The Gaza Famine That Never Was

US officials and media claimed Israel is using starvation as a weapon. New evidence shows this was a lie.

A truck loaded with humanitarian aid moves into the Gaza Strip (Amir Levy/Getty Images)
June 26, 2024

New evidence indicates that, contrary to claims by top U.S. officials and international media, the Gaza Strip is not on the precipice of a widespread famine that Western experts claimed would endanger millions of innocent Palestinians.

"Famine is imminent" in northern Gaza, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a network of Western governments, the United Nations, and nonprofit groups, warned in March, prompting unfounded accusations that Israel is using starvation as a war tactic. The IPC’s report was quickly amplified by outlets like the Washington Post, which foretold "imminent famine" in Gaza. Politico, the New York Times, and CNN alleged Israel is guilty of war crimes.

But on Tuesday, the IPC revised its initial assessment, saying that the projected famine in Gaza did not come to fruition in May. "The available evidence does not indicate that Famine is currently occurring," the organization said in its latest report, which notes that Israel has significantly increased aid and that conditions as a whole in Gaza have drastically improved.

This is the latest example of an international agency walking back its initial assessment of the situation in Gaza. The U.N., in May, cut its death toll figures for women and children in half, showing that Hamas has been lying about casualties in a bid to undermine Israel’s legitimacy on the international stage. Like the reports of famine, media outlets have uncritically repeated these claims and U.S. leaders have used them to pressure Israel into agreeing to a ceasefire. Misleading claims about Israel’s war effort have become a hallmark of the current conflict, with the Jewish state waging an international PR battle that is just as critical as its military operations.

"This is a decisive rebuke to malicious claims that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war against the people of Gaza," David Adesnik, a senior fellow and director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, said in a statement on the IPC’s latest report. "After months of hearing that Israel was blocking the delivery of sufficient aid to Gaza, we now see that Israeli authorities facilitated a massive increase in shipments of both aid and commercial goods, alleviating shortages in Gaza while Israeli forces continued to prosecute the war against Hamas."

In March, the IPC projected that at least half of Gaza’s population would face what it calls "Phase 5" of a severe food shortage, the agency’s most dire designation. It also said another 38 percent of the population would enter a "Phase 4" crisis.

But the latest report says that just 15 percent of Gaza is experiencing a "Phase 5" food crisis, with 29 percent in the fourth phase, and around 51 percent in the third phase. The findings indicate the food situation in Gaza is much better than initially projected and far from a so-called worst-case scenario.

"As part of its initial forecast in March, the IPC said that there was no way to avert a famine unless there was a ceasefire in Gaza, meaning Israel should let Hamas live to fight another day," Adesnik explained to the Free Beacon. "But Israeli authorities have shown it is possible to meet the needs of civilians while continuing to pursue the terrorists."

"What’s more, the Israelis did not just do the bare minimum necessary to prevent catastrophic deprivation," Adesnik said. "Rather, the aid they facilitated led to significant improvements as compared to the status quo in March, when the IPC first said famine was imminent."

The IPC’s Famine Review Committee—a panel of food security experts that evaluates the committee’s analyses—noted several indicators of improvement in the latest report.

Both the U.N. and Israeli authorities reported that thousands more aid trucks entered Gaza in March and April, carrying food and other critical supplies. These figures were significantly higher than in February, when aid was said to be at its lowest point. In northern Gaza, where the risk of famine had been greatest, a survey by the U.N.’s World Food Program found that 80 percent of respondents had received some form of assistance in May, up from 10 percent in February and 30 percent in March.

The IPC’s initial findings set off a firestorm of criticism by Western leaders and the media. Few leaders and outlets noted that Hamas routinely steals aid meant for civilians and, in some cases, sells it back to the population at higher prices on the black market. This trade has helped the terror group survive and wage its war on Israel.

Samantha Power, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s leader, claimed before Congress in April that she has seen credible reports of a Gaza famine. Cindy McCain, who runs the U.N.’s World Food Program, also warned of a "full-blown famine."

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in March that a famine was unfolding in Gaza and that Israel is using starvation "as a weapon of war." Leaders at the International Criminal Court used these claims as evidence in its decision to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on war crimes charges.

These claims now appear to be exaggerated.

"In contrast with the assumptions made for the projection period (March-July 2024), the amount of food and non-food commodities allowed into the northern governorates increased," the IPC reported on Tuesday. "Additionally, the response in the nutrition, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and health sectors was scaled up. In this context, the available evidence does not indicate that Famine is currently occurring."

Additionally, "[b]etween March and the end of April, the supply of food commodities in the northern governorates [of Gaza] and to the southern and middle governorates steadily increased according to many sources, despite differences in the absolute figures," the report says.

The IPC, however, continues to be concerned about food scarcity and says that figures from early June—during Israel’s offensive into the Gaza Strip’s Rafah neighborhood—indicate the situation may once again be devolving.

Responding to the IPC’s updated report on Tuesday, the State Department said aid deliveries are on an upward trajectory, but face issues due to the ongoing conflict on the ground.

"The IPC assessed today that that [famine] prediction ultimately did not bear true," spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters. "And I think you have to assess it’s because of those efforts to get humanitarian assistance, which is in no way to declare that the job is finished."

On the heels of this revised reporting, outlets like the Washington Post continued to focus on "plausible" claims of famine occurring in Gaza and repeated the ICC’s claims that Israeli leaders are intentionally starving the population. The Post’s coverage, in particular, is driving accusations that the outlet is uncritically repeating Hamas propaganda with "shoddy, inaccurate, and implacably hostile" reports on the conflict.