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UN rights expert: ‘Israel’s starvation of Gaza is genocide’

March 8, 2024 at 12:27 pm

Palestinian people with empty pots receive food distributed by charity as Gaza faces hunger crisis as situation worsens amid blockade due to the ongoing Israeli offensive in Deir al Balah, central Gaza on February 29, 2024 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Michael Fakhri on Thursday described Israel’s use of a starvation campaign against the Palestinian people in Gaza as “genocide”, saying Israel is using food and hunger as a weapon, Anadolu Agency reported.

Fakhri, who is in Geneva to attend the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council, spoke to Anadolu Agency about the food crisis and famine in Gaza and Israel’s attacks on the Palestinian people.

Fakhri explained: “When the war broke out, we saw people go hungry in unprecedented ways. We have never seen any community made to go hungry so quickly. Now what we are seeing is famine. Children are dying from malnutrition and dehydration. We have never seen children pushed into malnutrition so quickly in any conflict in modern history.”

Emphasising that malnourished children will have problems with their development, Fakhri continued: “We were worried that they were going to experience stunting, which means permanent long-term physical and cognitive impact. We see children dying from malnutrition, and dehydration, this is a stage of horror.”

He said at this point, they are going to see the speed of death increase significantly, and continued: “I cannot imagine a more horrific situation.”

Regarding the recent airdrops of aid by countries to Gaza, Fakhri clarified: “It is clear amongst humanitarian workers and the countries using airdrops that aid airdrops are very expensive, and not very effective. In fact, sometimes airdrops can cause a lot of chaos and problems as the food is scattered everywhere, with no systematic way of distributing the food.”

People of northern Gaza suffer as famine spreads, particularly children – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

“Instead of spending all this time and money on such expensive airdrops, I think countries like the United States and others that are providing these airdrops need to focus on ensuring an immediate ceasefire by putting pressure on Israel to allow humanitarian aid to enter unfettered and to ensure a permanent ceasefire. This is like putting a band-aid on someone who is almost dying. It has very little immediate and long-term impact,” he added.

Read: Israel has blocked entry of 40% of Gaza aid, says UN official 

Fakhri recalled that Israel cut off the water supply to Gaza immediately after the start of the war on 8 October and said that Gaza was completely besieged on 9 October.

“We immediately raised the alarm as UN independent human rights experts, saying there was a risk of genocide. As we heard from the International Court of Justice recently, in their preliminary judgment, they found a plausible case of genocide. At this point in the war, I think it is clear that it is genocide,” the UN rights expert affirmed.

“We see a campaign of starvation that started from the beginning of the war and continues to unfold today. There is no doubt that this is genocide and that this is a campaign and intentional campaign of starvation by Israel against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” he added.

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip since a cross-border attack by Palestinian group Hamas last October, which Tel Aviv said killed nearly 1,200 people.

At least 30,800 Palestinians have since been killed and over 72,298 others injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities. Israel has also imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip, leaving its population, particularly residents of northern Gaza, on the verge of starvation.

The Israeli war has pushed 85 per cent of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.