Practice Relating to Rule 54. Attacks against Objects Indispensable to the Survival of the Civilian Population
Section A. Attacks against objects
Israel’s Manual on the Laws of War (1998) states: “It is prohibited to attack targets essential to the continued survival of the civilian population.”
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states:
Attack on the population’s survival resources
: targets must not be attacked that are vital to the continuation of the civilian population’s survival. War must not be waged by means of a “scorched earth” policy, that is to say intentional attack on food products, farmland, sanitation facilities etc., at such a level as would lead to the starvation of the civilian population.
The Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
In its judgment in the Albasyouni case in 2008, concerning a petition regarding the Israeli Government’s decision to reduce or limit the supply of fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip, Israel’s High Court of Justice stated:
13. … Finally, the Respondents referred in their brief also to Article 54 of the First Protocol [1977 Additional Protocol I], which … prohibits a party to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless installations that are vital to the civilian population, including food storehouses, agricultural fields, and drinking-water installations.
15. The above indicates, therefore, that the Respondents do not disagree that they are bound by the humanitarian obligations imposed upon them, which require the State of Israel to … refrain from causing intentional injury to humanitarian installations. …
22. … [T]he State of Israel is required to act against the terrorist organizations within the framework of the law and in accordance with the dictates of international law, and to refrain from deliberately harming the civilian population located in the Gaza Strip.
According to the Report on the Practice of Israel, “the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] does not practice or condone the attack, destruction, removal or the rendering useless of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population of the enemy, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the enemy or its civilian population”.