UN experts say Israel’s ‘targeted starvation campaign’ has led to famine in Gaza

While the United Nations has yet to officially declare a state of famine in Gaza after nine months of a near-total Israeli blockade of humanitarian aid, 10 senior UN experts said Tuesday they had seen enough.

“We declare that Israel’s intentional and targeted campaign of starvation against the Palestinian people is a form of genocidal violence and has resulted in famine throughout the Gaza Strip,” the experts said.

Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, was joined in his statement by other experts, including 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.

They said the recent deaths of three children in different parts of the enclave had led experts, who do not speak for the UN as a whole, to declare that a famine had set in.

“Fayez Ataya, aged just six months, died on 30 May 2024 and Abdulqader Al-Serhi, aged 13, died on 1 June 2024 at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah,” the experts said. “Ahmad Abu Reida, aged nine, died on 3 June 2024 in the tent sheltering his displaced family in Al-Mawasi, Khan Younis. All three children died of malnutrition and lack of access to adequate health care.”

“With the deaths of these children from starvation despite medical care in central Gaza, there is no doubt that famine has spread from northern Gaza to central and southern Gaza,” they continued.

At least 34 Palestinians in Gaza – the majority children – have died of malnutrition since October, when Israel began shelling the enclave in retaliation for a Hamas attack and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced that there would be “no electricity, no food, no fuel” allowed into Gaza.

Israeli officials responded to Tuesday’s statement that they had recently increased the aid allowed into Gaza, but that hundreds of delivery trucks remained stuck in Egypt and that a U.S.-built floating dock had not significantly improved the humanitarian crisis.

UN experts said that with the first death of a child due to malnutrition and dehydration, it should have been considered “irrefutable that famine had set in”.

“The deaths of a two-month-old baby and 10-year-old Yazan Al Kafarneh on February 24 and March 4, respectively, confirm that famine has struck northern Gaza,” they said. “The world should have intervened sooner to halt Israel’s genocidal starvation campaign and prevent these deaths… Inaction is complicity.”

The UN-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification System said last month that Gaza was at high risk of famine and that nearly half a million people were facing “catastrophic” food insecurity, with extreme food shortages.

In May, Human Rights Watch co-founder Aryeh Neier, who had previously hesitated to say that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, said that Israel’s “persistent policy of obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid to the territory” had finally convinced him that Israeli officials were “engaged in genocide.”

In March, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to ensure that its military refrains from violating the Genocide Convention by preventing humanitarian aid from reaching the population of Gaza, saying that “the dire living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have further deteriorated” and that “famine is setting in.”

A woman named Ghaneyma Joma said Reuters At a hospital in Khan Younis on Monday, she said she feared her son would soon die of starvation.

“It’s heartbreaking to see my child… lying there, dying of malnutrition because I can’t provide him with anything because of the war, the closure of crossing points and the contaminated water,” she told the outlet.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called on the US government, the largest international financier of the Israeli military and a staunch defender of its actions in Gaza, to ensure that a ceasefire agreement is reached and that Palestinians receive necessary humanitarian aid.

“The intentional starvation of the Palestinian people in Gaza can only happen with the active complicity of the Biden administration in Israel’s campaign of genocide,” said Ibrahim Hooper, the group’s national communications director. “This complicity must end and the Palestinian people must be offered a future in which they are free from occupation and can live with dignity.”