UN experts declare Israeli ‘targeted starvation campaign’ has led to Gaza famine

A group of UN experts accuse Israel of genocide as famine takes hold in Gaza, claiming the lives of dozens, mostly children.

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Image Credit: Reuters

A group of United Nations experts has accused Israel of carrying out a “targeted starvation campaign” against the Palestinian people in Gaza, resulting in widespread famine. The experts, who do not speak on behalf of the United Nations as a whole, have declared that Israel’s actions amount to genocidal violence, with children among the most affected victims.

Michael Fakhri, the special rapporteur on the right to food, joined nine other UN experts in issuing a statement condemning the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Francesca Albanese, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, and Paula Gaviria Betancur, special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, were also among the signatories. The statement cited the recent deaths of three children from malnutrition and lack of access to adequate healthcare as evidence that famine has taken hold across Gaza.

Fayez Ataya, a six-month-old infant, died on May 30, 2024. Thirteen-year-old Abdulqader Al-Serhi succumbed to malnutrition on June 1, 2024, at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah. Nine-year-old Ahmad Abu Reida died on June 3, 2024, in the tent sheltering his displaced family in Al-Mawasi, Khan Younis. The experts emphasized that the death of these children from starvation despite medical treatment indicates that famine has spread from northern Gaza into central and southern regions.

Since October, at least 34 Palestinians in Gaza have died from malnutrition, with the majority being children. This escalation followed Israel’s bombardment of the enclave in retaliation for a Hamas-led attack. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced that there would be “no electricity, no food, no fuel” allowed into Gaza, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

Israeli officials responded to the UN experts’ statement by claiming that they have increased the aid allowed into Gaza recently. However, hundreds of delivery trucks remain stranded in Egypt, and a floating pier built by the U.S. has not significantly alleviated the crisis. The UN experts argued that the first death of a child from malnutrition and dehydration should have been considered “irrefutable evidence that famine has taken hold.” The deaths of a two-month-old baby and 10-year-old Yazan Al Kafarneh from hunger in February and March confirmed that famine had struck northern Gaza.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), backed by the UN, stated last month that Gaza is at high risk for famine. Nearly half a million people in Gaza are facing “catastrophic” food insecurity, with an extreme lack of food. The Israeli mission in Geneva dismissed the UN experts’ statement, accusing them of “spreading misinformation” and “supporting Hamas propaganda.” Despite this, the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen, with many children suffering the most severe consequences.

At a hospital in Khan Younis, Ghaneyma Joma expressed her fear that her son would soon die of starvation. “It’s distressing to see my child lying there dying from malnutrition because I cannot provide him with anything due to the war, the closing of crossings, and the contaminated water,” she told Reuters.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has called on the U.S. government, Israel’s biggest international funder, to ensure that a ceasefire agreement is reached and that Palestinians receive necessary humanitarian aid. Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director, stated, “The intentional starvation of the Palestinian people in Gaza can only occur with the active complicity of the Biden administration in Israel’s campaign of genocide. This complicity must end, and the Palestinian people must be offered a future in which they are free of occupation and can live in dignity.”

The IPC’s latest assessment indicated that more than 495,000 people across Gaza are facing the most severe level of food insecurity. This situation, described as “catastrophic,” means people are experiencing an extreme lack of food and starvation. The IPC noted that the recent aid access improvements have not been sufficient to reverse the famine conditions.

Human Rights Watch co-founder Aryeh Neier, who had previously hesitated to label Israel’s actions as genocide, stated that Israel’s “sustained policy of obstructing the movement of humanitarian assistance into the territory” convinced him that Israeli officials are indeed engaged in genocide. In March, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to ensure its military refrains from violating the Genocide Convention by preventing humanitarian aid from reaching people in Gaza. The court highlighted that “the catastrophic living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated further” and that “famine is setting in.”

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