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Israel government continues to block aid response despite ICJ genocide court ruling, says Oxfam

Oxfam Australia 4 mins read

International community resorts to sea routes and air drops rather than challenge Israel for systemically undermining unfettered access of relief

Israeli authorities have rejected a warehouse full of international aid including oxygen, incubators and Oxfam water and sanitation gear all of which is now stockpiled at Al Arish just 40 km away from the border of 2.3 million desperate Palestinians in Gaza.

The aid originates from many humanitarian organisations around the world and has been rejected over weeks and months as result of an unpredictable and chaotic regime of approval, scanning and inspection, ultimately controlled by Israeli authorities. The reasons for rejection are not clear, says Oxfam.

In a new report today, Oxfam said this rejected aid was just one example of an overall humanitarian response that Israel has made so dangerous and dysfunctional as to be impossible for aid agencies to work at the speed and scale necessary to save lives, despite best efforts.

Oxfam says that Israel’s government ultimately bears accountability for the breakdown of the international response to the crisis in Gaza. It is failing in its legal responsibilities to the people whose land it occupies and breaking one of the key provisions demanded by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – to boost humanitarian aid in light of the risk of genocide in Gaza.

Oxfam believes that people living in Gaza will suffer mass death from disease and starvation far beyond the current 31,000 Palestinian war casualties unless Israel takes immediate steps to end its violations.

“The ICJ order should have shocked Israeli leaders to change course, but since then conditions in Gaza have actually worsened,” said Oxfam Middle East and North Africa Director, Sally Abi Khalil. “The fact that other governments have not challenged Israel hard enough, but instead turned to less effective methods like airdrops and maritime corridors is a huge red flag, signalling that Israel continues to deny the full potential of better ways to deliver more aid”.

“Israeli authorities are not only failing to facilitate the international aid effort but are actively hindering it. We believe that Israel is failing to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide,” Abi Khalil said.

Oxfam’s report “Inflicting Unprecedented Suffering and Destruction” identifies seven crucial ways that Israel is actively preventing the delivery of international aid into Gaza and punishing all Palestinians living in Gaza by deliberately depriving them of life and safety.

The report says that Israeli authorities:

  • Only allow aid in via two crossings into Gaza – at Rafah and KarmAbu Salem/Kerem Shalom – despite having total control to open more, thereby creating avoidable choke points for aid;
  • Are leading a dysfunctional and undersized inspection system that keeps aid snarled up, subjected to onerous, repetitive and unpredictable bureaucratic procedures that are contributing to trucks being stranded in giant queues for 20 days on average;
  • Are routinely and arbitrarily rejecting items of aid as having “dual (military) use”, banning vital fuel and generators entirely along with other items vital for a meaningful humanitarian response such as protective gear and communications kit. Much rejected aid must go through a complex “pre-approval” system or end up being held in limbo at the Al Arish warehouse in Egypt;
  • Have cracked down on humanitarian missions, largely sealing off northern Gaza, and restricting international humanitarian workers’ access not only into Gaza, but Israel and the West Bank including East Jerusalem too.

Israel has allowed 15,413 trucks into Gaza during the past 157 days of war. Oxfam says the population of Gaza needed five times more than that just to meet their minimum needs. In February, Israel allowed 2,874 trucks in – a 44% reduction from the month before.

Israel’s actions are also undermining international aid by its continued military assault inside Gaza, unparalleled in terms of intensity, brutality and scope – and which Israeli leaders themselves have called a “total siege” – as Oxfam highlights:

  • Israel’s assault has caught Gaza’s own aid workers and international agencies’ partners inside a “practically uninhabitable” environment of mass displacement and deprivation, where 75% of solid waste is now being dumped in random sites, 97% of groundwater made unfit for human use, and the Israeli state using starvation as a weapon of war;
  • Israel has rendered nowhere in Gaza safe amid the forcible and often multiple displacements of almost the entire population, which makes the principled distribution of aid unviable, including agencies’ ability to help repair vital public services at scale;
  • Its attacks are disproportionate and indiscriminate upon civilian and humanitarian assets – including people – such as solar, water, power and sanitation plants, UN premises, hospitals, roads, and aid convoys and warehouses, even when these assets are supposedly ‘deconflicted’ after their coordinates have been shared for protection. 

“The state of Israel has created the perfect storm for humanitarian collapse and only the state of Israel can fix it,” Abi Khalil said.

Celine Maayeh, the Advocacy and Research Officer for one of Oxfam’s partner organisations in Gaza, Juzoor for Health and Social Development, said:

“Juzoor has been overwhelmed with support from all over the world, but we’re so frustrated in our helplessness and inability to actually get enough aid into Gaza. For the first few weeks, we managed to procure whatever we could get our hands on from local markets. Now, there is almost nothing — no resources, no supplies. In the North the situation is beyond dire. There’s been an alarming increase in cases of malnutrition among children in the last month , and yet the only food the team is able to find to feed people living in 45 shelters is some vegetables. There is an indisputable, man-made, intentional deprivation of aid that continues to suck the life out of any and all humanitarian operations, including our own.”

Oxfam is calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end the death and suffering because the measures intended to protect civilians or give them aid are not working. Armed Palestinian groups must release the civilian hostages they hold unconditionally. Displaced people should be allowed to return home in safety.

Other states are obliged to take all diplomatic, economic and political actions necessary to prevent genocide in Gaza, to enable more aid and to prevent the possibility of Palestinians being forcibly displaced outside of Gaza. States should discontinue their arms sales and other forms of security assistance that would facilitate the risk of genocide and ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity by Israel upon Gaza.

Oxfam says that Israel’s 16-year illegal blockade had already left Gaza in a weakened state. “The international community has failed both Palestinian and Israeli people by ignoring the root causes of this decades-long conflict,” Abi Khalil said. “It is abundantly clear that military force cannot resolve this, but only intensify the cycles of violence.”

“Israel must lift its total blockade of Gaza and belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory and we call on all parties – finally – to work toward a fair, just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians grounded in international law,” she said.

NOTES TO EDITOR

For interviews, contact Lucy Brown on 0478 190 099 / lucyb@oxfam.org.au

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