Five human rights organizations petition Israel’s High Court: Israel is preventing the supply of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilian population, especially in north Gaza, in violation of international law

On Monday, March 18th, five human rights organizations in Israel filed a petition (Hebrew) calling on Israel’s High Court to order the Israeli government, Prime Minister, Defense Minister, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to enable access of all humanitarian aid, equipment and staff to Gaza, especially to the north of the Strip; to significantly increase the volume of aid to Gaza, including by opening land crossings between Gaza and Israel, and to provide for all the needs of the civilian population in keeping with Israel’s obligations as the occupying power.

The petition came in light of the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and the lethal harm to civilians caused, in part, as a result of Israeli restrictions on access to aid into and throughout the Strip. The petition was filed by Gisha together with HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Adalah.

Israel’s unprecedented assault on Gaza and the siege it has imposed for more than five months since the horrific attacks of October 7 have led to utter devastation: Some 75% of Gaza residents have been internally displaced. Civilians, most of them women and children, are killed every day in Israeli military attacks throughout the Strip and are dying as a result of starvation, dehydration, the collapse of medical services, and dire sanitary conditions. The situation is particularly extreme in areas north of Wadi Gaza, where some 300,000 residents face acute malnutrition.


The humanitarian situation in Gaza was grim before the current war, first and foremost a result of Israel’s closure policy and its repeated military offensives in the Strip. Israel’s decisions, post-October 7, to block the supply of electricity, to significantly limit the supply of water and fuel, to block all entry of goods for almost two weeks and to continue to restrict the entry of aid into the Strip, and especially its distribution to the north, have severely exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, harmed the functioning of critical civilian infrastructure and created life-threatening shortages in basic necessities. Ongoing hostilities and their widespread impact, including on agriculture, have paralyzed industry and most food production in the Strip.


Official claims made by Israeli authorities whereby there is “no limit” to aid entering Gaza contradict the facts on the ground: According to reports by the UN and other international organizations, Israel is effectively preventing access to aid by imposing obstacles during the inspection process and on the distribution of aid throughout the Strip. Israel has systematically denied access to the north of Gaza and failed to protect humanitarian staff from its bombardments and other dangers posed by the collapse of civil order.


The petitioning organizations clarified that claims concerning military necessity or diversion of aid cannot warrant restricting supply, nor justify Israel’s violations of its obligations to facilitate aid operations, protect civilians and treat them humanely. Measures touted by Israeli officials such as aid drops, the opening of a sea route to Gaza or building of a costly floating pier, which could take months, cannot answer the urgent needs of 2.2 million Palestinians and are an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the international community, while continuing to evade responsibility for the crisis.


Israel’s failure to take immediate, effective steps to increase the flow of aid to civilians throughout Gaza is a flagrant violation of its obligations under international law both as an occupying power and as a party to the hostilities. This failure also goes against Israeli legal precedent, and is a breach of the provisional measure set by the International Court of Justice on facilitation of aid: “The situation on the ground suggests that Israel is, inter alia, employing collective punishment to a point that may amount to starvation as a weapon of war, as well as violating other orders that impose on it the obligation to enable swift, uninterrupted supply of needed aid and even to provide all goods necessary for the civilian population.” The petition further states: “The fact that children have died and continued to die in the north of Gaza as a result of malnutrition should have shaken the respondents, the Israeli public, and the world at large to their foundations. Instead, the respondents did nothing to change their ways and continue to trample the basic human rights of Gaza residents.”


To view the full petition (Hebrew), click here.

Photo by Atia Mohammed fromFlash90