‘Children Are Dying’ as Gaza Famine Arrives With ‘Incredible Speed’

Hungry Palestinian children
Hungry Palestinian children clamour and beg for food in Rafah, Gaza on December 31, 2023. (Photo: Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Citing Israel’s declaration of “complete siege,” one critic said the war on Gazan civilians is “proceeding exactly as planned,” including newborns dying within days because their undernourished mothers can’t feed them.


Gaza’s children—already reeling from 103 days of U.S.-backed Israeli bombardment that has killed and maimed tens of thousands of them—are now dying of starvation, with adults likely to soon follow, as famine rapidly grips the besieged Palestinian enclave, doctors and United Nations officials said this week.

Hundreds of thousands of Gazans, half of whom are children, are starving as Israel’s bombardment and siege have “brought famine with such incredible speed to the front of the lines,” United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said during a Monday interview on CNN.

The Guardian reported Tuesday that doctors in Gaza say that newborn babies there are not lasting more than a few days because their undernourished mothers are unable to feed them.

“It is unprecedented to make an entire civilian population go hungry this completely and quickly… Our alarm for the unfolding genocide does not only refer to the ongoing bombardment of Gaza.”

“We don’t have the numbers but we can say that children are dying as a result of the humanitarian situation on the ground as well as due to the direct impact of the fighting,” United Nations Children’s Fund spokesperson Tess Ingram told the U.K.-based paper from Gaza.

A group of U.N. human rights experts said in a statement Tuesday that “it is unprecedented to make an entire civilian population go hungry this completely and quickly. Israel is destroying Gaza’s food system and using food as a weapon against the Palestinian people.”

“Not only is Israel killing and causing irreparable harm against Palestinian civilians with its indiscriminate bombardments, it is also knowingly and intentionally imposing a high rate of disease, prolonged malnutrition, dehydration, and starvation by destroying civilian infrastructure,” the experts continued.

“Our alarm for the unfolding genocide does not only refer to the ongoing bombardment of Gaza,” they added, “but also concerns the slow suffering and death caused by Israel’s long-standing occupation, blockade, and current civic destruction, since genocide advances through an ongoing process and is not a singular event.”

Mohammad Kahil, a northern Gaza resident who was one of the nearly 2 million Palestinians forcibly displaced by Israel’s bombardment and invasion, told The Guardian from Rafah in the south that “there’s no food, no water, no heating.”
“We are dying from the cold,” he added.

Salwa Tibi, an aid worker and mother of four, told CNN her children are “screaming all day from hunger.”

Critics of what many—including a South African-led case at the International Court of Justice—are calling Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza say this is all by design.

Hours after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing more than 1,100 people and taking around 240 others hostage, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” of Gaza’s approximately 2.3 million people.

“There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” he said, referring to Palestinians as “human animals.”

“No humanitarian aid will be allowed into Gaza,” he vowed. Gallant’s remarks were condemned as “blatantly genocidal” and indicative of “a massive war crime.”

“Israel’s war on civilians in Gaza is proceeding exactly as planned,” progressive Greek economist and politician Yanis Varoufakissaid on social media Tuesday, adding that this is “precisely the kind of war that the civilized world thought it had agreed to ban with the Geneva Convention.”

Francesca Albanese, the U.N’s special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, said on the social platform X: “I never thought we would witness mass starvation of these proportions used in the 21st century. Yet here it is in Gaza, after 100 days of bombing, with insufficient food, fuel, and water allowed in. Children are dying first. Adults will follow. Before our eyes.”

Scarcity has caused the cost of what little food remains in Gaza to soar: An apple costs $8. The price of salt has skyrocketed 1,800%. A kilo of yeast is upward of $11.

“Children are dying first. Adults will follow. Before our eyes.”

Griffiths described some of the challenges facing U.N. and other aid workers as they desperately try to deliver humanitarian relief to Gazans in the northern part of the strip, including Israeli authorities only allowing a trickle of aid to enter the area, trucks and hospitals coming under attack, and civilians being forced to move “from one place of insecurity to another place of insecurity.”

Earlier on Monday, Cindy McCain, director of the U.N. World Food Program, warned that “people in Gaza risk dying of hunger just miles from trucks filled with food.”

Exacerbating matters further, Israeli forces are reportedly attacking desperate Gazans trying to find food, including in the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition to starvation, Gaza doctors also told The Guardian that children are dying of hypothermia, which can be deadly at temperatures over 60°F in overexposed conditions such as those existing in Gaza, where over 85% of the population has been forcibly displaced, most homes have been damaged or destroyed, and refugees endure winter winds and heavy rain.

“I felt bad for the kids, they had nothing to keep them warm and we were dying from the cold at night,” said Tibi, the mother of four.

According to Palestinian and U.N. officials, Israeli forces have killed at least 24,285 Palestinians—most of them women, children, and elders—while wounding more than 61,100 others and leaving over 7,000 more missing since October 7.

“You worry hugely about the generational hatred that is going to be created by these facts,” Griffiths said. “And therefore we worry for the security of Israel, as much as the security of Gaza.”

Albanese issued a plea to Israeli leaders: “We cannot stop this without you. I fully acknowledge your enduring pain, including for the hostages still in Gaza. Please do not overlook the devastation inflicted on Gaza, especially its children, half of the population trapped in this horror. This makes no one safer.”


Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

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