Explainer Video: Is famine a weapon of war?

Following the Hamas attacks on Israeli territory on 7 October, Gaza has remained under a strict blockade. The humanitarian crisis in the region has intensified rapidly amidst the fighting, with some 2.2 million people facing severe food shortages. Last March, the IPC – Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a collaborative effort between UN agencies and humanitarian organizations, estimated that nearly half of Gaza’s population would fall under the most critical level – IPC 5 (“Catastrophe/Famine”) – by May. Moreover, IPC estimated that the entire population could face the possibility of famine by July.

Is famine a weapon of war? Is there potential for prosecution at the International Criminal Court in The Hague?

iMEdD spoke with Professor Alex De Waal, Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University. He says, there are three ways in which prosecution could be attempted. One avenue for prosecution could involve invoking Article 2c of the Genocide Convention, though proving genocidal intent poses significant challenges. Another option lies in pursuing charges of extermination as a crime against humanity, requiring evidence of an intent to eliminate a population, coupled with widespread and systematic actions. And then there is the war crime of starvation. “The political will to bring these cases to the court is the big question,” adds Prof. De Waal.