White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby refused to answer whether Israel cutting off Palestinians’ access to water is a war crime.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Kirby was asked about the upcoming International Court of Justice case accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
South Africa brought the charges against Israel and, as proof of its case, submitted an 84-page filing in December documenting Israeli war crimes as well as statements by various Israeli officials that it says proves “genocidal intent.” The ICJ will hear its first public hearing on the case on Thursday.
Kirby—and the Biden administration writ large—have completely dismissed the case thus far. Kirby last week called it “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.”
On Wednesday, however, Kirby was again asked about whether he had read the actual filing against Israel.
“You dismissed a few days ago the case brought by South Africa against Israel at the ICJ. Did you read the indictment, and if you did, do you believe that cutting off water, electricity, and fuel from a civilian population does not constitute a war crime by itself?”
“Yes I read the indictment,” Kirby replied angrily. “And as I said, we stand by what we said about this. We find it without merit. We find it counterproductive. And I’ll leave it there.”
South Africa’s filing links to several reports of Israel cutting off water, electricity, fuel, and food supplies—all of which has been documented extensively in the media.
In December, Unicef Executive Director Catherine Russell warned that clean water is so hard to find that “children in Gaza have barely a drop to drink.” Public health officials have repeatedly raised “grave concerns” over the lack of clean water and the outbreak of infectious diseases, including waterborne illnesses like cholera and typhoid.
One in every 100 people in Gaza has been killed since October 7, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah. That’s nearly 23,000 people—and that’s the most conservative estimate. The nonprofit Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor puts the death toll at nearly 30,000.