​Fatma Hijazi holds the lifeless body of her child

Fatma Hijazi, the mother of 10-year-old Palestinian boy Mustafa Hijazi, who died due to malnutrition and lack of medication, holds the lifeless body of her child in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on June 14, 2024.

(Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)

UN Experts Say 'Targeted Starvation Campaign' by Israel Has Led to Famine Across Gaza

The starvation of Palestinians in Gaza "is a form of genocidal violence," said 10 rights experts.

While the United Nations still has not formally declared a famine in Gaza after nine months of Israel's near-total blockade on humanitarian aid, 10 top U.N. experts on Tuesday said they have seen enough.

"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.

Michael Fakhri, special rapporteur on the right to food, was joined in the 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 various parts of the enclave led the experts, who do not speak on behalf of the United Nations as a whole, to declare a famine has taken hold.

"Fayez Ataya, who was barely six months old, died on May 30, 2024 and 13-year-old Abdulqader Al-Serhi died on June 1, 2024 at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah," said the experts. "Nine-year-old Ahmad Abu Reida died on June 3, 2024 in the tent sheltering his displaced family in Al-Mawasi, Khan Younis. All three children died from malnutrition and lack of access to adequate healthcare."

"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," they continued.

At least 34 Palestinians in Gaza—the majority being children—have now died from malnutrition since October, when Israel began its bombardment of the enclave in retaliation for a Hamas-led attack and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced there would "be no electricity, no food, no fuel" allowed in to Gaza.

Israeli officials said in response to Tuesday's statement that it has increased the aid allowed into Gaza recently, but hundreds of delivery trucks remain stranded in Egypt and a floating pier built by the U.S. has not significantly improved the humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. experts said that with the first death of a child from malnutrition and dehydration, it should have been considered "irrefutable that famine has taken hold."

"When a two-month-old baby and 10-year-old Yazan Al Kafarneh died of hunger on February 24 and March 4, respectively, this confirmed that famine had struck northern Gaza," they said. "The whole world should have intervened earlier to stop Israel's genocidal starvation campaign and prevented these deaths... Inaction is complicity."

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, which is backed by the U.N., said last month that Gaza is at high risk for famine and that nearly half a million people were facing "catastrophic" food insecurity, with an extreme lack of food.

In May, Human Rights Watch co-founder Aryeh Neier, who had previously hesitated to say Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, said Israel's "sustained policy of obstructing the movement of humanitarian assistance into the territory" ultimately convinced him that Israeli officials are "engaged in genocide."

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

A woman named Ghaneyma Joma told Reuters on Monday at a hospital in Khan Younis that she feared 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 the outlet.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on the U.S. government, the biggest international funder of Israel's military and a persistent defender of its actions in Gaza, to ensure that a cease-fire agreement is reached and that Palestinians receive necessary humanitarian aid.

"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," said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the group. "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."

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