Israel Palestine Conflict

Gaza death toll mounts to 30,228 as UN warns famine is ‘almost inevitable’

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Famine in the Gaza Strip is almost inevitable unless the Israel-Hamas war changes, the United Nations said Friday.

The UN and other humanitarian actors have not yet declared a state of famine in Gaza, despite worsening conditions in the Palestinian territory since the war started with the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7.

However, “once a famine is declared, it is too late for too many people,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.

“We don’t want to get to that situation, and we need things to change before that,” he told a briefing in Geneva.

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Thousands have already died in the conflict. Hamas militants killed about 1,160 people in Israel on October 7, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have killed more than 30,228 people since, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Humanitarian agencies say conditions for the 2.2 million people in Gaza are now dire.

“We have to look at what more and more voices, more and more loudly, are saying about the food security situation across the Gaza Strip, in particular in the north,” said Laerke.

“If something doesn’t change, a famine is almost inevitable on the current trends.”

In Somalia in 2011, when famine was officially declared, half of the total number of victims of the disaster had already died of starvation.

Laerke cited the near-total closure of commercial food imports, the “trickle of trucks” coming in with food aid, and the “massive access constraints” to moving around inside the Palestinian territory.

‘High speed’ famine

“All these things combined lead us to this warning that we do have a very, very dire situation coming toward us at very high speed,” he said.

World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier said that according to statistics compiled by the Hamas-run health ministry, 10 children have been “officially registered, in a hospital, as having starved to death.”

“The unofficial numbers can unfortunately be expected to be higher,” he told the briefing.

Laerke said seeing such warning signs were extremely worrying, particularly given than the food security before the war was relatively good.

The coastal territory had been producing its own food, but now, “the production of foodstuff within Gaza itself is almost impossible,” including the key fishing industry which has “completely stopped.”

“So the very foundation for people’s daily sustenance is being ripped away,” he said.

Israeli forces in war-ravaged Gaza opened fire Thursday as Palestinian civilians scrambled for food aid during a chaotic incident which the health ministry said killed more than 100 people.

The Israeli military said a “stampede” occurred when thousands of desperate Gazans surrounded a convoy of 38 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some who were run over.

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The UN was not involved in the convoy.

“People are so desperate for food, for fresh water, for any supplies, they risk their lives in getting any food, any supplies to support their children and themselves,” Lindmeier said.

“This is the real catastrophe here: that food and supplies are so scarce that we see these situations.”

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