UN says half of Gaza’s population is now starving amid Israel war

Half of Gaza’s population is now believed to be “starving” as Israel’s attack on the besieged strip continues to escalate, a senior UN official warned.

Calling for an immediate “humanitarian ceasefire”, Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the UN World Food Programme, took to X saying: “There’s not enough food. People are starving.

“WFP has reached over one million people, but the situation is untenable. We need to get our supplies in [and we need] a humanitarian ceasefire.”

Elaborating on the crisis unfolding on the streets of northern Gaza, he told reporters that “nine out of 10 are not eating every day”.

Two in three people in the south were reporting the same, he said. The WFP called the situation “alarming.”

“I am very hungry,” said Mustafa al-Najjar, sheltering in a UN-run school in the devastated Jabaliya refugee camp in the north. “We are living on canned food and biscuits and this is not sufficient.”

While adults can cope, “it’s extremely difficult and painful when you see your young son or daughter crying because they are hungry,” he said.

Israelis who had been taken hostage also saw the food situation deteriorate rapidly during the course of their kidnapping ordeals, the recently freed Adina Moshe told a rally of thousands of people in Tel Aviv seeking the rapid return of all remaining hostages.

“We ended up eating only rice,” said Moshe, who was held for 49 days.

On Saturday, 100 trucks carrying unspecified aid entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, said Wael Abu Omar, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Crossings Authority.

Despite growing international pressure, president Joe Biden’s administration remains opposed to an open-ended ceasefire, arguing it would enable Hamas to continue posing a threat to Israel. A US veto derailed UN Security Council efforts to demand an immediate ceasefire on Friday.

Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant argued that “a ceasefire is handing a prize to Hamas,” as the IDF pushed ahead with its punishing air and ground offensive, which has expanded into southern Gaza.

The Israeli army said in a statement early on Sunday that five of its soldiers have died in the Gaza War.

Four soldiers were killed in the battle in Southern Gaza, while the fifth succumbed to his wounds after fighting on 7 October, according to the Israeli army statement posted on X.

A day after Israel confirmed it was rounding up Palestinian men for interrogation, some men released on Saturday told the Associated Press they had been treated badly, providing the first accounts of the conditions from the detentions.

Osama Oula said Israeli troops had pulled men out of a building in the Shujaiyah area of Gaza City, ordering them to the street in their underwear. Mr Oula said Israeli forces bound him and others with zip ties, beat them for several days and gave them little water to drink.

Ahmad Nimr Salman showed his hands, marked and swollen from the zip ties, and said older men with diabetes or high blood pressure were ignored when they asked soldiers to remove their ties.

He said the troops asked, “‘Are you with Hamas?’ We say ‘no,’ then they would slap us or kick us.” He said his 17-year-old son Amjad is still held by the troops.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment when asked about the alleged abuse.

With the war in its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,700, the majority women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Two hospitals in central and southern Gaza received the bodies of 133 people from Israeli bombings over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Saturday.

Israel holds the Hamas militants responsible for civilian casualties, accusing them of using civilians as human shields, and says it has made considerable efforts with evacuation orders to get civilians out of harm’s way.

It says 97 Israeli soldiers have died in the ground offensive after Hamas raided southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 240 hostages.

More than 2,500 Palestinians have been killed since the 1 December collapse of a weeklong truce, about two-thirds of them women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

The truce saw hostages and Palestinian prisoners released, but Israel says 137 hostages remain in Gaza.

Additional reporting by agencies

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