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AOC warns of imminent famine and ‘unfolding genocide’ in Gaza in House speech

In remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives on Friday, US Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez warned of imminent, weaponised famine in Gaza and the “unfolding genocide” against Palestinians by Israel, urging Congress to suspend the transfer of US weapons in an effort to “prevent further atrocity.”

The Democratic congresswoman from New York amplified warnings from humanitarian aid groups as more than one million people in Gaza “are at famine’s door,” a crisis that she said is “being intentionally precipitated through the blocking of food and global humanitarian assistance by leaders in the Israeli government.”

“This is a mass starvation of people, engineered and orchestrated, following the killing of another 30,000, 70 per cent of whom were women and children,” she said. “There is hardly a single hospital left. And this was all accomplished, much of this accomplished, with US resources and weapons.”

“If you want to know what an unfolding genocide looks like, open your eyes,” she added.

“It looks like the forced famine of 1.1 million innocents. It looks like thousands of children eating grass as their bodies consume themselves while trucks of food are slowed and halted just miles away. It looks like good and decent people who do nothing or too little too late.”

Earlier this week, progressive House members condemned a bipartisan spending bill that blocked US funding for the primary humanitarian agency operating in Gaza until 2025.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez told The Independent that cutting critical funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees would be “unconscionable.” Israel has accused the agency of having ties to Hamas, prompting a wave of cuts to the UN agency among Western countries, even as Israel and investigative bodies have yet to produce evidence.

UNRWA has provided a critical lifeline of food, water and shelter in Gaza since Israel launched its retaliatory campaign in the aftermath of October 7, when Hamas militants killed roughly 1,200 people and took another 250 people hostage.

In the months that followed, Israel Defense Forces have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, including more than 13,000 children.

President Joe Biden also has validated that figure. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in meetings with members of Congress, estimated the death toll to be 28,000.

A boy stands next to canned food in Rafah in the south of Gaza on 22 March (REUTERS)
A boy stands next to canned food in Rafah in the south of Gaza on 22 March (REUTERS)

A recent report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative confirmed that famine in Gaza will likely occur before May of this year unless a ceasefire is implemented.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres called the IPC report an “appalling indictment” of conditions on the ground.

“This is an entirely man-made disaster and the report makes clear that it can be halted,” he said from UN headquarters in New York this week.

Gaza’s entire population of roughly 2.2 million people faces acute levels of food insecurity, and half of the strip’s population – more than one million people – will experience famine levels of hunger by July, according to the report.

Israel is facing a complaint of genocide from South Africa at the UN’s top court, and Israel also is the subject of a provisional emergency ruling to admit life-saving aid into Gaza.

On Friday, China and Russia vetoed a US resolution at the United Nations Security Council supporting an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the latest in a line of failed ceasefire resolutions, including three vetoes from the US.

The latest measure declared the “imperative” of an “immediate and sustained ceasefire,” but the resolution was not legally binding. It did, however, mark the first time the US had backed any UN resolution urging an immediate ceasefire.

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky said ahead of the vote that Moscow would not be satisfied “with anything that doesn’t call for an immediate ceasefire”.

Humanitarian aid parcels attached to parachutes are airdropped from military aircraft over Gazaon 21 March (AFP via Getty Images)
Humanitarian aid parcels attached to parachutes are airdropped from military aircraft over Gazaon 21 March (AFP via Getty Images)

The measure urged an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza with an “urgent need to expand the flow of humanitarian assistance” to all civilians and lifting “all barriers” to delivering aid.

“It is against United States law to provide weapons to forces who block United States humanitarian assistance. And that is exactly what is happening right now,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said in her remarks on Friday.

The proposed construction of a US military-supported port to allow for aid to flow into Gaza under Israel’s blockade will be too late,” she said.

“The time is now to force compliance with US law and the standards of humanity and fulfill our obligations to the American people to suspend the transfer of US weapons to the Israeli government in order to stop and prevent further atrocity,” she added.