Skip to main content

Israel 'weaponised' humanitarian measures in Gaza as tool of mass displacement: Report

A forensic investigation concludes Israel's strategies amplified the forced transfer and mass displacement of Palestinians
A member of the UN mourns over the body of a colleague at Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on 13 March 2024 (Said Khatib/AFP)

The investigative organisation Forensic Architecture has published a new study saying the Israeli military has "weaponised" humanitarian measures like "evacuation orders" and "safe zones" in Gaza, aiding in the widespread displacement of Palestinians.

The 80-page document says the employment of these strategies by Israel has "amplified the forced transfer and mass displacement of Palestinians", breaching international legal standards.

Additionally, the report discovered that these measures frequently contained inconsistencies and led to confusion, culminating in Israel's bombardment of designated safe zones in Gaza.

"Rather than ‘humanitarian acts’ used as preventative measures for the safeguarding of civilian life, this report supports claims that Israel has exercised a form of ‘humanitarian violence’, in concert with and in support of its broader genocidal actions," the report said.

According to the report, international humanitarian law (IHL) forbids evacuating civilians from combat zones unless it is for their protection. Civilians must be relocated to areas supplied with essential survival needs such as food, water, and shelter.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Despite Israel's claims that its "evacuation orders" were meant to protect Palestinian civilians, research indicates that the humanitarian measures' implemented since 7 October, when the war broke out after the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel, may not align with these stipulations.

"These policies function as a tool of mass displacement, pushing civilians into unliveable areas that later come under attack, augmenting Israel’s genocidal campaign against the Palestinian population," the report states.

'Unparallelled' levels of destruction

The report added that Israel's "weaponised" humanitarian measures remained in effect even after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered a verdict on 26 January 2024.

How Israel defied ICJ provisional measures, one month on
Read More »

The court, by a significant majority, determined that "at least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza seem to meet the criteria set by the [Genocide] Convention".

Despite the court's decision, Israel has persisted in forcibly removing Palestinians from their homes and denying them essential resources like adequate food and water, humanitarian aid, fuel, shelter, clothing, hygiene, sanitation, and medical care, thus violating the court's directive, the report said.

"These measures have become tools in a military campaign that has, at the time of writing, killed over 30,000 Palestinians, over 70 percent of them women and children, with thousands more missing, and tens of thousands more civilians wounded," the report said.

The Gaza health ministry said the Palestinian death toll from Israel's current war on Gaza has risen past 31,000, with over 72,400 wounded and at least 7,000 missing, who are believed to be dead and buried under rubble. The majority of all the victims are women and children. 

"This has been exacerbated by unparallelled and catastrophic levels of infrastructural destruction and agricultural damage, and the systematic targeting of vital civilian structures, including hospitals, schools, religious and cultural heritage sites, bakeries, and homes."

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.