Parts of Gaza are in ‘full-blown famine’, UN aid official says

World Food Program leaders say “full-scale famine” is occurring in parts of the Gaza Strip and has spread across the strip after nearly seven months of war, making it extremely difficult to provide aid. He said there was.

“There’s hunger. There’s real hunger in the North, and it’s moving south,” program director Cindy McCain said in an excerpt released late Friday. mentioned in. Interview with “Meet the Press”

McCain is the second prominent American leading the U.S. government and U.N. aid efforts to say there is famine in northern Gaza, but her remarks constitute a formal declaration, a complex bureaucratic process. It’s not a thing.

She did not explain why there had not been an official declaration of famine. But she said her assessment was “based on what we have seen and experienced on the ground.”

The hunger crisis is worst in the northern part of the Strip, a largely lawless and gang-infested area over which the Israeli military has little control. In recent weeks, more aid has flowed into the affected areas after Israel faced increasing global pressure to improve dire conditions on the ground.

On the diplomatic front, negotiations aimed at reaching a ceasefire and agreement for the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners of war resumed in Cairo on Saturday. A delegation of Hamas leaders visited the Egyptian capital, the Palestinian militant group said.

Over the past few days, Israel and the mediators in the negotiations, Egypt, Qatar, and the United States, have been waiting for Hamas’s reaction to the latest ceasefire proposal, with Hamas indicating that it is willing to discuss any proposal approved by Israel. On Friday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said U.S. officials were waiting to see if Hamas “can say yes to a ceasefire and the release of hostages.”

“The only thing standing between Gazans and a ceasefire is Hamas,” Blinken said at the McCain Institute in Arizona. “So we’ll see what they do.”

Hussam Badran, a senior Hamas official, said in a text message that Hamas representatives visited Cairo and were “very positive” about the proposed deal. “If there is no deal, it will be because of Prime Minister Netanyahu alone,” he said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed for weeks that Israeli forces would invade Rafah, and many of Hamas’s remaining forces are believed to be stationed alongside some of its leaders. The plan has drawn widespread criticism, including from the Biden administration, over concerns for the safety of the more than 1 million Gazans displaced in the area.

As of Saturday, Israel had no plans to engage in indirect negotiations with Hamas officials, as Israeli officials had done in previous talks, according to two Israeli officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with diplomatic protocols. did not send a delegation to Cairo. .

Even if Hamas announces it has accepted the deal in Cairo, a ceasefire is unlikely to be imminent, one Israeli official said. Once approved by Hamas, there will be intensive negotiations to finalize the details of a ceasefire, but such negotiations are likely to be long and difficult, the official added.

McCain said a ceasefire could help ease the situation in Gaza.

“It’s scary,” she said on “Meet the Press.” “It’s hard to see and it’s hard to hear. I really hope we can get a ceasefire and start feeding people, especially in the north, sooner.”

The first U.S. official to say there was famine in Gaza during the conflict was U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power, who spoke in Congressional testimony last month.

McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain, was appointed by President Biden as U.S. ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2021 and became director of the United Nations agency, the World Food Program, last year.

Official declarations of famine are made by United Nations agencies. Integrated food security stage classification, and the government of the country where the famine is occurring. It is unclear which local authorities in Gaza have such powers. Declarations are rarely made based on measurements of short-term starvation, malnutrition, or mortality. But for aid organizations, hunger helps prioritize one crisis over competing disasters and raise funds to respond.

Gaza is in what experts call a “severe man-made hunger crisis.” Israeli shelling and territorial restrictions make it extremely difficult to provide aid. The amount of aid flowing into Gaza has increased recently, but aid groups say it is far from enough.

For the first three weeks of the war, Israel maintained a so-called “total siege” of the Gaza Strip, with Defense Minister Yoav Galant saying no “electricity, food, water or fuel” would be allowed into the strip. . Israeli forces also destroyed Gaza’s ports, restricted fishing, and bombed many farms.

Israel eventually eased the siege, but introduced a thorough inspection process, saying it was necessary to prevent weapons and other materials from falling into Hamas hands. Aid groups and diplomats say inspections are a bottleneck and accuse Israel of arbitrarily denying aid such as water purifiers, solar power and medical kits containing scissors on spurious grounds. ing.

Volker Türk, UN human rights chief, said: stated in a statement Last month, he said Israel’s policies regarding aid to Gaza could constitute a war crime.

Using civilian starvation as a weapon is a grave violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime. roman lawthe Convention of the International Criminal Court or ICC.

Israeli and foreign officials told the New York Times last week that the ICC was preparing to issue arrest warrants against senior Israeli officials, including excessive accusations that they had blocked the delivery of aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip. He said he was concerned about this. (They also said they believed the court was considering arrest warrants for Hamas leaders and that they could be issued at the same time.)

Israel has previously strongly denied imposing limits on aid, accusing the United Nations of failing to properly allocate aid and Hamas of looting supplies. U.S. and U.N. officials said there was no evidence of that beyond a single shipment carried by Hamas. confiscated Earlier this week, it is currently being restored.

No matter how the problem is resolved, there is little doubt that the situation remains life-threatening for many Gazans, especially children who suffer from diseases that make them particularly vulnerable. As of April 17, at least 28 children under the age of 12 had died in Gaza hospitals from malnutrition or related causes, including children under the age of one month, according to local health authorities. It is said that more than a dozen infants were included. Officials believe many more out-of-hospital deaths are going unrecorded.

There has been some improvement in aid flows in recent weeks, and on Wednesday Israel reopened the Erez border crossing, allowing some aid supplies to enter directly into northern Gaza.

Fatma Edama, 36, a resident of Jabaliya in northern Gaza, said the situation in her neighborhood remained difficult. She said many daily necessities, such as meat, are either unavailable or sold at exorbitant prices.

But flour, canned goods and other items began to circulate much more freely, and their prices fell sharply, Ederma said. “Before there was nothing and people were grinding up animal feed,” she says. “Come on, there’s food.”

Still, foreign officials and aid agencies say more needs to be done.

“This is real and important progress, but there is still much work to be done,” Blinken told reporters after visiting a relief warehouse in Jordan this week.

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