#World News

Gaza starvation could amount to war crime, says UN human rights chief

By Jeremy Bowen

After months of warnings, a recent UN-backed report offered hard statistical evidence that the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is turning into a manmade famine.

It has increased the pressure on Israel to fulfil its legal responsibilities to protect Palestinian civilians, and to allow adequate supplies of humanitarian aid to reach the people who need it.

The UN’s most senior human rights official, Volker Türk, said in a BBC interview that Israel bore significant blame, and that there was a “plausible” case that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza.

Mr Türk, who is the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that if intent was proven, that would amount to a war crime.

Israel’s economy minister, Nir Barkat, a senior politician in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, dismissed Mr Türk’s warnings as “total nonsense – a totally irresponsible thing to say”.

Like his cabinet colleagues, Mr Barkat insisted that Israel was letting in all the aid offered by the US and the rest of the world. Israel says the UN fails to distribute whatever is left once Hamas has helped itself.

But a long line of lorries fully loaded with aid supplies desperately needed in the Gaza Strip is backing up on the Egyptian side of the border with Rafah. They can only enter Gaza through Israel, after a complex and bureaucratic series of checks.

The absence of adequate supplies has forced Jordan, and now other countries including the US and UK, to drop aid from the air – the least effective way to deliver humanitarian supplies.

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