Israel destroying Gaza’s food system in ‘starvation’ tactic, says UN expert

GENEVA: A UN expert said on Thursday that Israel was destroying Gaza’s food system as part of a broader “starvation campaign” in its war against Hamas.

Aid officials have warned of looming famine five months into the campaign against the Islamist Palestinian group, while hospitals in the isolated northern part of the enclave say children have started dying from malnutrition.

“Israel is not only denying and restricting the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel is destroying the food system in Gaza,” Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council.

“Israel has mounted a starvation campaign against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” he added, saying that included targeting small-scale fishermen.

Israel denies restricting relief into Gaza and has since last week begun working with private contractors to deliver aid.

It also denies waging war on civilians, saying its fight is with Hamas. 

Israel participates in Human Rights Council debates as an observer and may address the forum.

Fakhri, a Lebanese-Canadian law professor, is one of dozens of independent human rights experts mandated by the UN to report and advise on specific themes and crises.

He was due to speak about fishing and climate change but used much of the first part of his speech to the 47-member Geneva council to address the Gaza situation.

He alleged that Israel is targeting small-scale fishers by denying them access to the sea and destroying boats and shacks.

Around 80 percent of Gaza’s fishing sector has been destroyed since Oct. 7, he said, adding that every boat had been demolished by Israeli forces in the main port of Gaza City.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel will push on with its offensive against Hamas, including into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, despite growing international pressure to stop.

“There is international pressure, and it’s growing, but particularly when the international pressure rises, we must close ranks. We need to stand together against the attempts to stop the war,” he said.

About 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed into Rafah, on the southernmost fringe of the enclave close to the border with Egypt, most of them having fled their homes further north to escape Israel’s military onslaught.

Addressing a graduation ceremony at a training school for Israeli army officers, Netanyahu also said Israel must push back against a “calculated attempt” to blame it for Hamas’ crimes.

He added that Israel would operate throughout Gaza, “including Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold.”

“Whoever tells us not to act in Rafah is telling us to lose the war and that will not happen,” Netanyahu said.

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