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Israel using starvation as a weapon of war against Gaza civilians: Oxfam

A Palestinian man evacuates a wounded girl out of the destruction following Israeli air raids on Gaza City. (Photo by AP)

UK-based charity Oxfam says starvation is being used by Israel as a weapon of war against civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam’s Regional Middle East Director said on Wednesday millions of civilians were being collectively punished in Gaza.

“The situation is nothing short of horrific - where is humanity? Millions of civilians are being collectively punished in full view of the world, there can be no justification for using starvation as a weapon of war. World leaders cannot continue to sit back and watch, they have an obligation to act and to act now.

“Every day the situation worsens. Children are experiencing severe trauma from the constant bombardment, their drinking water is polluted or rationed and soon families may not be able to feed them too. How much more are Gazans expected to endure?”

Oxfam on Wednesday also renewed its call for food, water, fuel and other essentials to be allowed to enter Gaza.

“It’s estimated that only three liters of clean water are now available per person. The UN said a minimum of 15 liters a day is essential for people in the most acute humanitarian emergencies as a bare minimum,” the international charity organization said.

The UN said that water has now virtually run out across Gaza. It’s estimated that only three liters of clean water is now available per person – that a minimum of 15 liters a day is essential for people in the most acute humanitarian emergencies as a bare minimum.

Bottled water stocks are running low and the cost of bottled water has already surged beyond the reach of an average Gaza family.

Oxfam analyzed UN data and found that just 2 percent of the food that would have been delivered has entered Gaza since the total siege imposed on October 9.

While a small amount of food aid has been allowed in, no commercial food imports have been delivered, the international agency noted.  Oxfam says a staggering 2.2 million people are now in urgent need of food.

Despite 62 trucks of aid being allowed to enter southern Gaza via the Rafah crossing since the weekend, only 30 contained food and in some cases, not exclusively so.

A spokesperson for the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA) pointed out that some of the food aid allowed in - rice and lentils - is useless because people do not have clean water or fuel to prepare them.

The incessant Israeli airstrikes have left several bakeries and supermarkets either destroyed or damaged. Those that are still functional, can’t meet the local demand for fresh bread and are at risk of shutting down due to the shortage of essentials like flour and fuel.

Notably, essential food items, like flour, oil, and sugar, are still stocked in warehouses that haven’t been destroyed.

But as many of them are located in Gaza City, it is proving physically impossible to deliver items due to the lack of fuel, damaged roads and risks from Israeli airstrikes.

The electricity blackout has also disrupted food supplies by affecting refrigeration, crop irrigation, and crop incubation devices. 

Over 15,000 farmers have lost their crop production and 10,000 livestock breeders have little access to fodder, with many having lost their animals.

Oxfam said that the siege, combined with the airstrikes, has crippled the fishing industry with hundreds of people who rely on fishing losing access to the sea.

The charity is urging the UN Security Council and UN member states to act immediately to prevent the situation from deteriorating even further.

The charity organization has called for an immediate ceasefire, unfettered, equitable access to the entire Gaza Strip for humanitarian aid, and all necessary food, water, medical and fuel supplies for the needs of the population to be met.

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) strictly prohibits the use of starvation as a method of warfare.

In 2018, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2417, which unanimously condemned the use of starvation against civilians as a method of warfare and declared any denial of humanitarian access a violation of international law.

Oxfam said that it is becoming painfully clear that the unfolding humanitarian situation in Gaza squarely fits the prohibition condemned in the resolution.

Meantime, the Israeli regime has intensified its bombing of the densely populated strip, with Palestinian officials saying a record number of Palestinians are being killed.

One overnight strike on Wednesday brought down several apartment buildings in Khan Younis.

The Palestinian death toll now exceeds 6,500, Gaza's health ministry said on Wednesday.

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