Uptade Lebanese prime minister accuses Israel of intentional environmental destruction

JABALIA, Gaza: In the Jabalia refugee camp, hungry Gazans hold out pots to receive soup during the holy month of Ramadan.

As other Muslims around the world consume traditional Ramadan meals and desserts to break their fast after sunset, residents of the besieged strip are lucky to find a few scraps of food, or sips of water, after more than five months of Israeli bombardment in its war with Hamas.

The UN human rights chief on Tuesday said Israel’s restrictions on humanitarian aid for Gaza may amount to a starvation tactic that could be a war crime, after a UN-backed report found famine is likely by May without an end to the fighting.

“The children of Palestine are innocent, they need the basic necessities of life, and all this is due to the siege and the destruction of homes and all that,” said Bassam Al-Hilou, a resident of the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.

He called on human rights organizations to take action to end the siege for the “dignity” of the Palestinian people and for an end to the Israeli military campaign, which shows no sign of easing.

Children walk away from the crowded aid stations with enough food in their pots, perhaps for a few hours, until hunger sets in again.

The healthcare system in Gaza has essentially collapsed, Western doctors who visited the Palestinian enclave in recent months told an event at the UN, speaking of “appalling atrocities” from Israel’s offensive.

The four doctors from the US, UK and France have been working with teams in Gaza to support its healthcare system, which has been reeling since Israel began its military assault there last October.

Nick Maynard, a surgeon who was last in Gaza in January with British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, recalled seeing a child who had been burned so badly that he could see her facial bones.

“We knew there was no chance of her surviving that but there was no morphine to give her,” Maynard, a cancer surgeon, told the event at the UN headquarters in New York. “So not only was she inevitably going to die but she would die in agony.”

Another seven-year-old child, Hiyam Abu Khdeir, arrived at the Gaza European Hospital with third-degree burns on 40 percent of her body, after an Israeli airstrike on her home killed her father and brother and injured her mother, said Zaher Sahloul, a critical care specialist with humanitarian group MedGlobal.

After weeks of delay, she was evacuated to Egypt for treatment but died two days later, Sahloul said.

International experts have warned that Israel’s assault constitutes a genocide, accusations that the World Court is probing.

Israel denies accusations of genocide and has maintained that it is targeting Hamas, not civilians. It has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields and says it has a right to defend itself.

The doctors also warned of a large death toll if Israel proceeds with its plan to invade the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

“If there’s a grand invasion of Rafah, it will be apocalyptic, the number of deaths we’re going to see,” said Maynard.

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