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Aid groups demand declaration of famine in Gaza

By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-05-29 09:26
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Displaced Palestinians grieve over Israeli strikes in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. Jehad Alshrafi / AP

More than 50 international rights groups have called for an official declaration of famine in Gaza, blaming Israel's alleged use of starvation as a "weapon", which contravenes international law.

They made their demand on Sunday in a collective statement published on the website of the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, a nonprofit organization for the protection of human rights.

The statement said food insecurity is increasing throughout Gaza due to Israel's "crimes of starvation", which are being used as a weapon against the Palestinians and are "part of a larger crime of genocide".

It said food security levels have significantly declined "as a result of the Israeli army's ground operation in Rafah", which began on May 7. Israel blocked the entry of humanitarian aid trucks at the southern city's border crossing with Egypt on May 6.

According to the United Nations, starvation of the civilian population is illegal under International Humanitarian Law and in direct breach of UNSC Resolution 2417.When the UN General Assembly adopted The Right to Food Resolution on Dec 16, 2021, with 186 yay and two nay votes — Israel and the United States were the only ones against it.

About 80 percent of Gaza's 2.3 million people have fled their homes. Severe hunger is widespread, and UN officials said parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

"Israel must be pressured to act immediately to implement the precautionary measures announced by the International Court of Justice regarding the opening of the Rafah crossing," the statement read.

The ICJ on Friday ordered Israel to stop its military offensive in Rafah with immediate effect, noting that the situation had deteriorated since its previous rulings on Jan 26 and March 28, where Israel had been asked to take all measures to prevent genocidal acts and ensure unhindered provision of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government said in response to the ruling: "The charges of genocide brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague are false, outrageous and morally repugnant."

In a post on X, Israel's Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories said 360 trucks were transferred to Gaza on Sunday, including 124 aid trucks that arrived at the Kerem Shalom/Karem Abu Salem border crossing from Egypt. It also said 37 pallets of aid were airdropped over Gaza and six tankers of fuel entered the territory.

The joint statement also noted that the majority of goods entering Gaza through the Kerem Shalom/Karem Abu Salem crossing are for merchants and that the people living there — the majority of whom have lost their means of support — must pay for them.

'Not enough'

"This means that even with the very limited aid that Israel has provided, the amount of relief needed to address the growing number of displaced people in the south is insufficient," the statement said.

The goods are "completely blocked" from getting to areas north of the Gaza Valley, including Gaza City and North Gaza governorates, where people are experiencing a severe shortage of vegetables, meat and other foods.

The aid groups blamed Israel for leading Gaza to this "catastrophic humanitarian and food crisis".

Ahmad Ghouri, a senior lecturer in the School of Law, Politics and Sociology at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, said Israel "has not fulfilled its obligations".

It "has failed and, in fact, refused to comply with the ICJ orders leading to ongoing violations of human rights", he told China Daily.

On Tuesday, 19 NGOs, including ActionAid and Oxfam, demanded that all permanent and elected members of the Security Council enforce the ICJ's orders on Israel's actions in Rafah and return to talks with Palestine for peace.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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