Geneva - Israel is deliberately deepening the catastrophic starvation crisis for all Gazans, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor stated, by depriving them of food and basic necessities. The rights group said that obstructing the entry and distribution of humanitarian supplies, especially in Gaza City and the northern Strip, demonstrates Israel’s aim of forcibly displacing the Palestinian people there.

Euro-Med Monitor contended that Israel has not only decreased the number of humanitarian aid trucks allowed into the Gaza Strip, but has undermined the distribution of aid and protection mechanisms as part of its plan to fully depopulate Gaza City and the northern Strip. Israel’s aim, said the organisation, is to force the Palestinians to evacuate to the south under military violence, intimidation, and the use of starvation as a weapon.

Although there is some hope that the air-dropped food and other supplies that have been permitted to enter the Strip in recent days will partially make up for the reduction in aid arriving via land, there is still a risk of widespread famine and a sharp increase in malnutrition among the entire population of Gaza City and the Strip’s north, especially children, the elderly, and pregnant and lactating women. Thus, the rights organisation urged all countries to establish a direct air bridge to the Gaza Strip, conduct frequent and heavy airdrops over the entire Strip, particularly Gaza City and the northern Strip, and take part in confronting and foiling the Israeli plan to forcefully displace Palestinians from the Strip—a plan that has repeatedly been forewarned against by multiple nations since the start of Israel’s genocidal war on the Gaza Strip.

“Cooperation between Israel, the international community, Jordan, France, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and the United States,” according to the Israeli army’s Arabic-speaking spokesman Avichai Adraee, successfully culminated in the landing of 160 food supply packages and medical equipment for the benefit of the residents of the southern Gaza Strip and the Jordanian field hospital in Khan Yunis. Meanwhile, residents in the Strip’s northern regions remain without aid, confirming the Israeli decision to starve them by preventing sufficient aid from reaching them—punishment, Euro-Med Monitor posited, for not meeting Israel’s illegal evacuation orders, which push them to leave their homes and evacuate to the south.

The rights organisation said it has documented testimonies from residents in Gaza City and the Strip’s north, who received phone calls from the Israeli army over the course of the past few days. During the calls, residents are asked clearly and explicitly to move to the central and southern sections of the Strip in order to obtain food and water and avoid death from starvation. Residents testified that they received recorded messages from the army informing them that humanitarian aid is only permitted in the area of Al-Mawasi, as the army is still “operating forcefully” in other areas.

Despite the enormous, growing needs of the over 2.3 million people living in appalling conditions, humanitarian supplies that entered the Gaza Strip in February fell by 50% compared to January, said Euro-Med Monitor. 

In spite of increasing international pressure on Israel and its allies, as well as the International Court of Justice’s decision to increase the entry of commercial supplies and life-saving aid—and to ensure their entry and distribution in a rapid, effective, and unhindered manner—February saw an average of just 98 trucks enter the Gaza Strip each day, which is roughly half the number of trucks that entered in January.

The number of trucks entering Gaza prior to 7 October 2023 was 500 per day, stressed Euro-Med Monitor, but the actual needs of the Gaza Strip’s residents now exceed even this amount of foreign aid. This is because Israel has broadly targeted the population’s most basic needs, plus the Strip’s capabilities of internal domestic production. Israel has done this either by bombing and destroying or by cutting off all sources of production, said the rights group, including fuel, electricity, and raw materials, amid a total, brutal siege over the past five months. Additionally, the population of the Gaza Strip has more medical needs than ever before, particularly for the sick and injured, women, children, and the elderly. These needs are brought on by the massive number of daily casualties and injuries due to the Israeli military’s attacks, the rapid spread of infectious diseases and epidemics, and absence of health staff due to the Israeli destruction, siege, and supply disruption.

Rather than expanding aid operations and making it easier for humanitarian supplies to enter the Gaza Strip, Israel has purposefully increased its restrictions on aid trucks attempting to access the enclave, asserted Euro-Med Monitor. Israel has also continued to carry out military operations, leading to the breakdown of civil order and deepening of the widespread humanitarian crisis in the Strip. Not only that, but Israeli security measures make it extremely difficult to allow supplies through Rafah and Kerem Shalom, the two border crossings specifically designated for humanitarian aid entry.

At the same time, Israel continues to deliberately tighten restrictions on the entry of humanitarian supplies into Gaza City and the Strip’s northern areas. Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), has said that the last time UNRWA was able to deliver food aid to northern Gaza was on 23 January, when it attempted to enter 35 convoys; however, only roughly 10 of these convoys were permitted entry.

Furthermore, Israel has routinely targeted the civilian police officers tasked with securing aid convoys and the administration of the Kerem Shalom crossing, making chaos the master of the situation when aid arrives and further undermining the distribution of such aid.

The Israeli army regularly targets Gaza City residents attempting to receive humanitarian supplies, either by gunfire or artillery shelling, stated Euro-Med Monitor. This violence has resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries, as well as in the intimidation of those residents who are struggling to find food.

Euro-Med Monitor emphasised that Israel’s restrictions on the entry of humanitarian supplies into Gaza City and the Strip’s northern areas have obvious consequences, forcing Palestinians to make shocking decisions like eating animal feed in order to survive.

According to UN estimates, at least 576,000 people in Gaza—roughly 25% of the Strip's population—are currently experiencing true famine, and one in every six children under the age of two in Gaza City and the Strip’s northern areas is severely malnourished. The Geneva-based rights organisation added that, according to the NGO HelpAge, approximately 111,500 elderly people in Gaza are facing unparalleled suffering, including hunger, dehydration, illness, and high risk of death.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor confirmed that all of Israel’s actions contribute to the calculated starvation of Palestinian civilians, thereby exacerbating the existing crisis. These actions include the targeting of humanitarian workers, the closing of crossings, and severe movement restrictions, all of which have contributed to the collapse of the local system in the Gaza Strip, in addition to restrictions on communications, protective equipment, and impassable supply routes due to damaged roads, unexploded ordnance, and other effects of the Israeli military attacks taking place there.

The Israeli collective punishments on the Gaza Strip, according to Euro-Med Monitor, are clearly directed towards starving the entire population and putting them at risk of death. Israel also uses starvation as a tactic of war, which is illegal under international law, and as a means of carrying out the crime of genocide against the Strip’s residents that has been ongoing for five months now.

Euro-Med Monitor stressed that the Rome Statute designates deliberate attacks against personnel and vehicles engaged in humanitarian assistance missions as war crimes, as doing so wilfully obstructs relief supplies.

In order to prevent the impending catastrophe of mass famine in the Gaza Strip, Euro-Med Monitor urged the international community to apply immediate pressure on Israel to halt its starvation campaign against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and to hold it accountable for its crimes and grave violations against the Gaza Strip and all of its Palestinian residents. Additionally, the rights group called for more effective and decisive international intervention to ensure the safe, complete, and reliable delivery of humanitarian supplies without any hindrance, to ensure access to all affected people and the provision of desperately needed basic services and humanitarian assistance.