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ICC prosecutor: Israel may be committing war crime by ‘impeding’ Gaza aid

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Picture: UN International Criminal Court Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia’s photostream / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 / Taken 2017 – International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan says that Israel may be committing war crimes by ‘impeding’ relief supplies to Gaza.

By Olivia Rosane

“I want to underline clearly to Israel that there must be discernible efforts without further delay to make sure civilians receive basic food, medicine, anaesthetics, morphine.” – ICC prosecutor Karim Khan

Israel may be committing a war crime by restricting the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said Sunday.

Khan spoke to the press from Cairo after a visit to the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, where he said he saw trucks filled with supplies “stuck where nobody needs them”.

“Impeding relief supplies as provided by the Geneva Conventions may constitute a crime within the court’s jurisdiction,” Khan told reporters in a video of the conference posted on social media. “And I want to underline clearly to Israel that there must be discernible efforts without further delay to make sure civilians receive basic food, medicine, anaesthetics, morphine.”

During his remarks, Khan also implied that Hamas may have breached international law with its actions during its October 7 attack on Israel, noting that hostage-taking is a specific offence under the Rome Statue of the Geneva Conventions.

“I call for the immediate release of all hostages taken from Israel and for their safe return to their families,” Khan said.

Throughout his speech, the prosecutor emphasised the importance of protecting civilians during war.

“We cannot and must not lose sight of the fact that there are laws that govern the conduct of hostilities.”

“The fact that innocent civilians are trapped under the weight of the war they cannot escape and which is not their fault is not tenable,” he said.

He also argued that the international community should not simply accept the horrors of war, especially when visited upon civilians, as a “fait accompli”.

“We cannot and must not lose sight of the fact that there are laws that govern the conduct of hostilities,” he said. “There’s no blank check.”

In an interview with CNN also on Sunday, Khan said that political and military decision makers should know that they would have to justify every strike against a civilian target such as a school, hospital, church, or mosque. He said that these locations could be considered valid targets if they became military objectives, but this would have to be proven on a case-by-case basis, and the strike would still have to be proportional.

In the interview, Khan refused to comment on specific war crimes that might have been committed but repeated that it was a violation of the Geneva Convention to wilfully target civilians, take hostages, or deny aid. Khan specifically expressed concern about a lack of medical supplies in Gaza, describing images he had seen of children covered in blood.

“If a body is not limp, and maybe there’s a bit of a flicker of life, what kind of hope does that baby have, does that child have to medical care if there’s no anaesthetic, if there’s no morphine, if there’s no medicine?” he asked.

As of Sunday, a total of 94 aid trucks had entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing since the war began, CNN reported. Humanitarian organisations have described that aid as a “drop in the bucket”, according to Al Jazeera.

Israel is not a member of the ICC and does not recognise its jurisdiction, but Palestine is and does, and the ICC has been investigating potential crimes committed there since 2021, Human Rights Watch explained.

“We are independently looking at the situation in Palestine, we are looking at events in Israel and the allegations that Palestinian nationals have also committed crimes,” Khan said, as Al Jazeera reported.

Khan has said before that the court has jurisdiction over actions taken by Hamas on October 7 and any crimes that are committed within Gaza, Reuters reported.

Olivia Rosane is a staff writer for Common Dreams. This article was first published on Common Dreams