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‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 143: Gaza Famine Is ‘Man-Made’

Above photo: Palestinians stand in line for food aid, Deir Al-Balah, February 2, 2024. Omar Ashtawy/APA Images.

UNRWA says that the famine in northern Gaza can be avoided if more food convoys are allowed in.

But Israel continues to hold up over 2000 aid trucks. Meanwhile, Netanyahu reaffirms plans to invade Rafah, where 1.5 million Gazans have sought shelter.

Casualties

  • 29,782+ killed* and at least 70,043 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 380+ Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,147.
  • 579 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 3,221 injured.**

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on Telegram channel on February 24. Some rights groups put the death toll number at more than 38,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** This figure is released by the Israeli military, showing the soldiers whose names “were allowed to be published.”

Key Developments

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stresses that the assault on the crowded city of Rafah will take place but may be delayed by captive exchange deal.
  • UNRWA: Famine in northern Gaza can be avoided if more food convoys are allowed in.
  • Orthodox Jews take over Muslim shrine, vandalize graves in West Jerusalem.
  • WFP: Enough food is waiting across Gaza’s borders to feed entire population.
  • Aerial photos show over 2,000 aid trucks on Egyptian side of Rafah crossing.
  • Renowned Gazan artist Fat’hi Ghabin dies after being denied treatment abroad.
  • Gaza Ministry of Health: Dialysis and intensive care patients facing death in northern Gaza as hospitals run out of fuel.
  • 18-year-old Israeli woman jailed for refusing to serve in army over war on Gaza.
  • UNRWA: Report of two-month-old baby dying in Gaza from hunger “horrific.”
  • Israeli defense minister vows to continue targeting Hezbollah regardless of the situation in Gaza.
  • Israeli forces partially withdraw from Nasser Hospital on Sunday, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Israeli military erects watchtower with surveillance cameras at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
  • Israeli forces kill at least 10 people waiting for aid in Gaza City, reports Wafa.
  • U.S. airman sets self on fire in protest over Israel’s genocide in Gaza.
  • Israel advances construction of 3,344 new illegal housing units in the occupied West Bank.
  • Gaza Media Office: Israeli forces have taken Palestinian civilians hostage and used them as human shields in several military operations.

‘One In Six Children In Northern Gaza Is Malnourished’

While Israel’s violent aggression on Gaza approaches the five-month mark, the situation in the besieged enclave deteriorates by the day as the population undergoes an Israeli-imposed famine as a result of the blockade.

Following reports of a two-month-old baby starving to death on Friday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has said the high risk of malnutrition continues to increase, with one in six children in northern Gaza “severely malnourished.”

“We continue to appeal for regular humanitarian access,” UNRWA said in a post on X.

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian physician and humanitarian advocate, says infant death from starvation is a direct consequence of Israeli restrictions on aid entering the coastal enclave.

“This is not a tragedy; it is man-made. Starvation is being forced upon the people of Gaza by the Israeli occupation forces,” Gilbert, who has more than 30 years of experience working in Gaza hospitals, told Al Jazeera.

“Just two days ago, the international nutrition cluster came out with a very alarming report … that there is a sharp increase in the drivers of malnutrition in Gaza — food insecurity, a lack of diversity in the diet and decreasing infant and young child feeding possibilities.”

Gilbert said Israel’s restriction of food and water in the enclave was a “huge war crime.”

“How can the world just sit idly by and watch children die from starvation?”

The situation is the worst in the north of Gaza, where UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini says Israel has not allowed food to be delivered since January 25 and that the U.N.’s calls to send food aid have been denied and fallen on deaf ears.

Since then, Lazzarini said, UNRWA and other UN agencies “have warned against looming famine, appealed for regular humanitarian access, and stated that famine can be averted if more food convoys are allowed into northern Gaza on a regular basis.”

“This is a man-made disaster. The world committed to never let famine happen again. Famine can still be avoided, through genuine political will to grant access and protection to meaningful assistance. The days to come will once again test our common humanity and values,” he said.

