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Israel Forcing Palestinians to Starve “Just Miles From Trucks Filled With Food”

Hundreds of aid trucks are lined up at the Gaza border, but Israel is blocking the vast majority from entering.

Children wait for food relief in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on December 31, 2023.

Israel’s blockade of food and attacks on Gaza’s food system is so severe that Palestinians in Gaza are at severe risk of starving to death while humanitarian aid trucks “filled with food” sit just across the border awaiting entry, the head of the World Food Program has warned.

“People in Gaza risk dying of hunger just miles from trucks filled with food,” said World Food Program Executive Director Cindy McCain in a statement this week calling for Israeli forces to open aid routes and allow aid workers safe passage. “Every hour lost puts countless lives at risk. We can keep famine at bay but only if we can deliver sufficient supplies and have safe access to everyone in need, wherever they are.”

A recent report from UN-backed international food researchers found that the entire population of Gaza is in an acute food crisis, with a quarter of the population, or about 570,000 people under “famine” levels of hunger. World Food Program Chief Economist Arif Husain has said that the food crisis is the worst he’s ever seen, and pointed out in a recent interview that 80 percent of the global population experiencing famine is in Gaza.

UN agencies and other humanitarian aid groups have been for months calling for Israel to end its blockade of basic human needs like food, water, electricity and medical supplies. Hundreds of trucks containing such aid are lined up at the two border crossings that haven’t been closed by Israeli forces, but Israeli officials are blocking the vast majority of them from entering, with only about 120 trucks a day going in compared to the 500 trucks a day that aid groups say would be needed to properly provide help.

When aid groups are allowed entry, they are subject to the same relentless Israeli bombing and attacks that have killed over 24,000 Palestinians so far. Aid workers have said that, unlike in other global conflicts, Israel is not hesitant to kill humanitarian aid workers in its assault and has on occasions actively targeted aid groups. This has led to unprecedented rates of death among aid workers, with 152 UN workers killed since October 7, UN Secretary-General Antonió Guterres announced recently.

Aid workers say that Israel has set up a complex and unnecessary process to vet trucks entering Gaza, while bombing areas where aid workers set up to distribute supplies.

Human rights experts and groups say that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war, which would, if found to be true, be considered a war crime. The mass hunger — which experts say is also giving way to severe malnutrition, especially among children — is layered on top of and exacerbating other problems brought on by a lack of clean water, medical supplies and infrastructure, which are causing widespread disease as Israel carries on with its relentless bombing.

UNICEF has warned that children in southern Gaza are only able to access 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day, below the recommended 3 liters a day for bare minimum survival, and the 15 liters needed for things like cooking and basic sanitation. Previous U.S. State Department Research has found that large numbers of children, including newborn babies, in Gaza are being forced to drink contaminated or brackish water.

“Children at high risk of dying from malnutrition and disease desperately need medical treatment, clean water and sanitation services, but the conditions on the ground do not allow us to safely reach children and families in need,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said. “Some of the material we desperately need to repair and increase water supply remain restricted from entering Gaza. The lives of children and their families are hanging in the balance. Every minute counts.”

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