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'Targeted starvation campaign' by Israel has led to famine across Gaza: UN experts

Israel is engaged in a 'form of genocidal violence' as it starves Palestinians in Gaza, say 10 rights experts
Palestinians gather to receive food cooked by a charity after an Israeli assault on Rafah, 8 May 2024 (Reuters)

After nine months of Israel's near-total blockade on humanitarian aid, ten top United Nations experts on Tuesday said they had seen enough, declaring that Israel is engaged in a "targeted starvation campaign" in Gaza

"We declare that Israel's intentional and targeted starvation campaign against the Palestinian people is a form of genocidal violence and has resulted in famine across all of Gaza," said the experts.

"We call upon the international community to prioritise the delivery of humanitarian aid by land by any means necessary, end Israel’s siege and establish a ceasefire,” they added. 

Michael Fakhri, the special rapporteur on the right to food, along with other experts such as Francesca Albanese, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, and Paula Gaviria Betancur, the special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, issued the statement.

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At least 33 children, mostly in northern Gaza,  have died of malnutrition since the war began in October, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The group of ten rights experts cited the deaths of three children aged thirteen, nine and six months, from malnutrition in Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah since the end of May, leading them to assert that a famine is now underway.

"With the death of these children from starvation despite medical treatment in central Gaza, there is no doubt that famine has spread from northern Gaza into central and southern Gaza," the experts said.

Israel's diplomatic mission in Geneva said the statement was "misinformation".

"Israel has continuously scaled up its coordination and assistance in the delivery of humanitarian aid across the Gaza Strip, recently connecting its power line to the Gaza water desalination plant," the mission said.

Famine for months

In June a report issued by an independent group of experts known as the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or Fews Net, warned that famine in Gaza may have been taking place since April, and is likely to continue through July “if there is not a fundamental change in how food assistance is distributed and accessed” after it enters the Strip.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to block the Rafah crossing with Egypt, and restrict aid entry via the Karem Shalom crossing with southern Gaza.

“The population’s access to and utilization of available food assistance has been insufficient to meet the level of need to date, and much more must be done immediately to ensure humanitarian food assistance is distributed effectively once it enters Gaza,” the report reads.

The US-based Fews Net conducted its analysis on famine in Gaza based on three conditions that have to be met - namely food consumption, acute malnutrition, and mortality. 

It concluded that the spike in death rates in the besieged enclave is directly linked to the “near” famine levels, and that “extremely high” rates of malnutrition among children will lead to severe physiological impacts.

Famine thresholds had, however, been reached in northern Gaza in April, it said.

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