Similarly, Samer Abdeljaber, the World Food Programme’s (WFP’s) director for emergencies, says enough food is stocked up across Gaza’s borders to feed the entire population. However, it cannot safely reach the war-torn population due to the ongoing violence and extensive Israeli security checks.

Ariel photos posted by Al Jazeera Arabic show over 2,000 aid trucks piled up on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip.

“We have enough food across the borders, even from Jordan and Egypt, to be able to support 2.2 million people,” said Abdeljaber, as cited by Al Jazeera.

“But we need to make sure we have the right access to Gaza from different crossings so that we can actually reach the people — whether they are in the north or the south or in the central areas.”

“Safe routes is one of our requirements to continue assistance to the north and that can only be guaranteed if that is a speedy process,” Abdelkader said. “Delays at the checkpoints are making it impossible for us to reach deeper into the north.”

Nada Tarbush, a diplomat at the Palestine Mission to the U.N., has urged world governments to intervene and ensure the “urgent delivery of food, clean water and medicine via airdrops in Gaza.”

“Blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid is a war crime. Using starvation as a means of warfare is a war crime. Collective punishment is a war crime,” she said in a post on X.

On Monday afternoon, Israel allowed the entry of 10 aid trucks into the northern part of the Gaza Strip amid reports of starvation, according to Al Jazeera correspondents. However, it is likely to be only a trickle compared to the needs of the desperate population.

“Clean water is scarce. Solid waste is accumulating. The spread of diseases is on the rise,” UNRWA has said.

“The situation is catastrophic, but UNRWA teams continue working to provide critical aid.”

Israeli Forces Kill Palestinians Waiting For Aid…Again

Meanwhile, when humanitarian aid is allowed into the besieged enclave, the safety of civilians collecting the assistance is not protected or assured. Several reports continue to surface of Israeli forces targeting Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid.

Most recently, on Sunday evening, Israeli forces killed at least ten people waiting for aid in Gaza City by shelling and firing on the crowds of Palestinians waiting for food aid trucks to arrive, reported Wafa.

At least 15 people were injured in the attack, and they have been transferred to the nearby al-Shifa Hospital.

According to Al Jazeera, two fishermen were also shot dead at the shore of Khan Younis.

Israel: Invasion Of Rafah Will Happen No Matter What

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has continued planning the Israeli assault on Rafah. Approximately 1.5 million Palestinians are seeking shelter in the southernmost city after being forcibly displaced, many of them several times, from other areas of Gaza.

Netanyahu has said if Israel and Hamas reach a deal, that it will delay a military operation in Rafah, but stressed to CBS News that Israel would have to invade at a certain point later.

“If we have a deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen. If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway,” Netanyahu said.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri has said that Netanyahu’s remarks have cast doubt over Israel’s willingness to secure a deal.

“Netanyahu’s comments show he is not concerned about reaching an agreement,” Abu Zuhri told Reuters, accusing the Israeli leader of wanting “to pursue negotiation under bombardment and the bloodshed [of Palestinians].”

As Israel’s plans advance, global concern has increased over the human cost of the operation.

The U.S. has called on Israel to present a “credible” plan for protecting civilians crammed into the city before launching the assault. At the same time, Israel’s European allies have warned against the offensive altogether.

“If the Israeli army were to launch an offensive on Rafah under these conditions, it would be a humanitarian catastrophe,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said.

“We think it is impossible to see how you can fight a war amongst these people. There’s nowhere for them to go,” said U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron

UNICEF has also warned that an attack on Rafah would be catastrophic, with more than 600,000 children sheltering in the path of an assault and a severely limited humanitarian lifeline already on the brink of collapse.

“Thousands more could die in the violence or by lack of essential services, and further disruption of humanitarian assistance. We need Gaza’s last remaining hospitals, shelters, markets and water systems to stay functional. Without them, hunger and disease will skyrocket, taking more child lives,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant has vowed to continue targeting Hezbollah regardless of the situation in Gaza.

