Gaza faces famine after US veto of ceasefire call, aid groups say

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Gaza faces famine after US veto of ceasefire call, aid groups say

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AMMAN, Jordan — Palestinians in Gaza face mass starvation amid a punitive Israeli offensive that has “deprived families of any chance of survival,” humanitarian groups warned Saturday, a day after the United States vetoed a U.N. ceasefire resolution that the groups say facilitated the delivery of food and other emergency supplies.

Warnings about spreading hunger – from the United Nations, international aid agencies and Palestinian aid workers in Gaza – have deepened the fears of civilians already grappling with fierce fighting, heavy Israeli bombardment, collapse of the health system and repeated trips.

The draft resolution, supported by a majority in the UN Security Council, demanded an immediate end to hostilities, the unconditional release of all hostages and humanitarian access to Gaza. The United States’ decision to veto the resolution, which it called “rushed” and lacking consultation, drew swift condemnation across the region, including from human rights groups. man, U.S. partners in the Middle East and humanitarian groups working in Gaza.

After the Security Council failed to “provide respite for civilians in Gaza,” the London-based humanitarian organization Save the Children said in a statement Saturday that it “continues to hear stories heartbreaking stories of families spending several days without food, shelter, water and access.” to health care.

“Deliberately depriving the civilian population of food, water and fuel and deliberately preventing relief supplies amounts to using starvation as a method of warfare, which inevitably has a deadly impact on children,” the group said.

The deputy executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, Carl Skau, told Reuters after his visit to Gaza that “half the population is starving” and called the humanitarian needs “enormous.”

Israel has intensified its offensive in southern Gaza in recent days, pushing Palestinians towards Rafah, on the border with Egypt. Hospitals and shelters in the south are overrun and hundreds of people are killed almost daily, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

On Saturday, the ministry said 17,700 people had been killed by Israel in Gaza since October 7, when Hamas militants launched a brutal attack on Israeli communities near the border, killing at least 1,200 people.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Saturday that warplanes and ground troops were “continuing fighting in different locations” in the Gaza Strip. Several sirens sounded in Israeli communities near the border with Gaza, the statement added.

The Israeli army on Saturday ordered residents of several northern Gaza neighborhoods to evacuate and warned that fighting was raging around a stretch of the main north-south highway, Salah al-Din. The army also ordered residents of various neighborhoods in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, to evacuate, saying a road near the north and east of Khan Younis town had become “a field of battle” and should be avoided.

Israel says its evacuation guidelines aim to reduce civilian deaths, including through a numbered map, air-dropped leaflets and social media posts. Gazans contacted by The Washington Post say Israeli orders have been vague or contradictory, often sending them to other battlefields. Other residents with little internet or phone access say they haven’t received any alerts.

As they seek safety, Palestinians in Gaza said they also struggle to buy — or even find — food. “The prices are astronomical,” said Mohamad, 29, from Gaza City.

Large bags of flour that cost about $9 before the war now cost more than 10 times that price — and were “not available in most cases,” he said. Humanitarian aid arriving in the area – north of Gaza – was “often stolen”, he explained, then resold at high prices.

Most people “enter uninhabited houses and take what they find inside.” He said he had been one of them. “It’s a fight for survival. »

Another Gaza resident, employed at a humanitarian organization, said his group previously distributed goods purchased at the market to homes and schools in Rafah. But he was recently forced to stop because “nothing is available on the market,” said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

Two days ago, people looted a warehouse belonging to UNRWA, the United Nations’ humanitarian aid agency for Palestinian refugees, “before my eyes,” the resident said. “There are people who have become bandits, who block truck routes with weapons and beg for help. »

“The famine in Gaza,” he added, “is only a matter of time. »

Concern also grew on Saturday over the safety of patients and staff at Al-Awda Hospital, one of the last medical facilities in northern Gaza. The hospital was “besieged” by Israeli troops, according to Renzo Fricke, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, which supports the hospital.

One of the MSF staff members at the hospital reported Friday that a sniper outside had killed two people at the hospital, including a volunteer nurse, Fricke said. The organization’s staff remained at the hospital to treat patients, even as others fled northern Gaza.

Israel has argued that a ceasefire would leave Hamas in power, posing a threat to its security. The United States, Israel’s staunch ally during the war, called the ceasefire resolution “not only unrealistic but dangerous.”

Robert A. Wood, the alternate U.S. representative to the United Nations, said after the vote that he would leave Hamas “in place, able to regroup and repeat what they did on October 7.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that the U.S. veto made him responsible for the massacre of Palestinians and complicit in “genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes committed by Israeli occupying forces.”

US policy “has become a danger to the world, posing a threat to international peace and security,” Abbas said in a statement, according to WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency. “This decision will haunt the United States for years. »

The foreign minister of Oman, a country that maintains close relations with the United States and has helped mediate between Washington and its adversaries in the region, condemned the veto as a “shameful insult to humanitarian norms” in a message Saturday on X, formerly called Twitter.

“I deeply regret that the United States is sacrificing the lives of innocent civilians for the cause of Zionism,” wrote Minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi.

As the United States faces growing international pressure to support a ceasefire, the Biden administration said Saturday that it had approved a $106.5 million sale of munitions and defense equipment. Army tanks to Israel by invoking an emergency declaration that would bypass the usual congressional review period for the weapons. sales.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken used the emergency declaration because “it is vital to U.S. national interests to help Israel develop and maintain a strong, operational self-defense capability,” the Department of Defense said. ‘State in a press release.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive military issue, defended the emergency measure, saying the administration used it to send weapons to Ukraine.

“Given Israel’s urgent defense needs, the secretary deemed this exercise of his delegated authority to be appropriate in this case as well,” the official said.

Josh Paul, a former State Department official who recently resigned after working for more than a decade on gun sales issues, criticized the decision to sell the weapons without congressional approval.

“This decision to use the same extraordinary emergency authority employed by President Trump to arm the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen directly contradicts the promise Secretary Blinken made to Congress during his confirmation hearing that it would return to normal order,” Paul said.

Gaza faces famine after US veto of ceasefire call, aid groups say - 1

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