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Top Biden Official Admits Famine Is Spreading in Gaza as US Continues Funding It

The famine is “giving rise already to child deaths in the north,” the USAID chief said in a congressional hearing.

Palestinian families, seeking refuge from Israeli attacks, try to feed their children by cooking the limited food they can barely afford at Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza on February 8, 2024.

A top Biden administration official working on international affairs acknowledged on Wednesday that famine is unfolding in Gaza — the first time that a senior member of President Joe Biden’s government has recognized the consequences of Israel’s U.S.-backed starvation campaign in Gaza.

In a hearing in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) head Samantha Power confirmed the findings of a recent internal USAID cable warning that famine had begun in northern Gaza. The cable warned that the famine and hunger in Gaza was “unprecedented in modern history” and is only slated to substantially worsen in coming weeks and months, HuffPost reported last week.

Power said that USAID believes that the findings of a food crisis and widespread famine by the UN-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) are “credible,” and that the agency generally finds IPC findings to be accurate. The IPC has found that famine is “imminent” or already happening for half of the population of Gaza, or 1.1 million people in the region, as Israel has maintained its blockade of food and destruction of bakeries.

“So, famine is already occurring [in Gaza]?” Castro said.

“That is — yes,” Power responded.

“In northern Gaza, the rate of malnutrition prior to October 7 was almost zero, and now it is 1 in 3 kids,” she went on. “Food has not flowed in sufficient quantities to avoid this imminent famine in the south, and these conditions are giving rise, already, to child deaths in the north.”

Power’s comments are significant as U.S. officials have fiercely downplayed or denied the atrocities that Israel has committed in Gaza over the past six months; on Tuesday, for instance, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the U.S. doesn’t have “any evidence of genocide” in Gaza, even as droves of experts draw parallels between Gaza and historic massacres like the Rwandan genocide.

Up until recently, the Biden administration was mum about Israel’s food blockade, despite the IPC warning of famine setting in for half of the population of Gaza in December; even after Biden began speaking out about the lack of humanitarian aid entering Gaza in recent weeks, he has refused to make policy changes that would force Israel to allow more aid in, like conditioning U.S. military aid.

The U.S. has also defunded the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) — the primary aid agency for Palestinians in Gaza and beyond, without which aid groups have said it will be almost impossible to coordinate aid in Gaza.

U.S. officials have repeatedly refused to acknowledge the tactics that Israeli forces have used to enforce starvation in Gaza, with officials downplaying the February “flour massacre,” in which Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians hoping to access a rare shipment of food in northern Gaza, killing at least 104 people and injuring at least 750.

Luring hungry Palestinians with food shipments and then killing them appears to be a tactic of the Israeli military. A report by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor published last week found that Israeli forces have killed at least 563 people and injured 1,523 who were waiting for or distributing aid in Gaza.

“The use of starvation as a weapon has been an official political decision from the first day of the war, as declared by the Israeli Minister of Defense, and was implemented in integrated stages, which have included tightening the siege and closing the border crossings; preventing the entry of commercial goods; destroying all components of local production and food sources; increasing the Gaza Strip population’s reliance on humanitarian aid; and turning it into their main source of food,” Euro-Med found.

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