“If anyone thinks that when we get a hostage release deal and pause in Gaza, it will alleviate what is going on here — they’re wrong,” Gallant said, according to Haaretz.

He added that Israel would push Hezbollah to retreat from its northern border “either by agreement or by force.”

Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging fire since October, and the Lebanese group says it will not stop its attacks until the war on Gaza ends.

Netanyahu’s office issued a brief statement on Monday morning stating that they presented the War Cabinet with a “plan for evacuating the population from the areas of fighting in the Gaza Strip.”

It is unclear what those plans are. However, there are fears that Israel plans on forcibly expelling Gaza’s population to Egypt.

Gaza’s Hospitals Are Still Under Attack

Hospitals across the Gaza Strip continue to struggle under Israel’s attacks, making it extremely difficult for Palestinian civilians to receive adequate medical care.

In Northern Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Health has said the situation is “beyond description,” as hospitals run out of fuel. Medical refrigerators have run out of electricity, which risks the destruction of large quantities of sensitive medication.

The lack of fuel has also had devastating consequences for rescue missions in the war-torn area, as dozens of ambulances and medical services have been taken out of service.

The effects of this shortage have also left dialysis and intensive care patients facing death due to the lack of basic supplies.

In Khan Younis, southern Gaza, a UN delegation observed “catastrophic conditions” during a visit to the besieged al-Amal Hospital in the city.

“The delegation witnessed the extent of the damage caused by Israeli occupation artillery shelling to several floors of the hospital, as well as the catastrophic conditions inside due to severe shortages in food, drinkable water, medical supplies, and medication,” the Palestinian Red Cresent said.

Meanwhile, at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, “snipers are still in the vicinity of the hospital and, tragically, are still shooting at anything moving near it,” Al Jazeera correspondent Hani Mahmoud reported from Gaza. “Despite the Israeli military’s statement that it has completed operations inside Nasser Hospital.”

Occupied West Bank: Illegal Settlement Construction

While the world’s eyes are on Gaza, Israel is taking the chance to advance the construction of 3,344 new housing units in the occupied West Bank, 2,350 units in the settlement of Maale Adumim, 694 in Efrat, and 300 in Kedar, according to Peace Now.

“They are significant and expansive projects that will greatly impact the possibility of reaching a two-state solution, especially the plans in Efrat and Kedar,” the Israeli nonprofit said in a statement.

“The decision to promote thousands of unnecessary and harmful housing units in settlements is a hasty and irresponsible decision by an extremist government that has long lost the trust of the people,” it added.

Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh Resigns

Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh handed in his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas at the opening of Monday’s government meeting in Ramallah, reports Reuters.

Shtayyeh said he was moved to step down due to the “unprecedented escalation” in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem and the “war, genocide and starvation in the Gaza Strip,” as cited by Al Jazeera.

Shtayyeh noted there are “efforts to make the [Palestinian Authority] an administrative and security authority without political influence, and the PA will continue to struggle to embody the state on the land of Palestine despite the occupation.”

“I see that the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the new reality in Gaza and the need for a Palestinian-Palestinian consensus based on Palestinian unity,” he added.

U.S. Military Member Self-Immolation

A U.S. military service member set himself on fire in an act of protest against the war in Gaza outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

According to Reuters, an Air Force spokesperson confirmed that the incident, which occurred on Sunday afternoon and was live-streamed on Twitch, involved an active-duty airman.

“I will no longer be complicit in genocide,” said the man, wearing military fatigues, in the live video as he approached the embassy.

He then doused himself in a clear liquid and set himself on fire, repeatedly screaming, “Free Palestine,” in the viral footage.

NBC News has reported that the man, identified by social media as Aaron Bushnell, has succumbed to his wounds.

Similarly, in December 2023, CNN reported a person set themselves on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta.

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