Practice Relating to Rule 54. Attacks against Objects Indispensable to the Survival of the Civilian Population
Section C. Attacks in case of military necessity
Israel’s Manual on the Laws of War (1998) states:
Conducting a war by the “scorched earth” method, meaning the deliberate destruction of food products, agricultural areas, sanitation facilities, etc. with a view to inflicting starvation or suffering on the civilian population – is forbidden …
An exception to the “scorched earth” prohibition is the implementation of such a policy on one’s own territory, as opposed to enemy territory. On the nation’s sovereign territory, the local army is allowed to retreat leaving behind “scorched earth”, so as not to provide sustenance for the advancing enemy forces, even at the cost of hurting the population identifying with it.
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. It is permissible, of course, to attack the sustenance provisions of the enemy’s army or infrastructure targets directly supporting the enemy’s army, providing the attack does not leave the civilian population without enough food.
The Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).