U.S. aid policy on Gaza ‘absurd’ given its military support for Israel, UN food expert says

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A United Nations expert on Friday criticized U.S. efforts to boost humanitarian aid to Gaza, such as plans for a temporary port and recent airdrops, which he said were “absurd” and “cynical” methods as long as military aid to Israel continues.

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

Airdrops in particular “will do very little to alleviate hunger malnutrition and do nothing to slow down famine,” Michael Fakhri, UN 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 airdrops methods of “last resort.”

“The time when countries use airdrops and these maritime piers is usually, if not always, in situations when you want to deliver humanitarian aid into enemy territory,” Fakhri said.

A person gestures while speaking into a microphone.
Michael Fakhri, a Lebanese Canadian law professor and the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, speaks at an event in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 14. (Ariana Cubillos/The Associated Press)

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 UN 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 US in new military assistance to Israel as its war against Hamas continues in response to the group’s deadly Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel.

“That’s more than allyship. That’s a marriage…. It’s almost incomprehensible,” Fakhri 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.

Port route could take months

Efforts ramped up Friday to deliver more desperately needed aid to war-ravaged Gaza, with the U.S. and Europe focusing on opening a sea route, underscoring the West’s growing frustration with Israel’s conduct in the war.

A top European Union official said a charity ship will head to Gaza as a pilot operation for a new humanitarian sea corridor. Hours earlier, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. military will set up a temporary pier on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has welcomed the U.S.-led maritime corridor for Gaza aid, but he said the plan “will take months to stand up” in its entirety.

He called for Gaza-bound aid to be immediately let into the Israeli port of Ashdod, further to the north of the Gaza Strip.

WATCH | Israeli restrictions push Gaza to the verge of famine:

Israeli restrictions push Gaza to the verge of famine

WARNING: Video contains graphic images | Humanitarian groups say Israeli restrictions on food aid coming into Gaza have put the territory on the verge of a famine, making the Palestinian people even more desperate for any source of food or water.

“Ships could go today from Cyprus to Ashdod with aid,” Cameron told the BBC.

Britain said it will help the U.S. build a temporary port on the Gaza coast and has already sent maritime surveyors.

“Britain will play a part in the pre-screening” of aid in Cyprus, Cameron said, and “we can play a part if necessary in the provision of the aid and its delivery.”

After more than five months of war, much of Gaza is in ruins. Aid groups say Israel’s near-total blockade of Gaza and the fighting have made it nearly impossible to deliver aid in most of the territory. Many of the estimated 300,000 people still living in northern Gaza have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive.

78 Palestinians killed in past 24 hours: officials

Israel launched its offensive after Hamas-led militants stormed across the border on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250, according to Israel tallies. More than 100 hostages were released during a temporary ceasefire in November in exchange for 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

The number of Palestinians killed has climbed above 30,800. That’s according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures but says women and children make up more than 70 per cent of all deaths.

People search through the rubble of a destroyed building.
People inspect the rubble of a building in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, following Israeli bombardment on Friday. (AFP/Getty Images)

The ministry said Friday that 78 people were killed and 104 were wounded over the past 24 hours in Israeli strikes on different areas across Gaza.

Separately, five people in Gaza were killed and several others injured when airdrops malfunctioned and hit people and landed on homes, Palestinian officials said.

Israel admits troops shot at some in aid crowd

The Israeli military on Friday said a review of the bloodshed surrounding an aid convoy last week that killed 118 Palestinians in northern Gaza showed that Israeli forces shot at some people in the crowd who were advancing toward them.

Israeli officials had initially said only that their troops had fired warning shots toward the crowd.

A large number of people met a pre-dawn convoy of trucks carrying aid to the war-wracked region on Feb. 29 and began scrambling to grab the food. Witnesses said Israeli forces opened fire on them.

WATCH | International outcry after deadly Gaza aid convoy incident:

International outcry after deadly Gaza aid convoy incident

Pressure is mounting on Israel over the deaths of Palestinians lining up for aid in an incident during which its soldiers fired at the crowd. Several countries are backing a UN call for an inquiry.

The military said on Friday that about 12,000 people had gathered around the trucks as they were travelling toward distribution centres and began grabbing the food aid off them.

The military review of the incident showed the troops did not fire on the convoy itself, “but did fire at a number of suspects who approached the nearby forces and posed a threat to them,” the military said, adding that many of the casualties were caused by a stampede over the food and people being run over by the aid trucks.

The United Nations said last week that a UN team that visited Shifa Hospital in Gaza City reported that there were “a large number of gunshot wounds” among the more than 200 people being treated for injuries there last week.

The director of Al-Awda Hospital, in northern Gaza, said 80 per cent of the 176 wounded brought there had gunshot wounds. The European Union urged an international investigation into the killings.



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