“Famine is imminent”: Dem senator demands Biden intervene in Gaza

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen urged President Joe Biden to intervene in Gaza as reports emerge of babies and young children starving to death amid the bloodshed of Israel’s war with Hamas.

While speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said that U.S. aid packages to Israel should be subject to Palestinians in Gaza having access to food and water.

Palestinian children wait to collect food at a donation point in a refugee camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 23, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas….

Mahmud HAMS / AFP/Getty

“Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food,” Van Hollen said. “In addition to the horror of that news, one other thing is true. That is a war crime. It is a textbook war crime. And that makes those who orchestrate it, war criminals.”

Earlier on Monday, Gaza’s Health Ministry announced that more than 12,300 Palestinian children have been killed since Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza began in October, the Associated Press reported.

Hamas’ attack on October 7, 2023, which ignited the conflict, left roughly 1,200 people dead in Israel with an estimated 250 people taken hostage by the militant group, according to Israeli authorities. In response to the militant group’s deadly raid, Israel launched its heaviest-ever ground and air offensive into Gaza. In total, Israel’s offensive has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians in the territory and displaced more than 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million population, according to the AP.

Newsweek reached out via email on Monday to representatives for Van Hollen, Biden and Israel Defense Forces for comment.

The Palestinian civilian death toll and distressing images of children dead in the rubble of bombed buildings resulted in mounting international calls for a ceasefire and increased pressure on Biden to take a tougher line on Israel.

Despite the condemnation over civilian deaths and demands for a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the army will continue its offensive to destroy Hamas, to bring home the remaining hostages and to stop Gaza from posing a threat.

Van Hollen, who has been a vocal critic of Israel’s war on Hamas, told his colleagues in the upper chamber that he spoke with the director of the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), which is the largest anti-hunger initiative around the globe, about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

WFP and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) recently shared an analysis of the “deterioration of the nutrition situation” during the first 120 days of the war, Van Hollen said. The WFP and UNICEF report noted that young children—ages 6 months to 23 months old—and pregnant women are extremely malnourished and that civilians are beginning to starve to death.

The senator said he asked WFP director Cindy McCain about the reports that children were “dying of starvation” in Gaza. Van Hollen said McCain responded that it is true, and told him that humanitarian groups have “unable to get in enough food to keep people from the brink. Famine is imminent.”

During his urgent plea on the Senate floor, Van Hollen called on Biden to intervene.

“The president must demand that the Netanyahu government immediately allow more food and water and other life-saving supplies into Gaza and make sure it reaches the children and other people who are starving, including in the north,” the senator said.

Secondly, Van Hollen said that until Israeli officials allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza, Biden must invoke a section of the Foreign Assistance Act and withhold U.S. assistance to its longtime ally.

The act states that “no assistance shall be furnished under this chapter of the arms export control act to any country when it is made no made known to the President that the government of such country prohibits or otherwise restricts directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.”