Under Siege: The Deliberate Obstruction of Aid to Gaza's Famine-Stricken Population

Oxfam accuses Israel of blocking humanitarian aid into Gaza, causing reduced aid traffic and famine risk. International cooperation needed to prevent genocide in Gaza.

Under Siege: The Deliberate Obstruction of Aid to Gaza's Famine-Stricken Population
Gaza, Palestine, Man image. © Hosny Salah, February 9, 2021, via Pixabay

21-03-2024

Masoumeh Rahimi

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

On March 18, 2024, Oxfam, an NGO that provides relief services during the Israel-Palestinian conflict, in a report, accused Israel of “deliberately” blocking humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Oxfam elaborated that Israel tries to use bureaucracy to justify these hindrances.  The NGO referred to the rejection of a warehouse full of international aid, including oxygen, incubators, water, and sanitation gear. 

According to this report, the Israeli military service has blocked 25% of humanitarian aid since the beginning of 2024. This is not the first time that human rights institutions have spoken of such violations by Israel. Before that, the Human Rights Watch reported that, according to UN data, the average amount of relief aid traffic in the Gaza Strip had reduced to 30%, which warns of the possibility of a deliberate famine. According to Israeli government information, just 245 vehicles carrying supplies arrived in Gaza on February 25, 2024; this is less than half of the daily average before the conflict. Furthermore, the World Food Program declared that “it was forced to suspend aid truck deliveries to Northern Gaza”; this decision was mainly because the conditions for humanitarian aid missions are completely unsafe.

These cases of human rights violations occurred in January 2024, when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered “immediate and effective measures” to prevent the risk of genocide in Gaza by ensuring adequate humanitarian services such as food and clean water.

Such actions by Israel are gross violations of human rights, which were the main core of the case South Africa v. Israel before the ICJ. However, Israel rejected the case brought by South Africa and called this case a “grossly distorted story.”

In such a situation, relief organisations and NGOs required a third state to use their power to apply a lasting cessation of the Israeli authorities’ deliberate blockade of life-saving aid in the entire Gaza Strip. In fact, humanitarian organisations are asking for the full opening and lifting of restrictions on the crossings at Rafah, Kerem Shalom, Karam Abu Salem, Erez, Beit Hanoun, and Karni.

The concerns about famine crises and the risk of genocide have increased, especially with the beginning of Ramadan in Palestine. According to formal statistics, at least 30,035 Palestinians have been killed and over 70,457 others injured since the beginning of the conflict in October 2023. According to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, two-thirds of these statistics include women and children. The probability of genocide in Palestine rises if these circumstances persist. 

Although the ICJ warned Israel by releasing a binding interim ruling in January, this judicial body does not have the power to enforce its decisions. The Israeli government has disregarded the Court's decision and stepped up its repression. However, what is clear is that finding a solution to the famine crisis in Gaza requires international cooperation between the UN, NGOs, and third-party states. Otherwise, the disorderly situation in Gaza will worsen every single day and might lead to a human rights catastrophe.

Sources and further readings:

‘Oxfam Accuses Israel of ‘Deliberately’ Blocking Aid to Famine-Stalked Gaza’ (Al Jazeera, 18 March 2024), <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/18/israel-deliberately-blocking-medical-aid-from-gaza-oxfam-report-warns>, accessed 21 March 2024.

‘Human Rights Watch Says Israel Is Violating Order from Top U.N. Court by Blocking Aid to Gazans’ (PBS NewsHour, 26 February 2024), <Human Rights Watch says Israel is violating order from top U.N. court by blocking aid to Gazans | PBS NewsHour>, accessed 21 March 2024.

Gordon, Anna, ‘Human Rights Watch Accuses Israel of Blocking Aid to Gaza’ (Time, 26 February 2024), <Human Rights Watch Accuses Israel of Blocking Aid to Gaza | TIME>, accessed 21 March 2024.

Amnesty International, ‘Israel Defying ICJ Ruling to Prevent Genocide by Failing to Allow Adequate Humanitarian Aid to Reach Gaza’ (26 February 2024), <Israel defying ICJ ruling to prevent genocide by failing to allow adequate humanitarian aid to reach Gaza/>, accessed 22 March 2024.

Amnesty International, ‘Gaza: Airdrops and Sea Routes Are No Alternative to Aid Delivery by Land: 25 NGOs Call on Governments to Prioritize Ceasefire and Ground-Based Humanitarian Aid as Deaths from Malnutrition and Disease Rise’ (13 March 2024), <Gaza: Airdrops and sea routes are no alternative to aid delivery by land - Amnesty International> accessed 22 March 2024.

Batrawy, Aya, ‘Gaza's Death Toll Now Exceeds 30,000. Here's Why It's an Incomplete Count’ (NPR, 29 February 2024), <Gaza death toll surpasses 30,000 but it's an incomplete count : NPR> accessed 22 March 2024.

Amnesty International, ‘Israel Defying ICJ Ruling to Prevent Genocide by Failing to Allow Adequate Humanitarian Aid to Reach Gaza’ (26 February 2024), <Israel defying ICJ ruling to prevent genocide by failing to allow adequate humanitarian aid to reach Gaza/>, accessed 22 March 2024.