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U.N. experts say Gaza children dying in Israeli "targeted starvation campaign"

Israel ramps up Gaza City operations
Israel ramps up Gaza City operations as images of Rafah show mass destruction 04:41

Geneva — United Nations rights experts on Tuesday accused Israel of carrying out a "targeted starvation campaign" that has resulted in the deaths of children in Gaza.

"We declare that 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," 10 independent United Nations experts said in a statement.

The U.N. has not officially declared a famine in the Gaza Strip, but the experts, including U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food Michael Fakhri, insisted there was no denying there were famine conditions in the Palestinian territory.

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

Palestinian children collect rubble for fuel amid growing hunger and fuel crisis
Palestinian children collect wood, paper and cardboard to use as fuel from among the rubble of destroyed buildings as a hunger and fuel crisis intensifies in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza, July 8, 2024. Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu/Getty

Their statement was immediately slammed by Israel's mission to the U.N. in Geneva, which charged that "Mr. Fakhri, and many so-called 'experts' who joined his statement, are as much accustomed to spreading misinformation, as they are to supporting Hamas propaganda and shielding the terrorist organization from scrutiny."

Israel's leaders and military commanders have consistently blamed all the human suffering in Gaza on the enclave's long-time Hamas rulers, who sparked the ongoing war with their unprecedented Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel. That attack saw the militants kill about 1,200 people and take some 240 others hostage.

Roughly 80 of those hostages are still believed to be alive, held captive in Gaza, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the goals of his country's war with Hamas are to destroy the group and rescue the hostages.

The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health says the war has killed more than 38,000 Palestinians in the densely populated coastal territory.

Israel strikes school in Gaza as cease-fire talks continue 02:49

The U.N. experts listed three children who had recently died "from malnutrition" after a number of others were said to have starved to death in northern Gaza earlier this year.

"Fayez Ataya, who was barely six months old, died on 30 May 2024, and 13-year-old Abdulqader Al-Serhi died on June 1, 2024 at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah," they said.

Nine-year-old Ahmad Abu Reida died just two days later "in the tent sheltering his displaced family in Al-Mawasi, Khan Younis," they said.

"With the death of these children from starvation despite medical treatment in central Gaza, there is no doubt that famine has spread from northern Gaza into central and southern Gaza," they said.

The experts decried that the world had not done more to avert the disaster.

"When a two-month-old baby and 10-year-old Yazan Al Kafarneh died of hunger on 24 February and 4 March respectively, this confirmed that famine had struck northern Gaza," they said. "The whole world should have intervened earlier to stop Israel's genocidal starvation campaign and prevented these deaths… Inaction is complicity."

Gaza has faced a deep humanitarian crisis since the war erupted and the U.N. has been warning for months of a looming famine, especially in the north, but one has not been officially declared. A famine declaration does not carry any legal implications, but it can help to galvanize international support for an affected population.

The Israeli mission highlighted Tuesday that the latest assessment by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) partnership determined that famine had not materialized after aid access improved somewhat in Gaza.

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

The U.S. government has pressed Israel for months to increase the flow of aid into Gaza, and the Biden administration tasked the military with building a floating pier on the territory's Mediterranean coast in a bid to get more food and other vital supplies in.

U.S. dismantling Gaza aid pier over weather, may not be reinstalled 02:10

The $230 million pier project has been dogged by logistical challenges and never managed to facilitate a significant amount of aid entering Gaza. It was always described by U.S. officials as an additive measure, with the acknowledgement that Gaza's land borders, controlled by Israel, are the only way to get sufficient aid into the enclave.

Aid agencies have accused Israel of limiting the flow of aid into Gaza and creating bureaucratic hurdles to movement around the war-torn territory. Israel dismisses those allegations and says Hamas is the impediment to humanitarian work in Gaza.

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