The Israeli government is deliberately deepening the suffering of civilians in Gaza by refusing to restore the flow of water and electricity and blocking fuel shipments. Willfully impeding relief supplies is a war crime, as is collectively punishing civilians for the actions of armed groups.
On October 7, Hamas-led fighters crossed into southern Israel and committed the worst civilian massacre in Israeli history, gunning down families, burning people in their homes, and taking more than 200 hostages. Those atrocities were war crimes.
The fact that Palestinian fighters committed unspeakable war crimes against Israeli civilians does not justify Israeli authorities committing war crimes against Palestinian civilians.
Gaza’s infrastructure relies on the flow of electricity and drinking water from Israel and supply trucks entering via the Israeli crossings, but Israel cut those supplies following the attacks. By blocking objects necessary for the survival of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents, nearly half of whom are children, Israel is punishing all of Gaza’s civilians for Hamas’s attacks.
Israel, as the occupying power in Gaza, is required under the Geneva Conventions to ensure civilians have access to basic goods, and, as a party to the armed conflict, it must facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. During previous hostilities, it has maintained electricity and water supply to Gaza and found ways to open its truck crossings. Not this time. “We will not allow humanitarian assistance in the form of food and medicines from our territory to the Gaza Strip,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last week.
As of October 24, the Israeli military has allowed a total of 34 supply truckloads, overseen by UN agencies, to enter via Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza, far fewer than the 100 daily truckloads aid agencies say are the minimum needed. Israeli authorities have also refused to allow fuel, saying Hamas diverts it for its use. Fuel is desperately needed for hospital generators, water and sewage pumping, and aid delivery. While the laws of war allow a warring party to take steps to ensure shipments do not include weapons, deliberately impeding relief supplies is prohibited.
The roots of the violence in Israel-Palestine are multiple and run deep; the October 7 atrocities triggered another round of violence and tragedy for civilians in Israel and Palestine. All parties should respect international humanitarian law and not commit unlawful attacks on civilians. Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups should immediately release all civilian hostages. Israel should restore the flow of electricity and water, allow monitored fuel into Gaza via Rafah, and take the necessary steps to open its own crossings into Gaza for humanitarian aid.