Palestinian minister accuses Israel of starving Gazans; Israel says charge ‘obscene’

December 15, 2023 - 1:02 PM
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Palestinian children hold pots as they queue to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen, amid shortages in food supplies, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip December 14, 2023. (Reuters/Saleh Salem)
  • Palestinian FM deplores ‘utter international failure’
  • Israel dismisses accusations as ‘obscene’
  • Humanitarian situation ‘well beyond breakdown’ – UN

 The Palestinian foreign minister on Tuesday accused Israel of starving Gaza, a charge swiftly rejected by an Israeli official,as the U.N. human rights chief said the battered enclave was on the verge of finding itself “well beyond breakdown”.

The U.N. World Food Programme says half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is starving as the expansion of Israel‘s military assault on the southern part of the Gaza Strip, in response to October’s bloody cross-border rampage by Hamas militants, has cut people off from food, medicine and fuel.

“As we speak, at least 1 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, half of them children, are starving, not because of a natural disaster or because of lack of generous assistance waiting at the border,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a U.N. event to mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“No, they are starving because of Israel‘s deliberate use of starvation as a weapon of war against the people it occupied.”

In response, an Israeli official told Reuters in Jerusalem: “This is, of course, obscene … (a) blood-libellous, delusional level of allegations.”

Israel was encouraging increased shipments of food into Gaza from Egypt, which also borders the Palestinian enclave, the official said, blaming lags on a “bottle neck”.

A government official said the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza from Israel was reopened for inspections on Tuesday, and the government had ramped up aid inspection capacity.

‘Dystopian reality’

In Geneva, al-Maliki said: “We are living through this dystopian reality that excludes Palestinians from the basic, most basic rights afforded to all human beings.”

He described this as an “utter international failure” to protect Palestinians.

Asked if he agreed with al-Maliki’s assessment, U.N. High Commissioner Volker Turk described the situation in Gaza as “on the verge of well beyond breakdown”.

This is a clarion call for everyone and for the international institutions that deal with it, to take it very seriously and act on it,” he said.

In remarks to reporters, Israel‘s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, criticised al-Maliki’s address for making no mention of Hamas and its deadly attacks on Israel.

“Nothing about Oct. 7, nothing about the atrocities that were committed by Hamas,” she said, speaking alongside the mother of U.S.-Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin.

Israel says its instructions to people to move to areas it says are safer are among measures it is taking to protect civilians as it tries to root out Hamas militants who killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostage in the Oct. 7 attack.

Israel‘s retaliatory assault has killed at least 18,205 people and wounded nearly 50,000, according to the Gaza health ministry, which says many thousands more dead are uncounted under the rubble or beyond the reach of ambulances.

– Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Emma Farge; Editing by Alison Williams, Alexandra Hudson and Nick Macfie