Israel destroying Gaza's food system in 'starvation' tactic, UN expert says

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) -A U.N. expert said on Thursday that Israel was destroying Gaza's food system as part of a broader "starvation campaign" in its war against Hamas militants and berated a U.N. human rights body for not doing more.

"The images of starvation in Gaza are unbearable and you are doing nothing," Michael Fakhri, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, said in a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Aid officials have warned of looming famine five months into the campaign against the Islamist Palestinian group, while hospitals in the isolated northern part of the enclave say children have started dying from malnutrition.

Fakhri told the council that Israel was "destroying the food system in Gaza".

"Israel has mounted a starvation campaign against the Palestinian people in Gaza," he added, saying that included targeting small-scale fishermen.

Several other countries have criticised Israel for the growing hunger in the enclave, including Egypt and Iraq.

Yeela Cytrin, a legal adviser at the Israeli mission to the U.N., called the allegations against it a "blatant lie".

"Israel utterly rejects allegations that it is using starvation as a tool of war," she told the council and then walked out in protest.

Israel denies restricting relief into Gaza and has started working with private contractors to deliver aid. It says its fight is with Hamas whose fighters killed 1,200 people and seized 253 hostages during its Oct. 7 attacks.


Fakhri, a Lebanese-Canadian law professor, is one of dozens of independent human rights experts mandated by the United Nations to report and advise on specific themes and crises.

In his speech to the 47-member Geneva council, he alleged that Israel is targeting small-scale fishermen by denying them access to the sea and destroying boats and shacks.

Around 80% of Gaza's fishing sector has been destroyed since Oct. 7, he said, adding that every boat had been demolished by Israeli forces in the main port of Gaza City.

Reuters could not verify that, although images from Oct. 8 showed smoke billowing from a boat there after Israeli strikes.

In his closing remarks, Fakhri called on member countries to also consider sanctions, cutting diplomatic ties and arms embargoes.

"This is on your watch. Please turn your words into action," he said.

The council set up an open-ended U.N. Commission of Inquiry in 2021 to investigate violations on both sides of the conflict but has not passed any new motions since the latest violence began.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Aditional reporting by Nidal Al Mughrabi; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Hugh Lawson)