Over 570,000 people in Gaza are starving due to fallout from war, UN report says

Official warns the Gaza population could face a full-fledged famine within the next six months if food deliveries are not restored

By AP

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An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires a shell from southern Israel towards the Gaza Strip, in a position near the Israel-Gaza border. — AP
An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires a shell from southern Israel towards the Gaza Strip, in a position near the Israel-Gaza border. — AP

Published: Thu 21 Dec 2023, 9:25 PM

Last updated: Thu 21 Dec 2023, 9:26 PM

A report released on Thursday by the UN finds that more than half a million people in Gaza are “starving” because of not enough food entering the territory since the outbreak of war more than 10 weeks ago.

“It is a situation where pretty much everybody in Gaza is hungry," said World Food Program chief economist Arif Husain.

He warned that if the war between Israel and Hamas continues at the same levels and food deliveries are not restored that the population could face “a full-fledged famine within the next six months.”

The report released by 23 UN and nongovernmental agencies found that the entire population in Gaza is in a food crisis, with 576,600 at catastrophic — or starvation — levels.

Earlier, UN relief workers on Thursday reported “unbearable” scenes in two hospitals in northern Gaza, where bedridden patients with untreated wounds cry out for water, the few remaining doctors and nurses have no supplies, and bodies are lined up in the courtyard.

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, at the hospital Rafah. — AP
Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, at the hospital Rafah. — AP

The relief workers spoke after delivering supplies a day earlier to Ahli and Shifa hospitals, which are located in the heart of the north Gaza battle zone where Israeli troops have demolished vast swaths of the city while fighting Hamas militants.

Bombardment and fighting continued on Thursday, but with Gaza's internet and other communications cut off for a second straight day, details on the latest violence could largely not be confirmed.

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Israel says it is in the final stages of clearing out Hamas militants from northern Gaza, but that months of fighting lie ahead in the south. The war has killed nearly 20,000 Palestinians. Some 1.9 million Gaza residents — more than 80 per cent of the population — have been driven from their homes.

A blast on Thursday morning hit the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel into Gaza, forcing the UN to stop its pickups of aid there, according to Juliette Touma, spokesperson of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. At least four people were killed, the nearby hospital reported.

Israel had begun allowing aid to enter Gaza through Kerem Shalom only days earlier for the first time in the war, under pressure from the United States to ensure more help gets to Palestinians. Palestinian authorities blamed Israel for the blast, but its cause could not immediately be confirmed.

Palestinians inspect a house after it was hit by an Israeli bombardment on Rafah. — AP
Palestinians inspect a house after it was hit by an Israeli bombardment on Rafah. — AP

Only nine of Gaza's 36 health facilities are still partially functioning — and all are located in the south, the World Health Organization said.

In the north over recent weeks, Israeli forces have raided a series of health facilities, detaining men for interrogation and expelling others. In other facilities, patients who are unable to be moved remain along with skeleton staff who watch over them but can do little beyond first aid, according to UN and health officials.

Ahli Hospital is “a place where people are waiting to die,” said Sean Casey, a member of the WHO team that visited the two hospitals Wednesday. Five remaining doctors and five nurses along with around 80 patients remain in Ahli, he said.

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All of the hospital buildings are damaged except two buildings were patients are now being kept — the orthopaedics ward and a church on the grounds, he said. He described entering the compound, strewn with debris, and a crater from recent shelling in the courtyard. Bodies were lined up nearby, but doctors said it was too unsafe to move them with fighting still outside, he said.

Israeli soldiers fire mortars from southern Israel towards the Gaza Strip. — AP
Israeli soldiers fire mortars from southern Israel towards the Gaza Strip. — AP

Inside the church, it was “an unbearable scene,” he said. Patients with traumatic wounds were struggling with infections. Others had undergone amputations. “Many patients said they hadn’t changed their clothes in weeks,” he said. “Patients were crying out in pain but were also crying out for us to give them water.”

Hamas fired a large barrage of rockets at central Israel on Thursday, showing its military capabilities remain formidable. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, but the rocket attack set off air raid sirens in Israel's commercial hub of Tel Aviv.

Hamas militants have put up stiff resistance lately against Israeli ground troops, and its forces appear to remain largely intact in southern Gaza, despite more than 2 1/2 months of heavy aerial bombardment across the territory.


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