National | Media Release

Food cannot be a weapon of war in Gaza: Organizations Coalition Statement on the siege of Gaza

We, the undersigned, condemn the catastrophic situation now unfolding in Gaza, in which food is illegally being denied to  civilian populations. Under no circumstance can it be justified to use food as a weapon of war

Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip is depriving essential food, fuel, water, electricity and medicine to 2.2 million Palestinian  people, nearly half of whom are children. Moreover, the continued air strikes prevent safe access to what few provisions  arrive in the Gaza Strip. Early in the morning of 29 Feb, more than 100 people were massacred by Israeli forces and at least  700 others wounded in northern Gaza as they waited for food aid to be delivered. 

The denial of access to food and water is a violation of international humanitarian law relating to the protection of  civilians in times of war, including the Geneva Conventions and their protocols. The International Court of Justice has  ordered Israel to do everything in its power to avoid committing genocide, which it has considered “plausible” given the  statements of fact provided by South Africa. 

In 2018, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2417, which strongly condemns the starving of civilians as a method of  warfare, as well as the unlawful denial of humanitarian access depriving civilians of “objects indispensable to their survival”.  This includes food and water. Five years on, we note that the deplorable situation in Gaza is the latest example of food  being continually weaponized in conflicts around the world. 

Gaza had already endured a devastating 16-year blockade and long-standing occupation, where 62% of the population  required food assistance. On 19 October, UN experts expressed serious concerns about the tightening of the siege and  recalled that “the UN Security Council has repeatedly condemned the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare,  which is prohibited under international humanitarian and criminal law.” Withholding food and water from an entire  population, as Israel is now inflicting on Gaza, amounts to collective punishment – also illegal under international law. 

This vicious cycle of conflict and food insecurity needs to be broken. The right to food is a fundamental and universal  human right

To avert further catastrophic impacts, we call for safe, unimpeded and sustained access to food, water and other  humanitarian assistance to be restored for civilians in Gaza. Aid flows must urgently be sped up and scaled up, and must  include fuel for running hospitals and operating water pumps. We support the reinstatement of funding for UNRWA, as  the best organization to provide humanitarian assistance, according to even Israeli and US officials. Mark Miller, US State  Department spokesperson said “There is no other humanitarian player in Gaza who can provide food and water and  medicine at the scale UNRWA does.” 

Further, we call for an immediate ceasefire, an end to the violence and the return of hostages and prisoners, as  precursors to a just political process that will enable sustainable peace and security and build a basis for lasting food  security. 

Finally, we call for the respect of international law and for an end to the use of food as a weapon of war. 

With thanks to the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) who released a statement upon  which we base this text, updated from the original released on 24 Oct