Israel is destroying Gaza’s food system and weaponizing food, say UN experts

In a joint statement UN experts state that Israel has deliberately destroyed all basic facilities and blocked access to water, food, and medicine for most of the Palestinians in Gaza

January 17, 2024 by Abdul Rahman
Photo: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus/X

Palestinians in Gaza now make up 80% of all people across the world facing famine or catastrophic hunger. This is a result of over a hundred days of Israel’s war on the besieged territory, said the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in a press release on Tuesday, January 16.

The press release quoted a team of UN human rights experts, including Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

The release stated that “currently every single person in Gaza is hungry, a quarter of the population are starving and struggling to find food and drinkable water and famine is imminent.” 

The experts further say that pregnant women in Gaza are not getting enough nutrition and medical care which puts their lives at risk, whereas around 335,000 children below the age of 5 are at the risk of malnutrition which may lead to an entire generation suffering from stunting due to lack of enough food. 

The famine-like conditions in Gaza are a result of Israel’s genocidal war which began on October 7. The indiscriminate bombings and brutal ground offensive have devastated the life of around 2.3 million Palestinians with over 24,400 being killed and over 61,000 others suffering injuries.

The humanitarian crisis has also deepened due to Israel imposing a nearly-complete ban on the supply of food, medicine, fuel, and other basic amenities into Gaza since the early days of the war. 

After extensive pressure and repeated calls made by the human rights groups including the UN, Israel allowed partial resumption of those supplies as humanitarian aid. However, despite the UN Security Council adopting a resolution to that effect in December, the humanitarian aid has remained inadequate. It is often delayed due to Israeli restrictions. 

There is also a huge disparity in the delivery of aid on the regional basis created due to the Israel’s refusal to allow the movement of aid to northern Gaza. According to the UN experts, “since 1 January, only 21 percent (5 out of 24) of planned deliveries of aid containing food and other lifesaving supplies reached their destination north of Wadi Gaza.”

According to humanitarian workers on the ground in Gaza, a large number of people are going without food for days. Others are getting half a loaf of bread a day to eat. Scenes of large crowds surrounding aid trucks in search of food are also quite common now.

“It is unprecedented to make an entire civilian population go hungry this completely and quickly. Israel is destroying Gaza’s food system and using food as a weapon against the Palestinian people” the experts said. 

“Even during the conflicts in Yemen and Somalia, we were never in a situation where 100 percent of the population was food insecure. For us, 40 to 60 percent is significant— this is incredibly unique,” Naouar Labidi, a senior officer of the World Food Program (WFP) told the Telegraph last week.

UN experts also note that Israel is using starvation as a weapon. It has destroyed 25% of all agricultural land including orchards and greenhouses since October 7 and destroyed nearly 70% of Gaza’s fishing fleet. Israel has systematically destroyed bakeries and due to lack of enough fuel most of the people cannot cook food.

UN experts emphasize that aid needs to reach Gaza adequately and without any hindrance. 

In what the UN experts call “domicide,” Israeli attacks have destroyed around 60% of all Palestinian homes in Gaza. Almost 85% of Gazans have been displaced now, some of them multiple times since the beginning of the war. They are forced to live in overcrowded, unhygienic camps which lack most of the basic amenities including adequate food, medicine and drinking water. A large number of Gazans are forced to live in the open as well.

The unhygienic conditions and lack of clean drinking water and food has led to an outbreak of diarrhea and other infectious diseases with hundreds of thousands of cases reported since October 7, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  

Raising alarm that Israeli war in Gaza runs a “risk of genocide” the UN experts claim that “not only Israel is killing and causing irreparable harm against Palestinian civilians with its indiscriminate bombardments, it is also knowingly and intentionally imposing a high rate of disease, prolonged malnutrition, dehydration and starvation.”

The UN experts, however, noted that genocide is Gaza is not a singular event which started on October 7 but a result of “slow suffering and death caused by Israel’s long standing occupation, blockade and current civic destruction.”

Demanding an immediate ceasefire, the UN experts underlined that, “the clear path to achieving peace, safety and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians lies in the realization of Palestinian self-determination.”