Genocide in Gaza

Genocide in Gaza

Lara Kajs | 21 May 2024 |

For the last 229 days, the people of Gaza have been subjected to the horrors of war. Civilians have faced indiscriminate bombing, civilian communities targeted, deliberate air strikes on infrastructure including apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals, aid and medical supplies blocked, humanitarian workers have been killed, and starvation used as a weapon of war. All of these are considered war crimes, but they are also elements that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

In less than eight months, more than 35,000 civilians have been killed in Gaza, most of whom are children. At least 78,273 civilians have been injured, of which 75 percent are female. Children make up nearly 50 percent of the population in Gaza. Some 17,000 children have been separated from their families. More than 1 million children in Gaza need mental health and trauma care. After nearly eight months of an unrelenting assault on Gaza, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold for the crime of genocide has been met.

Identifying Genocide

Genocide is defined as a specific set of acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. Article II of the Genocide Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts: a) killing members of the group; b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) deliberately inflicting conditions with the intent to cause physical destruction in whole or in part; d) imposing measures intended to prevent births; and e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Israel has committed three acts with the required intent of committing genocide: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions intended to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, and imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group.

Human rights experts implored UN Member States to use all their power to stop the horrors occurring in Gaza. The UN Special Rapporteur said, “The world is witnessing the first genocide shown in real time to the world by its victims and unfathomably justified by Israel as compliant with the laws of war.”

ICC Takes Action

On Monday, Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) petitioned the court for indictments and arrest warrants against top officials of both Hamas and Israel to charge them with war crimes and crimes against humanity for their actions in the Oct 7th attack in Israel and the ongoing war between the two groups in Gaza.

Mr. Khan wrote, “We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population according to state policy. These crimes in our assessment, continue to this day.”

The prosecutor said that both Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant bear criminal responsibility for a list of war crimes including starving civilians, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury, killing, and intentionally directing attacks against civilian populations.

Additionally, the number of bombs used by the IDF to destroy Gaza City was the same as those used to destroy Mosul and Raqqa – combined. Airstrikes of that magnitude are intended to cause the most harm, and the most casualties, especially when directed at civilian communities, apartment buildings, and hospitals. A warring party does not accidentally destroy a city with air strikes. It is intentional.

No one is disputing that Israel, as well as any other State, has a right to defend its population. However, any action it takes in conflict must comply with IHL. Mr. Khan said how Israel chose to act in Gaza – “intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering, and serious injury to body or health of the civilian population – are criminal.”

Measure of Evidence

Satellite imagery and statements show that Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of necessities (food, water, shelter, medical resources) indispensable to human survival. This was accomplished by a total siege of Gaza that included a complete closing of three border crossing points: Rafah, Kerem Shalom, and Erez from 8 October 2023 for extended periods, and arbitrarily restricting the admittance of essential supplies – including food and medicine. The situation was further aggravated when Israel discontinued the principal source of clean water via cross-border water pipelines from Israel to Gaza and eliminated or severely limited Gazans’ access to electricity from 8 October to the present time.

Additionally, other attacks continued against civilians, including those waiting in line for food, as well as the obstruction of aid delivery by humanitarian agencies, attacks on humanitarian relief providers, and the killing of aid workers, which forced many humanitarian organizations to cease or limit operations in Gaza.

The prosecutor submits that these acts were committed as part of a common plan to use starvation as a weapon of war and other acts of violence against Palestinian civilians as a means to eliminate Hamas, secure the return of the hostages, and collectively punish the civilian population of Gaza, whom they perceive as a threat to Israel.

Threat to Rafah

As the OTP seeks arrest warrants, Israel continues to weigh a full-scale invasion into Rafah. An invasion by Israel of the densely populated city, where 1.5 million Palestinians have sought shelter following mass displacement, will increase the risk of atrocity crimes. Most of the people in Rafah escaped from the north as Israel invaded their homes. It is important to note that Israel is currently carrying out targeted ground attacks in Rafah.

Rafah is now a city of children with nowhere safe to go in the territory. The UN announced on Wednesday that it was discontinuing its food programs due to a lack of supplies and that it is too dangerous for aid workers. Israel has completely cut off help for Gazans. If large-scale military operations start, not only will children be at risk from the violence, but also from chaos and panic, at a time when their physical and mental health are already weakened. Yet again, they’ve been told to evacuate, but where should they go? There are no safe places in Gaza.

Photo Credit: Fars Photo of Destruction in Gaza Strip during 2023 War 18” by Saleb Najin and Anas Sharif. Licensed under CC By 4.0