Palestinians pray for Yazan al-Kafarneh, a 10-year-old Gaza boy who died from severe malnutrition.

Relatives of Yazan al-Kafarneh and other Palestinians pray and mourn the death of the 10-year-old Gaza boy from severe malnutrition in Rafah on March 4, 2024.

(Photo: Rabie Abu Noqaira/Anadolu via Getty Images)

'Complete Madness': Israel Blocks Food Aid as More Gaza Children Starve to Death

"The starvation of children is a hallmark of genocide and a deliberate political choice by Israel, backed by the Biden administration," said one humanitarian coordinator.

Gaza health officials said Thursday that the number of Palestinian children who have died from extreme malnutrition and dehydration amid Israel's U.S.-backed genocide on the besieged strip has risen to at least 17, while one humanitarian group condemned the Israeli government for blocking lifesaving food and other aid from reaching starving people.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 21 people in Gaza ranging from 1 day to 72 years old have died from malnutrition and dehydration. However, the humanitarian group Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) warned that "the true death toll due to starvation is feared to be much higher as many Palestinians, particularly in northern Gaza, face famine and are almost entirely cut off from the limited humanitarian aid entering Gaza through the southern Rafah crossing."

"It is unthinkable that in 2024, in a world that produces more than enough food for all people, that Palestinian children are starving to death."

That's because Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops and civilians are blocking or severely restricting the flow of aid into Gaza. Soldiers stand by while extremist Israeli civilians set up roadblocks and encampments—one replete with a children's bouncy castle—at border crossings. Israeli forces have repeatedly opened fire on aid convoys and crowds of people waiting for food deliveries, including in the February 29 Flour Massacre, in which more than 800 people were killed or wounded. Israeli civilians attempting to deliver aid to Gaza—including members of the Jewish-Arab solidarity group Standing Together—have been blocked by IDF troops.

"It is unthinkable that in 2024, in a world that produces more than enough food for all people, that Palestinian children are starving to death," said DCIP accountability program director Ayed Abu Eqtaish. "The starvation of children is a hallmark of genocide and a deliberate political choice by Israel, backed by the Biden administration."

"It is complete madness that Israeli authorities continue to prohibit and restrict food and other lifesaving supplies to a starving population while the international community stands by," Abu Eqtaish added.

DCIP noted that "Yazan Kafarneh, a 10-year-old Palestinian boy with cerebral palsy, died on March 4 of malnutrition and lack of healthcare."

"Young children, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of malnutrition and dehydration," DCIP warned.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra said Thursday that around 60,000 pregnant women in Gaza are suffering from dehydration, malnutrition, and lack of adequate medical care. Malnourished pregnant mothers can't feed their fetuses; Gaza's youngest starvation fatality was reportedly just 1 day old.

United Nations, Palestinian, and humanitarian officials have called Israel's deliberate starvation of Palestinians a key component of the genocide in Gaza, while limited aid airdrops by Jordan and the United States have been described as woefully inadequate and a "theater of cruelty."

More than 13,400 children and nearly 9,000 women are among the more than 30,800 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since the October 7 attacks, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials.

In January, the International Court of Justice in The Hague found that Israel is "plausibly" committing genocide in Gaza and ordered the country's government to prevent genocidal acts. South Africa, which is leading the ICJ case, says Israel is violating the court's order, and on Wednesday asked the tribunal to order additional emergency measures to protect Gazans.

In its plea, South Africa noted that when the ICJ declined to order requested emergency measures during the 1990s Balkan wars, "approximately 7,336 Bosnians in the so-called 'safe area' of Srebrenica had been slaughtered in what this court retrospectively determined to have been a genocide."

No famine has yet been declared in Gaza. However, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative has launched a review of the Gaza crisis. ICP said in December that more than 90% of Gaza's population was experiencing severe food insecurity or worse. That was before children started dying of starvation.

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