13 October 2023
The Humanitarian Catastrophe in Gaza
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation in South Africa condemns in the strongest possible terms Israel’s violation of the Geneva Conventions and the abandonment of International Humanitarian Law in Gaza, by their intentional denial of food, water, electricity, and fuel to the people of Gaza.
According to the World Health Organisation, the complete blockage of the Gaza Strip announced by Israel remains in effect. Israeli authorities have stopped their electricity and water supply to the Gaza Strip, and no movements of food, fuel, health, other humanitarian supplies or patients are allowed – worsening the already dire situation.
Article 14 of the Geneva Convention categorically states:
“Starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited. It is therefore prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works”.
According to the Fourth Geneva Convention,
“Civilians in areas of armed conflict and occupied territories are protected by the 159 articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Civilians are to be protected from murder, torture, or brutality, and from discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, religion or political opinion”.
The UN Commission on Human Rights has previously declared Israel’s “continuous grave breaches” of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I to be war crimes.
International Humanitarian Law includes the obligation not to target civilian populations, and the responsibility to protect civilians in armed conflict. Israeli bombardments from the air, sea, and land have continued and intensified across the Gaza Strip for the sixth consecutive day. This is an egregious violation of International Humanitarian Law. According to the latest report from OCHA, the continual bombardment of the Gaza strip has now resulted in over 423,00 internally displaced people, this represents an increase of 24 percent over the past 24 hours. Two-thirds of the IDPs are taking shelter in UNRWA schools.
Today’s announcement by Israel giving 1.1 million Gazans 24 hours to leave the Northern Gaza strip and evacuate to the South of Gaza will lead to further catastrophe as according to humanitarian organisations on the ground, there are not enough resources to host so many IDPs in other governorates – not enough shelter, aid or water. The UN has announced that UN schools turned into shelters are already overrun with shortages in resources, including food, water, medicine, and other humanitarian provisions as required under International Law.
According to OCHA’s most recent report, since yesterday at 14h00 Gaza has been undergoing a full electricity blackout, which has brought essential health, water, and sanitation services to the brink of collapse, and exacerbated food insecurity. This followed Israel’s halt of its electricity and fuel supply to Gaza on 8 October, which in turn triggered the shutdown of Gaza’s sole power plant yesterday after it depleted its fuel reserves.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed yesterday that “crucial life-saving supplies, including fuel, food and water, must be allowed into Gaza”.
Between 100 and 150 Israelis, including soldiers and civilians, some of whom are women and children, as well as some foreign nationals, have been captured and forcibly taken into Gaza. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also called for the “immediate release of all Israeli hostages, which is also forbidden under International Humanitarian Law”.
South Africa calls on Israel to immediately heed the calls of the UN Secretary General, the plethora of humanitarian organisation operating in Gaza, and a number of governments around the world to immediately provide water, food, fuel, and electricity to the people of Gaza. South Africa also calls for the release of the Israeli hostages taken into Gaza.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road