“Starvation being used as weapon of war” as Israeli strikes kill hundreds

Abu Dalal Mall after it was hit in an Israeli airstrike in Nuseirat refugee camp, 24 October.

Atia Darwish APA images

Israel killed 750 Palestinians including nearly 350 children in the past 24 hours, the health ministry in Gaza said on Wednesday. The ministry says that more than 6,500 Palestinians have been killed in the territory since 7 October, including some 2,700 children.

Meanwhile, the UK charity Oxfam warns that “starvation is being used as a weapon of war against Gaza civilians” as Israel hinders the delivery of aid and maintains its total siege on the territory.

As of Tuesday evening, around 1,550 people, including 870 children, have been reported missing and “may still be under the rubble,” according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“This follows the most intense Israeli bombardment and airstrikes in Gaza since the escalations began,” the UN said on Tuesday.

The spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry said that the health system in the territory had completely collapsed and called for “an immediate flow of medical aid and fuel to restore work in life-saving departments.”

UNRWA will shut down without fuel

UNRWA, the largest aid agency in Gaza, warned that it would be forced to halt all operations at the end of the day Wednesday unless fuel was immediately brought into the territory.

The lives of thousands of patients are at risk as hospitals run out of fuel, including 1,000 patients dependent on dialysis treatment, 130 premature babies and patients in intensive care or who rely on life support equipment.

Israel imposed a complete siege on Gaza on 9 October, cutting off the supply of fuel, electricity and water to the territory. Gaza’s sole power plant shut down days later after running out of fuel.

“Since 11 October, Gaza has been under a full electricity blackout, rendering hospitals and water facilities dependent on backup generators run by fuel,” according to the UN.

More than a third of Gaza’s hospitals and nearly two-thirds of his primary health care facilities have shut down due to damage from attacks or lack of fuel.

Only a trickle of humanitarian aid is coming in through Rafah crossing, a passenger crossing on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.

Twenty trucks carrying aid destined – the fifth such convoy since Saturday – were being inspected at an Israeli crossing before entering Gaza, the Egyptian group Sinai for Human Rights said on Wednesday.

Trucks that were supposed to enter Gaza on Tuesday evening were still detained at the Israeli crossing, the Egyptian group added.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also said on Tuesday that Rafah remained closed that day and that trucks that were supposed to enter were being held up at the Nitzana crossing between Israel and Egypt “for security checks by the Israeli authorities.”

The number of trucks that have entered Gaza since Saturday is a tiny fraction of what used to enter the territory, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007, on a daily basis before 7 October.

Rafah aid a fig-leaf for genocide

During his address to the Security Council on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for the continuous delivery of aid “without restrictions.”

Supported by the UN, the opening of Rafah crossing was a main achievement of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s efforts and has been played up by the Biden administration to demonstrate its supposed care for the welfare of Palestinians in Gaza while it backs Israel’s military campaign that has killed thousands of civilians.

The emphasis on the tiny amount of aid that is entering Gaza via Rafah obscures Israel’s denial of life essentials to the 2.3 million Palestinians in the territory, in particular electricity, water and fuel.

Israel says that it will not transfer any aid through the crossings it controls so long as Palestinian armed groups in Gaza are holding people captured in Israel.

“Willfully impeding relief supplies is a war crime, as is collectively punishing civilians for the actions of armed groups,” Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

In the absence of any pressure on Israel to restore the delivery of life essentials, the trickle of aid coming in via Rafah is little more than a fig leaf for Israel’s genocide in Gaza, backed by Washington, absolving Israel of its responsibilities under international law.

Israel bombs crowded supermarket

On Wednesday, the UK charity Oxfam said that “starvation is being used as a weapon of war against Gaza civilians” as only 2 percent of the usual quantity of food is being delivered to the territory since Israel tightened its siege.

“While a small amount of food aid has been allowed in, no commercial food imports have been delivered,” Oxfam said. And some of that food aid, including rice and lentils, “is useless, because people do not have clean water or fuel to prepare them.”

The charity added that the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza contravenes a UN Security Council passed in 2018 that “unanimously condemned the use of starvation against civilians as a method of warfare and declared any denial of humanitarian access a violation of international law.”

Israel has bombed several bakeries and supermarkets and the few bakeries that are still operating “can’t meet the local demand for fresh bread and are at risk of shutting down due to the shortage of essentials like flour and fuel,” Oxfam said.

Ramy Abdu, director of the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, said on Wednesday that Israel bombed the only bakery in the Maghazi area of central Gaza the previous night, killing 10 and injuring others. The bakery “had been provided with flour hours earlier by UNRWA,” the UN agency for Palestine refugees, Abdu added.

On Tuesday, the UN said that most bakeries will shut down within three days unless they receive more fuel.

The UN said that at least 20 people were killed when Israeli airstrikes hit the central market in Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza, on Tuesday.

“The incident took place at noon when the market was the busiest,” according to the UN. “Shoppers were hit while they were inside a large supermarket.”

Graphic shows injured and killed people being carried away from the Abu Dalal Mall and someone recovering part of an arm that had been amputated from one of the victims:

Security camera footage shows the explosion inside the crowded supermarket:




The Israeli Ambassador to the UN has just said the bombing has nothing to do with the Israel/Palestine issue, nothing to do with the history of that matter, but is simply a question of putting an end to Hamas. Not even he can believe that. It's an attempt to depict Hamas as "pure evil", some malign force which sprang out of thin air and has no connection to the Nakbah, the Occupation, the terrorism which brought Israel into existence... It is a "dog ate my homework" excuse. But Israel's lies have been indulged by the US and its poodles for so long, they continue. Israel is the spoilt child of the world and its indulgent parent is the US. But the global south is in revolt. 66% of Americans want a ceasefire. 76% of Brits. Israel is committing suicide and it looks as though no one can dissuade it. Biden can stop the war. The US is the bully behind which Israel hides. But Biden is a liar and a coward. Mass protest alone can bring enough pressure to force governments to act.

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.