Israeli military confirms death of hostage held in Gaza

LONDON: More than 495,000 people in Gaza, representing one in five of the enclave’s population, now face catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity, characterized by extreme food shortages, hunger and exhaustion, according to an upcoming UN report.

The latest “special snapshot” of Gaza from the Integrated Classification of Food Security Phases will be published on Tuesday, the Guardian reported.

The UN report will also reveal that more than half of Gaza’s households have had to sell or trade clothes to buy food, as the risk of hunger remains high across the territory following recent violence.

Israeli authorities have strict control over entry into Gaza, and movement requires a military permit. Debris has damaged the roads, there is no fuel, and the power and communication networks are barely functioning.

At the beginning of the war, Israel imposed a complete siege on Gaza, which was only gradually eased under US pressure. The war has significantly reduced Gaza’s ability to produce its own food.

The IPC noted that food deliveries and nutrition services to northern Gaza increased significantly in March and April, preventing famine and improving conditions in the south of the territory. However, the situation has worsened again as a result of renewed hostilities, and the risk of starvation remains in the Gaza Strip as long as the conflict continues and humanitarian access is limited, according to a draft report obtained by The Guardian.

More than half of households said that they often run out of food at home, and more than 20 percent of them do not eat for whole days and nights, the Guardian reported. The latest trajectory is negative and very volatile. If this trend continues, the improvements seen in April could quickly reverse.

UN agencies and humanitarian organizations report difficulties in reaching the Kerem Shalom border crossing due to ongoing fighting, Israeli restrictions, coordination problems with the military and disruptions to law and order.

Although the IPC has not officially declared a famine — which requires strict conditions — the situation in Gaza is dire. Stage 5 famine, which affects 22 percent of Gaza’s population, is comparable to famine conditions.

A formal declaration of famine requires that 20 percent of households have extreme food shortages, 30 percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition, and that at least two adults or four children per 10,000 people die each day.

Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Israel’s restrictions on humanitarian aid to Gaza could amount to a war crime of deliberate starvation. The World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization warned that more than a million people could be dead or hungry by mid-July.

A joint statement by Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Janez Lenarcic, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, said: “The crisis in Gaza has reached another breaking point… The delivery of any significant humanitarian aid inside Gaza has become almost impossible and the very structure of civil society is unraveling.”

Ahead of the release of the IPC report on Gaza, Kate Phillips-Barrasso, vice president of global policy and advocacy at Merci Corps, said: “People are enduring subhuman conditions, resorting to desperate measures such as cooking weed, eating animal feed and exchanging clothes for money as would end hunger and keep their children alive.

“The humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating and the specter of famine still hangs over Gaza… Humanitarian aid is limited… The international community must apply relentless pressure to achieve a ceasefire and ensure sustainable humanitarian access now.” The population can no longer endure these hardships.”

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