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EDITORIAL: As Israel continues to rain death and destruction upon the Gaza Palestinians an important ingredient of its genocidal war is also food deprivation. Speaking at the launch of Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) partnership report on Monday, the UN’s World Food Programme head Cindy McCain averred, “people in Gaza are starving to death right now.

The speed at which this manmade hunger and malnutrition crisis has ripped through Gaza is terrifying”. Noting that this amounts to around 1.1 million people struggling with catastrophic hunger and starvation, added the IPC report, “this is the highest number of people ever recorded as facing catastrophic hunger.”

A senior Food and Agriculture Organisation official, Beth Bechdol, said, “to have 50 percent of an entire population in catastrophic, near-famine levels, is unprecedented”. The IPC report also points out that children in Gaza face “extremely critical health conditions... exposing them to high risk nutritional deterioration”. The situation being as dire as it is, people desperate to provide sustenance for their families are using bird feed and cattle fodder as food.

This obviously is the result of strict restrictions Israel has imposed on the entry and distribution of food in the besieged enclave, exacerbated by displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes. Clearly, concurrent with military onslaught Israel is using food as a weapon of war, without a care about international law which makes it a war crime.

Its unmistakable goal is to kill or drive out all Palestinians from their ancestral lands for further expansion of the settler state. Yet the countries which could exert their influence, especially Israel’s closest ally the US, are playing along. The US could force Israel to open all Gaza borders for food aid, but had no such intention.

It was only to show to anti-war demonstrators at home that it was doing something the Biden administrations joined Jordan in air dropping food parcels, which has been of little help to most vulnerable sections of the population (China and Russia successfully vetoed the US ‘hypocritical spectacle’ that it presented on Friday through a resolution in the UN Security Council on Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal).

Unable to defend the indefensible, Washington has also announced construction of a temporary pier for delivering two million meals a day to Gaza. According to experts, however, completion of that project will take about two months, whilst as per IPC projection, famine could occur anytime between mid-March and May. That could take a horrendous toll of life.

The issue at this point in time is not only unimpeded entry and distribution of humanitarian assistance, but an end to Israeli aggression. The Arab states have a clear obligation in this regard. Sadly, they have chosen to remain indifferent bystanders.

Had they rallied around the Gazans and taken practical measures to bring about ceasefire, the situation would not be so calamitous. Still, they would be wise to realise that the spill over from what is going on in Gaza as well the occupied West Bank will affect them, too, in due course of time.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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