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Israel must be held to account for starving Palestinians in Gaza: UN rapporteur

A child carries a ration of red lentil soup, distributed by volunteers in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 18, 2024. (AFP)

United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food says Israel must be held accountable for war crimes and genocide as it has deliberately been starving Palestinians in Gaza.

Michael Fakhri told the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday that to intentionally deprive people of food is clearly a war crime.

Israel has been destroying food supplies while severely restricting the flow of food, medicines and other humanitarian supplies to Gaza since it started its aggression against the besieged territory in early October.

“There is no reason to intentionally block the passage of humanitarian aid or intentionally obliterate small-scale fishing vessels, greenhouses and orchards in Gaza – other than to deny people access to food,” said Fakhri.

“Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people, in whole or in part, simply for being Palestinian,” he added.

A child carries food items as another tries to salvage more from a refrigerator inside their damaged home, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 25, 2024. (AFP)

The UN special rapporteur said that “this is now a situation of genocide” and means that “Israel in its entirety is culpable and should be held accountable.”

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stipulates that to intentionally starve civilians by “depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies” is a war crime.

Starvation was also recognized as a war crime and general violation of international law by the UN Security Council in 2018.

Human rights groups have repeatedly warned that Israel has been using starvation as a method of warfare in Gaza.

At least 500,000 people are facing famine in Gaza, while the entire 2.3 million population of the territory is experiencing acute food shortage, according to figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

One in six infants in northern Gaza, or some 15.6% of all children under age two in the area, are acutely malnourished or wasting, according to nutrition screenings conducted at shelters and health centers in January.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) warned on Sunday that famine is stalking Gaza as aid agencies struggle to deliver food to areas in the north of the enclave.

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said calls by aid agencies to allow food distribution in Gaza “have fallen on deaf ears.”

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