Half a million in Gaza face starvation: Report


The New York Times :

Gaza is at high risk of famine and almost half a million people there face starvation because of a catastrophic lack of food, a group of global experts said on Tuesday. The experts stopped short of saying that a famine had begun in the enclave as a result of Israel’s war against Hamas, and they noted that the amount of food reaching northern Gaza had increased.

The analysis by the group, called the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, or I.P.C., carries considerable weight. The group is a partnership of U.N. bodies and major relief agencies, and global leaders look to it to gauge the severity of hunger crises and allocate humanitarian aid.

After Hamas led a deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Israeli officials declared a siege of Gaza, and they have severely restricted the entry of humanitarian aid, saying they do not want it to help Hamas. From October to early May, the daily number of aid trucks entering the territory through the two main crossing points in southern Gaza dropped by around 75 percent, according to U.N. data, and reports of hunger and malnourishment have been widespread.
A malnourished Palestinian girl at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Deir al Balah in southern Gaza on Saturday.Credit…Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Israeli officials have said for months that there is no limit on the amount of food and other aid that can enter Gaza. In recent weeks, Israel has opened crossings for aid into northern Gaza and increased the number of commercial vehicles carrying food and other goods across the border.

The report said that almost all of Gaza’s population of around 2.2 million faced high levels of acute food insecurity, and it put Gaza at Phase 4, the “emergency” phase, on its five-level classification scale. But it also said that 495,000 people faced “catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity,” which is Phase 5 on the scale.

“In this phase, households experience an extreme lack of food, starvation, and exhaustion of coping capacities,” the report said.

In March, the I.P.C. predicted that famine would likely occur in northern Gaza by the end of May. But on Tuesday, it said that the amount of food and other nutrition delivered there had increased in March and April.

Those increases “appear to have temporarily alleviated conditions” in the north, the report said, adding, “In this context, the available evidence does not indicate that famine is currently occurring.”

In early May, Israel’s military sent ground troops into the southern Gazan city of Rafah, and more than a million people, many of whom had previously been displaced from their homes, fled to a coastal area that lacks basic infrastructure, making them acutely vulnerable.

The military operation closed the Rafah border crossing from Egypt and disrupted aid deliveries at the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel. The situation in the south has since deteriorated, the report said.

The I.P.C. said that to be able to buy food, more than half of households in Gaza “had to exchange their clothes for money, and one-third resorted to picking up trash to sell.” It added that more than half of households often did not have any food to eat and that more than 20 percent went full days and nights without eating.

The I.P.C. identifies a famine when at least 20 percent of households in an area face an extreme lack of food, at least 30 percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition and at least two adults or four children for every 10,000 people die each day from starvation or disease linked to malnutrition.

Since the I.P.C. was established in 2004, its approach has been used to identify only two famines: in Somalia in 2011, and in South Sudan in 2017. In Somalia, more than 100,000 people died before famine was officially declared.
Israeli officials acknowledge the hunger in Gaza but accuse Hamas of stealing or diverting aid.

But Ismael Thawabteh, deputy head of the Hamas government media office in Gaza, said last month that those allegations were “absolutely false and incorrect.” He added that, while there had been some looting of relief supplies, it had been done by a small number of people who had been forced into desperation by Israel.
Some Gazans have also accused Hamas of benefiting from looted aid.

A protest against the recruitment of the ultra-Orthodox into the Israeli military in Jerusalem in April.Credit…Ohad Zwigenberg/Associated Press

Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the military must begin drafting ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, a decision that threatened to split Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government amid the war in Gaza.
In a unanimous decision, nine judges held that there was no legal basis for the longstanding military exemption given to many ultra-Orthodox religious students. Given the absence of a law distinguishing between seminarians and other men of draft age, the court ruled, the country’s compulsory service laws must similarly apply to the ultra-Orthodox minority.

In a country where military service is compulsory for most Jewish men and women, the exemption for the ultra-Orthodox has long been a source of contention for secular Israelis. But anger over the group’s special treatment has grown as the war in Gaza has stretched into its ninth month, requiring tens of thousands of reservists to serve multiple tours and costing the lives of hundreds of soldiers.

“These days, in the midst of a difficult war, the burden of that inequality is more acute than ever — and requires the advancement of a sustainable solution to this issue,” the Supreme Court judges wrote in their ruling.

The court’s ruling pits secular Jews against the ultra-Orthodox, who say their study of scripture is as essential as the military to defending Israel. It also exposes the fault lines in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, which depends on the support of two ultra-Orthodox parties amid the country’s deadliest war in decades.

