UN rights expert urges sanctions against Israel amid heightening famine concerns in Gaza


            UNITED NATIONS, Mar 03 (APP):The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food,  Michael Fakhri, has called for sanctions against Israel, asserting that a potential famine may already be occurring in besieged Gaza.

Fakhri, a human rights expert, raised the alarm after reports of the death of a 10th child from starvation.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, he said Israel was intentionally starving the Palestinian people in Gaza since October 8. He stressed that an immediate ceasefire is essential to prevent or end the famine and called for sanctions against Israel as a means to push for a ceasefire.

“The only way to end/prevent this famine is an immediate ceasefire. And the only way to get a ceasefire is to sanction Israel,” Fakhri added.

More than 30,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children,  have been killed and over 70,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip since the Israel’s war on Hamas began nearly five months ago, health officials in the territory said.

On Thursday, Israeli troops opened fire on a crowd of people scrambling for food in Gaza City. More than 100 people were killed and at least 700 wounded, according to  Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Israel claimed many of the dead were trampled in a chaotic stampede for the food aid and that its troops only fired when they felt endangered by the crowd.

Israel’s war against Hamas has created a humanitarian catastrophe throughout the Gaza Strip and devastation in northern areas like Gaza City, which are largely cut off from the rest of the territory with little aid entering.

As concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza escalate, the call for sanctions reflects growing international scrutiny and demands for action to address the urgent needs of the affected population.

Hunger and severe malnutrition are widespread in the Gaza Strip, where about 2.2 million Palestinians are facing severe shortages resulting from Israel destroying food supplies and severely restricting the flow of food, medicines and other humanitarian supplies. Aid trucks and Palestinians waiting for humanitarian relief have come under Israeli fire.

“There is no reason to intentionally block the passage of humanitarian aid or intentionally obliterate small-scale fishing vessels, greenhouses and orchards in Gaza – other than to deny people access to food,” Fakhri said in an earlier statement.

“Intentionally depriving people of food is clearly a war crime. Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people, in whole or in part, simply for being Palestinian. In my view as a UN human rights expert, this is now a situation of genocide. This means the state of Israel in its entirety is culpable and should be held accountable – not just individuals or this government or that person.”

In every famine – whether its human-made or climate-driven – children and infants, pregnant women and the elderly are the most vulnerable to malnutrition, disease and premature death.

Nutrition screenings at health centers and shelters in January found almost 16% of children under the age of two – the equivalent of one in six infants – were acutely malnourished or wasting in northern Gaza, where 300,000 people are trapped with virtually no food aid being allowed in by Israel. Of these, almost 3% are suffering from severe wasting, at high risk of medical complications or death without urgent help, according to a recent UN report. Reports have emerged of parents feeding their children animal feed in hope of keeping them alive.

In Rafah in the south, where Israel is currently focusing military attacks, 5% of children under two years were acutely malnourished. Wasting was not a major concern in Gaza before the conflict, when 0.8% of children under the age of five were acutely malnourished.

The screenings took place in January, and the situation is likely to be even worse today, warned UNICEF – which has been not had access to the north despite frequent requests since 1 January.

“The speed of malnourishment of young children is also astounding. The bombing and people being killed directly is brutal, but this starvation – and the wasting and stunting of children – is torturous and vile. It will have a long-term impact on the population physically, cognitively and morally … All things indicate that this has been intentional,” said Fakhri,  who is a law professor at the University of Oregon.

Across Gaza, 95% of households are restricting meals and portion size, with adults going without to feed small children. Yet the little food people have lacks essential nutrients needed for humans to grow and thrive physically and cognitively.