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HomeWorld NewsHalf-million Gazans face ‘catastrophic’ hunger levels, U.N.-backed report says

Half-million Gazans face ‘catastrophic’ hunger levels, U.N.-backed report says

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The threat of famine in the Gaza Strip has been revived after Israel’s military operation in the southern city of Rafah disrupted aid deliveries, leaving more than 500,000 Palestinians on the brink of starvation, a U.N.-backed group of experts said Tuesday.

Palestinians throughout the Gaza Strip face a “plausible” risk of famine in the coming months, according to the latest analysis by Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). “A high risk of Famine persists as long as conflict continues, and humanitarian access is restricted,” it said.

The report described how more than half of households have exchanged clothes for money to buy food. A third have resorted to selling trash from the streets. More than 20 percent of people surveyed have gone entire days and nights without eating.

Most Gazans were already reliant on international aid before the conflict began, as a years-long Israeli and Egyptian blockade took a heavy toll on the enclave’s economy. After eight months of war, and with the flow of aid often subject to Israeli restrictions or security concerns, almost half a million Gazans are facing “catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity,” the IPC said.

An earlier report had predicted that famine would take hold across Gaza’s northern regions by May. The IPC said Tuesday that a significant increase in aid deliveries throughout March and April temporarily alleviated conditions. But the situation has since deteriorated again, after the main crossing for aid deliveries during this conflict was closed during Israel’s offensive against the remaining Hamas units in Rafah.

“The fact that the entire population of Gaza is at emergency levels of hunger with over 500,000 people on the brink of starvation is no surprise. The Rafah offensive ground the aid response to a halt, thwarting the ability of humanitarian organizations to mitigate the suffering of 2.15 million people,” said Kate Phillips-Barrasso, vice president of global policy and advocacy at Mercy Corps.

“The population cannot endure these hardships any longer. The toll of military action has been far too high, and we fear without dramatic changes to the provision of humanitarian aid, the death toll will climb as people succumb to months of deprivation.”

More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s military operation in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced last month that he was seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, citing reasonable grounds to believe that they are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza. They include the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, and extermination.

Khan also sought arrest warrants for Hamas leader Yehiya Sinwar; the leader of the group’s military wing, Mohammed Deif; and its political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, saying he had reasonable grounds to believe that the men were criminally liable for extermination as a crime against humanity, taking hostages, and torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence in the context of captivity.

Video shows Palestinians running and screaming after a strike hit Asma school, a school-turned-shelter, at Al-Shati camp in Gaza, on June 25. (Video: Reuters)

At least 37 Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes Tuesday, according to the enclave’s civil defense force. It said children were among the casualties, including at a house belonging to relatives of Haniyeh, who lives in Qatar.

His sister and several other relatives were among the dead, according to Mahmoud Bassal, the civil defense spokesman. The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the building had been used by “Hamas terrorists.”

The IDF did not respond to a Washington Post request for further details. Under international law, the relatives of combatants remain classified as civilians unless they take an active part in hostilities.

While Netanyahu’s government says its military operation is aimed at defeating Hamas, it has struggled to articulate a clear plan for what might replace the militant group, which has ruled the enclave since 2007.

“Hamas cannot be replaced because it’s an idea, and therefore an alternative idea is needed,” the head of Israel’s National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, said Tuesday, echoing similar recent comments from the IDF’s top brass.

“Most countries in the world want to see a moderate and pragmatic alternative to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The governing factors need to be local Palestinian leadership with the backing of Arab countries and other countries,” he said.

But how to achieve that remains unclear. Netanyahu has already said that the other major Palestinian faction that governs in areas occupied by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, should have no postwar role in Gaza. The idea had been floated by Israel’s international allies, including the United States, although the authority is widely reviled by Palestinians, who say it is corrupt, unrepresentative and co-opted by Israel.

Hanegbi also said Israel prefers reaching an agreement with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah “through diplomatic means” and that the status quo at the border must change because of the Oct. 7 attack. White House envoy Amos Hochstein, who has mediated negotiations between Israel and Hezbollah, is “optimistic,” Hanegbi said, speaking at a conference. “He believes that the change is going to come soon after the end of the intense operation in Gaza.”

Here’s what else to know

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said Monday that video footage of a Palestinian man strapped to a jeep by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin was “shocking” and that “humans should never be used as human shields.” Miller called on the Israel Defense Forces to “hold people accountable.” The Israeli military said the man had been wounded and apprehended after its troops had been fired at, Reuters reported. But it said soldiers had then violated military protocol and that the incident would be investigated.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department, telling him “we must resolve the differences between us quickly and stand together.” Gallant’s meetings with U.S. officials come as fears grow that border clashes between Israel and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah could escalate into all-out war.

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres denounced the spread of misinformation worldwide — including about him. Speaking at a news conference on principles of information integrity, Guterres said he has heard “the same source many times” saying he has “never condemned Hamas” and that he is “a supporter of Hamas.” Guterres said that he has condemned Hamas “102 times, 51 of them in formal speeches,” and other times on social media.

At least 37,658 ​​people have been killed and 86,237 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 314 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operations in Gaza.

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