Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that Israeli airstrikes and ground operations continued over the weekend in Gaza and says, “Between the afternoons of 12 and 14 January, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza, 260 Palestinians were reportedly killed, and another 577 people were reportedly injured.”
OCHA adds that these killings brought deaths to 23,968 and injuries to 60,000 since October 7.
There is also a key bullet point on their infographic that floored me. OCHA says that the Israeli campaign has left 378,000 people at catastrophic phase 5 levels of starvation.
US AID explains that Phase 5 levels of starvation indicate that “acute malnutrition levels exceed 30 percent, and more than 2 per 1,000 people are dying each day.”
Given that 378,000 people are being categorized by the UN as at phase 5, this definition suggests that 756 Palestinians in Gaza are dying of hunger each day, which comes to a projected 22,680 deaths from starvation over the next month.
Since half of the people in Gaza are minors, that would be roughly 11,000 children murdered by denial of food. These projections are inexact and contingent, but would hold true if the amount of food aid allowed into the Gaza Strip by the Israelis does not increase dramatically in the next weeks.
Breaking: Starvation has reached unprecedented levels… Thousands in western Gaza city rushed out upon hearing of a food truck's arrival, only to be fired upon by the Israeli army. #GazaGenocide pic.twitter.com/WTDXaL0bwQ
— Ramy Abdu| رامي عبده (@RamAbdu) January 14, 2024
This policy is deliberate. As the South African complaint against Israel for genocide noted, “On 9 October 2023, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant in an Israeli Army ‘situation update’ advised that Israel was ‘imposing a complete siege on Gaza. No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.” The complaint also quoted Israeli Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Israel Katz, who posted on X on 12 October 2023, “Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home. Humanitarianism for humanitarianism. And no one will preach us morality.”
Even the Palestinian children who don’t die of hunger will be permanently damaged by prolonged acute malnutrition, defined as an inadequate energy or protein intake. An article by Valeria Dipasquale et al. in Nutrients points out that “Acute malnutrition has been recognized as causing reduction in the numbers of neurons, synapses, dendritic arborizations, and myelinations, all of which resulting in decreased brain size. The cerebral cortex is thinned and brain growth slowed. Delays in global function, motor function, and memory have been associated with malnutrition. The effects on the developing brain may be irreversible after the age of 3–4 years.”
Yes, the fascist government of PM Binyamin Netanyahu is making war on the brains of Palestinian children, who risk cognitive impairment. The longer this starvation-siege continues, the more likely it is that the effects on small children will be irreversible.
It should also be remembered that some 94 percent of water available on a regular basis in Gaza is not potable, and so many children and adults are contracting gastrointestinal diseases and suffering from diarrhea. Infants and toddlers can easily die of dehydration in these circumstances.
Dipasquale et al. write, “Organ systems are variably impaired in acute malnutrition. Cellular immunity is affected because of atrophy of the thymus, lymph nodes, and tonsils . . . Consequently, the susceptibility to invasive infections (urinary, gastrointestinal infections, septicemia, etc.) is increased ”
It is precisely in the crowded conditions of southern Gaza, into which the Israeli government has forcibly displaced over a million people, that respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases proliferate. By starving the population, Netanyahu is virtually guaranteeing disease outbreaks. We are likely to see a massive spike in infant mortality from disease and weakened immune systems, quite apart from children dying of hunger.