Israel Is Wielding Starvation as a Weapon of War

Israel is wielding starvation as a weapon of war, imposing a famine on the more than two million Palestinians trapped in Gaza, one million of whom are children. Twenty-seven children have already starved to death since Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared, on October 9th, “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed…We are fighting human animals.”

On April 1st, Israel attacked a World Central Kitchen humanitarian convoy with three separate missile strikes while on a so-called “deconflicted” route in Gaza, killing seven of the aid group’s workers as they coordinated the delivery of hundreds of tons of food.

“Unfortunately, in the last day there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video message. “It happens in war.”

The world-renowned chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, who has worked in many conflict zones, told a different story. He said the convoy had coordinated their route with the Israeli military. He told Reuters, “They were target[ed] systematically, car by car…we were targeted deliberately, nonstop, until everybody was dead in this convoy.”

Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a timeline of the attack, describing at least three missile strikes. After the first strike, Haaretz reported, “some of the passengers were seen leaving the car after it was hit and switching to one of the other two…seconds later, another missile hit their car.” Then, “the third car in the convoy approached, and the passengers began to transfer to it the wounded who had survived the second strike in order to get them out of danger. But then a third missile struck them.”

The World Central Kitchen workers killed were Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, of Palestine, Zomi Frankcom, 43, of Australia, Damian Soból, 35, of Poland, Jacob Flickinger, 33, a dual US/Canadian citizen and three British military veterans providing security: John Chapman, 57, James Henderson, 33 and James Kirby, 47.

Of course, these are not the only aid workers killed so far in Gaza. Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, stated, “As of 20 March, at least 196 humanitarians had been killed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since October 2023. This is nearly three times the death toll recorded in any single conflict in a year…There is no safe place left in Gaza.”

The vast majority of those killed were Palestinians who worked for UNRWA, the UN’s principal relief agency in Gaza. +972 Magazine reported this week that the Israeli army has been using AI-driven targeting systems, one called “Lavender” and another called “Where’s Daddy?” that “systematically attacked the targeted individuals while they were in their homes — usually at night while their whole families were present.” Thus, entire families are wiped out.

José Andrés criticized sending “weapons provided by America, not to defend Israel itself from missile attacks, but just weapons that are killing civilians,” José Andrés told Reuters. “I think the best and only way forward to have hope of a peace deal that can at least allow the parties to start talking. I will not say we will just keep bombing every single person that moves inside Gaza, killing every single child. And if you are not killing them by bombs, you are starving them by lack of food.”

Neve Gordon, a third-generation Israeli, is an international law professor at Queen Mary University of London and the vice president of the British Society for Middle East Studies. In a recent New York Review of Books article titled, “The Road to Famine in Gaza,” he wrote,

“Like most famines, it is also the product of a longer history. Since 1967, when Israel first occupied the Gaza Strip, it has controlled the Palestinian food basket, engineering the nutritional intake of its inhabitants and using food as a weapon to manage the population. For decades Israel has systematically damaged the Strip’s capacity to produce its own foodstuffs, decreasing its access to drinkable water and nutritional food. Understanding these longer-term policies is crucial for making sense of the famine unfolding in Gaza now.”

World Central Kitchen has suspended its work in Gaza, where the Israeli-imposed famine is worsening. Chef Andrés grew emotional in his interview with Reuters. “This looks like it’s not a war against terrorism anymore. It seems it’s a war against humanity itself. You cannot be destroying every building. You cannot be destroying every hospital, every school. You cannot be targeting humanitarians. You cannot be targeting children. You cannot be fighting the basis of what humanity should be standing for.”

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By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan