allowed limited humanitarian aid.

However, the aid that has arrived across the border between Egypt and the enclave has proven insufficient.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would not allow humanitarian assistance to enter Gaza through its borders.

But after pressure from the United States on Sunday, it opened its Kerem Shalom crossing and let 79 trucks with humanitarian aid enter the Stripe. EFE

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