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Smart Take | Gaza on the Brink as UN Warns of “Imminent” Famine

March 14, 20242:17

UN humanitarians are sounding alarm bells on the impending famine that will plague Gaza if aid is not dramatically and quickly scaled up. In a recent Security Council briefing, Deputy Chief of the World Food Program, Carl Skau, said “If nothing changes, a famine is imminent in Northern Gaza. We must all double down and live up to our responsibilities to ensure it does not happen on our watch.” Merissa Khurma, Director of the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, provides insights. She touches on escalations in the rhetoric against Israel, the reaction from people across the MENA region, and how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responding to rising criticism.

Video Transcript

  • This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

    The images of the malnourished and starved children, the ill, and the wounded in horrific medical conditions due to the lack of medical supplies, as well as recent clashes over food supplies, is raising alarm bells across the world. Israeli strikes this week of a UN warehouse and distribution facility has also turned the tide a lot stronger against Israel, including amongst key allies. The EU, as well as the United States. 

    So EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell noted this week that starvation is being used as a weapon by Israel and that the lack of aid entering the country is a man made disaster this week. Senator Chuck Schumer has also amplified criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu, calling him an obstacle to peace and blaming him for and I quote, pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows. We've also heard from President Biden last week at the State of the Union address, talking directly to the Israeli leadership about the need to prioritize humanitarian aid and protection of civilians. 

    What people across the region are also seeing, watching on their TV screens on social media is a vastly disproportionate response to the horrific Hamas attacks of October 7th and a harrowing humanitarian catastrophe that they see as Israel creating and not Hamas. Prime Minister Netanyahu has certainly responded to the rising criticism not only coming from international organizations, but also from key US allies, as well as President Biden himself, by basically stating that he will move ahead with the plan that he set or the goal that he set at the beginning with total victory. And so what it looks like is a prime minister that is hanging onto this war, tying it to his own political survivor survival and pushing against any criticism.


Merissa Khurma

Merissa Khurma

Director, Middle East Program
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Middle East Program

The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform US foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.  Read more