UN says Israel may be using starvation as ‘weapon of war’

The United Nations warned Tuesday that Israel’s severe restrictions on aid into war-ravaged Gaza coupled with its ongoing attacks could be seen as using starvation as a “weapon of war.”

UN human rights chief Volker Turk decried the rampant hunger and looming famine in Gaza.

“The situation of hunger, starvation and famine is a result of Israel’s extensive restrictions on the entry and distribution of humanitarian aid and commercial goods, displacement of most of the population, as well as the destruction of crucial civilian infrastructure,” he said in a statement.

“The extent of Israel’s continued restrictions on the entry of aid into Gaza, together with the manner in which it continues to conduct hostilities, may amount to the use of starvation as a method of war, which is a war crime.”

His spokesman, Jeremy Laurence, told reporters in Geneva that the final determination of whether “starvation is being used as a weapon of war” would be determined by a court of law.

“The suffering of the people of Gaza is unconscionable,” he said.

The comments came after a UN-backed assessment determined that the war-torn Palestinian territory is facing imminent famine.

The devastating war since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel has left roughly half of Gazans – around 1.1 million people – experiencing “catastrophic” hunger, a UN-backed food security assessment warned.

Without a surge of aid, famine would hit the 300,000 people in Gaza’s war-battered north by May, it said Monday.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, told reporters in Geneva his agency feared that without action, “you’re looking at more than 200 people dying from starvation per day.”

Turk also stressed that “the clock is ticking.”

“Everyone, especially those with influence, must insist that Israel acts to facilitate the unimpeded entry and distribution of needed humanitarian assistance and commercial goods to end starvation and avert all risk of famine.”

He lamented that “the alarm bells sounded over the past months by the UN, including my Office, have not been heeded.”

“This catastrophe is human-made and was entirely preventable.”

The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

Israel has responded with a relentless offensive against Hamas that Gaza’s health ministry says has killed more than 31,800 people, most of them women and children.

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