Israel rejects accusations by UN rights experts that it weaponized starvation in Gaza

Jerusalem rebuts claims, pointing to its facilitation of large amounts of aid and various predictions of famine by independent studies being proven untrue

A boy pushes a wheelchair carrying water containers past the rubble of destroyed buildings along a street in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on July 8, 2024. (Bashar Taleb/AFP)
A boy pushes a wheelchair carrying water containers past the rubble of destroyed buildings along a street in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on July 8, 2024. (Bashar Taleb/AFP)

A number of officials reporting to the United Nations on human rights matters accused Israel on Tuesday of carrying out a “targeted starvation campaign” that has resulted in the deaths of children in Gaza.

“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,” the 10 independent experts said in a statement.

The UN has not officially declared a famine in the Gaza Strip, but the experts, including the UN special rapporteur on the right to food Michael Fakhri, insist there is no denying famine is underway.

“Thirty-four Palestinians have died from malnutrition since October 7, the majority being children,” said the experts, who are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but who do not speak on behalf of the United Nations.

Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva slammed the statement, charging that “Mr. Fakhri, and many so-called ‘experts’ who joined [him], are as much accustomed to spreading misinformation as they are to supporting Hamas propaganda and shielding the terrorist organization from scrutiny.”

The Israeli mission pointed to the latest assessment by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which determined that famine had not materialized after aid access had improved somewhat.

Children queue with pots to receive food aid from a kitchen at the Abu Zeitun school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, June 13, 2024. (Omar Al-Qattaa/AFP)

“Israel has continuously scaled up its coordination and assistance in the delivery of humanitarian aid across the Gaza Strip,” it said, alleging that Hamas operatives “intentionally steal and hide aid from civilians.”

The IPC report also indicated that predictions made in March by UN agencies regarding the spread of famine turned out to be overblown.

Throughout the war, Israel has increasingly stepped up delivery of humanitarian aid through multiple crossings into Gaza in its north and south. But NGOs say distribution within Gaza is lagging due to anarchic conditions and lack of security for teams.

The allegations of approaching famine have formed a central part of the legal processes against Israel’s conduct of the war against Hamas in both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the latter of which has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly using starvation as a method of war against the Palestinians.

Amid these allegations, the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza has become a key concern, with UN agencies and some aid groups criticizing Israel for not allowing enough aid in and not doing enough to facilitate its transfer to the Gazan population.

Israel has persistently claimed that it has facilitated the transfer of tens of thousands of aid trucks with enough food to provide for Gaza’s nutritional needs, and has blamed the UN for not scaling up its logistics and distribution operations. Israeli officials have pointed to aid piling up on the Gaza side of border crossings as agencies refuse to distribute it over fears of looting and violence.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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