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US aid policy on Gaza 'absurd' given military support for Israel, UN expert says

Palestinians wait to receive food amid shortages of food supplies, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) - A U.N. expert on Friday criticised U.S. efforts to boost humanitarian aid to Gaza, such as plans for a temporary port and recent air drops, which he said were "absurd" and "cynical" methods so long as military aid to Israel continues.

Amid warnings of looming famine five months into Israel's campaign against the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza, the U.S. military has carried out air drops of meals into Gaza and plans a temporary port for aid imports on its Mediterranean coast.

Air drops in particular "will do very little to alleviate hunger malnutrition, and do nothing to slow down famine," Michael Fakhri, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, told reporters in Geneva.

He warned of chaos as starving people joust for supplies. As for the port, he said no one had asked for it. He called the port and air drops methods of "last resort".

"The time when countries use air drops, and these maritime piers, is usually if not always, in situations when you want to deliver humanitarian aid into enemy territory," he said.

The U.S. diplomatic mission in Geneva was not immediately available to respond to the remarks made late on Friday.

Fakhri, a Lebanese-Canadian law professor mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council to document and advise on global food security, said such methods made little sense while Washington continues to provide military support to Israel.

U.S. legislation envisages an additional $17.6 billion in new military assistance to Israel as its war against Hamas continues in response to their deadly Oct. 7 attacks.

"That's more than allyship. That's a marriage ... It's almost incomprehensible," he said of U.S. support to Israel, calling the recent aid measures a "performance to try to meet a domestic audience with (U.S. presidential) elections around the corner".

"That's the only rational coherent interpretation (for these aid announcements) because ...from a humanitarian perspective, from an international perspective, from a human rights perspective, it is absurd in a dark, cynical way," he said.

Fakhri, who has been critical of Israel on social media, on Thursday told the Geneva Human Rights Council that Israel was destroying Gaza's food system as part of a broader "starvation campaign". Israel's envoy called this a lie and it strongly denies restricting aid into Gaza.

(Reporting by Emma Farge, Editing by William Maclean)