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Israel-Gaza war: Human Rights Watch says starvation is being used as ‘a weapon of war’ by the Israeli government

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19 December 2023, ABC / Reuters / AFP

The Israeli government is using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, according to the latest report from Human Rights Watch.

The body said the blocking by the Israeli government of food, water and fuel was a war crime.

“For over two months, Israel has been depriving Gaza’s population of food and water, a policy spurred on or endorsed by high-ranking Israeli officials and reflecting an intent to starve civilians as a method of warfare,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.

“World leaders should be speaking out against this abhorrent war crime, which has devastating effects on Gaza’s population.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 11 displaced Palestinians in Gaza between November 24 and December 4.

They described their profound hardships in securing basic necessities.

“We had no food, no electricity, no internet, nothing at all,” said one man who had left northern Gaza.

“We don’t know how we survived.”

In southern Gaza, those interviewed described the scarcity of potable water, the lack of food leading to empty shops and lengthy lines, and exorbitant prices.

You are on a constant search for things needed to survive,” said a father of two.

In the report, it advised the Israeli government not to attack objects it said were necessary for survival for civilians and to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip and restore electricity and water.

Israeli hostages killed by IDF had written SOS signs

The three Israeli hostages killed in a case of mistaken identity by forces from their own country had written SOS signs, according to Israel’s military.

The military said it found the signs, made from leftover food, in a building near where the incident happened.

It comes as one of those killed, Alon Shamriz, 26, was buried on Sunday.

Mr Shamriz, Yotam Haim and Samer El-Talalqa were killed by Israeli troops in a case of mistaken identity in Gaza’s Shejaia district.

The three were killed even though they carried a white flag and cried for help in Hebrew.

“Those who abandoned you also murdered you after all that you did right,” Mr Shamriz’s brother Ido said at the funeral.

“You survived 70 days in hell,” Mr Shamriz’s mother, Dikla, said in her eulogy.

“Another moment and you would have been in my arms.”

Chief of General Staff LTG Herzi Halevi said while speaking to troops that the incident “could easily not have happened”.

“If it’s two Gazans with a white flag coming out to surrender why would we shoot at them?” he said.

“Absolutely not. Absolutely not. That’s not the IDF.”

Israel says it has found the largest Hamas tunnel yet

Israel’s military said it uncovered a Hamas tunnel, designed to carry carloads of militants from Gaza to the border.

The military said it found what it described as a flagship Hamas project 100 metres south of Israel’s Erez crossing.

In a video posted by IDF, the tunnel is shown running down diagonally to a depth of 50 metres, where it expands to a relatively roomy three metres in height and width, with electrical fittings.

The video could not be independently verified and Hamas is yet to comment.

Israeli chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the full length of the tunnel was 4 kilometres — long enough to reach into northern Gaza City.

It was “the biggest tunnel we found in Gaza … meant to target the (Erez) crossing,” Rear Admiral Hagari said.

“Millions of dollars were invested in this tunnel. It took years to build this tunnel … Vehicles could drive through.”

Israel has said one of its primary goals since launching an offensive after Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack was to disable hundreds of kilometres of underground tunnels.

US Secretary of Defense arrives for talks in Israel

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to press Israel to wind down major combat operations in Gaza after arriving in the region.

The visit will be the latest test of whether the US can leverage its unwavering support for the offensive to blunt its impact on Palestinian civilians.

American officials have called for targeted operations aimed at killing Hamas leaders, destroying tunnels and rescuing hostages.

The US has vetoed calls for a cease-fire at the UN and rushed munitions to its close ally while pressing it to take greater steps to avoid harming civilians.

Pope deplores deaths of women sheltering in Gaza parish

Pope Francis has deplored the deaths of two women in a Catholic parish in Gaza, where he said “unarmed civilians” were targeted in shootings and bombings.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said on Saturday a Christian mother and daughter had been shot dead by an Israeli soldier on the grounds of the Gaza Strip’s only Catholic church.

“I continue receiving very serious and sad news about Gaza,” the pope said on Sunday.

“A mother and her daughter… were killed and other people were wounded by the shooters.

“This has happened even within the parish complex of the Holy Family, where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick and have disabilities.”

The Israeli army told AFP it had been contacted by church representatives about an incident in the Holy Family Parish, but said “no reports of a hit on the church, nor civilians being injured or killed, were raised”.

“A review of the IDF’s operational findings support this,” it added.

Israel’s army says it “does not target civilians, no matter their religion”.

“The IDF takes claims regarding harm to sensitive sites with the utmost seriousness — especially churches — considering that Christian communities are a minority group in the Middle East,” it added.

Christian families have been sheltering there since the Israel-Gaza war broke out, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said.

“Nahida and her daughter Samar were shot and killed as they walked to the Sister’s Convent. One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety,” it added.

The patriarchate said no warning had been given before the shooting started, and they were “shot in cold blood”.

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Article source: ABC / Reuters/ AFP | 19.12.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000