Food Security Organizations Coalition Statement on the siege of Gaza

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April 12, 2024 - Food Security Organizations Coalition Statement on the siege of Gaza

March 18, 2024

We, the undersigned organizations, 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. Matthew 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 October 2023.

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