Press Releases

The Obligation to Prevent Genocide Includes the Provision of Unrestricted Humanitarian Aid
The Obligation to Prevent Genocide Includes the Provision of Unrestricted Humanitarian Aid

As the Israeli genocidal war against the Gaza Strip surpasses 100 days, third party states have failed to fulfill their obligations and could be complicit and/or involved in Israel’s genocide. Concerned states allege that there needs to be an end to the humanitarian crisis, however, they have done almost nothing to bring Israel into compliance with its obligation to provide unrestricted aid. At the same time, the United Nations’ Security Council, General Assembly, agencies and international organizations call for immediate measures to address the crisis, but they have not developed specific plans on how to do so that also clearly determine the responsibilities of states. There is no excuse or substitute for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and unrestricted humanitarian aid.

Aside from enforcing a ceasefire, states’ obligation to prevent genocide also requires challenging and halting Israeli policies and practices that prevent and restrict humanitarian aid delivery and operations in the Gaza Strip.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in Article 8(2)(b)(xxv) states: “Intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions” is a war crime. While Article 7(1)(K) declares that “Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health” is a crime against humanity.

Therefore, Israel ignoring or rejecting its obligations to provide unrestricted aid, along with dictating the quantity, quality, type, and delivery conditions of humanitarian aid constitute both a war crime and/or a crime against humanity. More importantly, Israel’s intentional deprivation of aid and starvation of Palestinians constitute acts that aim and lead to their destruction, in whole or in part - in other words, their genocide in the Gaza Strip.

In a recent statement by UN Special Procedures, they stated: “We have raised the alarm of the risk of genocide several times reminding all governments they have a duty to prevent genocide. Not only is Israel killing and causing irreparable harm against Palestinian civilians with its indiscriminate bombardments, it is also knowingly and intentionally imposing a high rate of disease, prolonged malnutrition, dehydration, and starvation by destroying civilian infrastructure, [. . .] Aid needs to be delivered to Gazans immediately and without any hindrance to prevent starvation.” This situation, according to the case filed by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), is designed to bring about the “destruction of Palestinian life in Gaza” and constitutes genocide.

Israeli permission, or the lack thereof, does not justify the ongoing and increasing starvation, dehydration, disease, famine, and malnourishment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, “causing great suffering”. The absence of Israel’s permission or compliance does not absolve states from their obligation to prevent genocide. By allowing Israel to deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of “objects indispensable to their survival”, third states are not only failing to fulfil their obligation to prevent genocide, but are also guilty of aiding and abetting Israeli genocide, according to the Genocide Convention.

Furthermore, the UN and its agencies are required to articulate a plan for the provision of aid, reestablishment of humanitarian operations in all of the Gaza Strip, the establishment of safe shelters and the consequences in the (likely) event of Israel’s non-compliance. This plan must be fully executed by UN and international agencies, with the endorsement and support of all UN organs and its member states.

Regardless of Israeli claims, the aid that is entering the Gaza Strip is nowhere near enough and Israel still continues to prevent aid provision, distribution and operations. UNRWA Commissioner General, Philippe Lazzerini, stated: “There is very little information about the north of the Gaza Strip, as access to the area remains highly restricted. I was not authorized to visit; our convoys and aid trucks are often delayed for long hours at the checkpoint. Meanwhile, many desperate people now approach our trucks to get food directly off them, without waiting for distribution. By the time the Israeli authorities give our convoys the greenlight to cross, trucks are almost empty.”   

In the first week of the war, in a clear example of “wilfully impeding relief supplies”, Israel bombed the Rafah border crossing, imposed a complete aid siege, and warned the Egyptian government not to supply aid to Gaza. Then, in its oral hearing before the ICJ, Israel shifted blame      to the Egyptian government for the aid delivery problems,      despite the evident fact that humanitarian aid provision in the Gaza Strip is under the control and discretion of Israel. While Israel has recently permitted a small group of UN staff to travel to the north, it is an explorative expedition, not a humanitarian mission to provide aid and services, nor to re-establish operations there. Israel is also using the guise of allegedly increasing aid provision to distract both the international community and mislead the ICJ proceedings against it.

For states to ensure that they adhere to their obligations to prevent and not aid and abet genocide, the following practical measures are required, without any further delay:

  1. Other than pledging funds and aid, third states are required to take all measures to challenge and halt Israel’s genocidal acts of the restriction and obstruction of aid that are “intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health” through widespread starvation, famine, disease, and malnutrition.
  2. States must ensure that Israel immediately eliminates the unjustified security and logistical measures that delay delivery, end the prohibition and limitation of specific materials, such as fuel, and facilitate the operations of all UN and humanitarian agencies.
  3. In the event of Israel’s non-compliance, third states are obligated to enact diplomatic, economic and military sanctions against Israel to force its compliance.
  4. States must adhere to and enforce the plan of measures put forth by the UN and its agencies.

In order for the UN, its organs and agencies to adhere to their obligations to prevent and not be complicit in genocide, they are required to:

  1. Outline a plan of measures to ensure the immediate, efficient and adequate entry, distribution and access of aid, re-initiate and sustain operations in all parts of the Gaza Strip, and establish safe shelters.
  2. The plan must include the responsibilities of its member states to prevent genocide, and clarify the consequences for ignoring or rejecting international obligations, including the consequences for states’ involvement in genocide.