Mr. Netanyahu has called for legislation that would generally maintain the exemption for the religious students. But if he moves ahead with the plan, other members of his government might break ranks amid rising public anger over the government’s strategy for the war in Gaza.


Ultra-Orthodox Jews have been exempt from military service since the founding of Israel in 1948, when the country’s leadership promised them autonomy in exchange for their support in creating a largely secular state. Along with being exempted from the draft, the ultra-Orthodox, known in Hebrew as Haredim, are allowed to run their own education system.

The Supreme Court took aim at that system as well in its ruling, stating that the government could no longer transfer subsidies to religious schools, or yeshivas, that registered draft-age students whose exemptions were no longer legal.

The decision immediately sparked outrage among ultra-Orthodox politicians, who vowed to oppose it.

“The State of Israel was established in order to be a home for the Jewish people, for whom Torah is the bedrock of their existence. The Holy Torah will prevail,” Yitzhak Goldknopf, an ultra-Orthodox minister, said in a statement on Monday.

Roughly 1,000 Haredi men currently serve voluntarily in the military — less than 1 percent of all soldiers — but the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack has appeared to prompt a greater sense of shared destiny with mainstream Israelis among some segments of the Haredi public. More than 2,000 Haredim sought to join the military in the first 10 weeks of the war, according to military statistics.

Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas, in Tehran in March.Credit…Vahid Salemi/Associated Press
A strike in the northern Gaza Strip killed a sister of Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas, and her family on Tuesday, the armed group and a Gazan rescue official said.

Hamas confirmed the death of Mr. Haniyeh’s sister, Zaher Haniyeh, in a statement. The Israeli military said it was aware of the reports but could not “currently confirm” that it had struck the Haniyeh family home.

Mr. Haniyeh, who heads the Hamas political bureau from exile in Qatar, is a longstanding political leader of the group that governs the Gaza Strip and that launched the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Mahmoud Basal, a spokesman for the Palestinian Civil Defense, said that emergency rescue crews had removed the bodies of Mr. Haniyeh’s sister, her husband and their eight children from their home in the Shati neighborhood in northern Gaza, which was demolished in the strike.

People near a pile of rubble in an alleyway.

At the time, Mr. Haniyeh did not specify his sons’ roles in the group but called them martyrs. He said that 60 members of his extended family had been killed by Israel over time.

A group of global experts said on Tuesday that Gaza is at high risk of famine, but it stopped short of saying that one had begun.

At least 30 percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition.

At least two adults or four children for every 10,000 people die each day from starvation or disease linked to malnutrition.

Since the I.P.C. was developed in 2004, it has been used to identify only two famines: in Somalia in 2011, and in South Sudan in 2017. In Somalia, more than 100,000 people died before famine was officially declared.

I.P.C. analysts expressed grave concern about food insecurity in Yemen and Ethiopia related to the civil wars in those countries, but said not enough information was available from governments to issue a formal assessment.
The classifications of famine in Somalia and South Sudan galvanized global action and spurred large donations.
The first I.P.C. report on Gaza, released in December, found that the enclave’s entire population was experiencing food insecurity at crisis or worse levels. Though the group said Gaza had not yet crossed the famine threshold, it warned that the risk of famine-level hunger would increase if the war did not stop.

A second analysis in March projected that famine was “imminent” for the 300,000 Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza, and that such conditions would develop by the end of May.

The group’s analysis on Tuesday said almost half a million people in Gaza face starvation because of a catastrophic lack of food. It said aid deliveries had improved the situation in the north, but that Israel’s ground operations in the south had disrupted aid distribution there.The December I.P.C. analysis relied on publicly available data from international and local aid groups in Gaza that the group said met its methodology standards. But I.P.C. analysts said they lacked recent data on the prevalence of acute malnutrition. Getting that data is very difficult in a war zone and poses a burden on already overwhelmed health care workers, the group added.

The organization’s criteria were originally designed to address weather-related famine, not wartime crises like the one in Gaza. But most severe hunger crises in recent history have been driven by conflict rather than weather.
And while I.P.C. experts perform the analysis that can classify a famine, it is up to government authorities and the United Nations to formally declare one.

In some cases, countries have hesitated to do so. In 2022, Somalia’s president expressed reluctance to declare a famine during a severe hunger crisis brought on by a drought. And in 2021, Ethiopia blocked a classification of famine in the Tigray region through heavy lobbying, according to a top U.N. official.