Israel has now fully deployed its most deadly weapon

Zia Mehrabi
6 min readNov 21, 2023

Mass starvation is the primary tactic being used in an attempt to eliminate the State of Palestine

Outrage has swept across the international community as Israel’s military forces continue to attack schools, aid depots, and healthcare facilities. The death toll currently stands at 13,300, 70% of whom are women and children. But under the current situation this loss is only a small fraction of that to come. This death toll is set to rise massively within weeks if nothing is done to drastically increase the flow of aid.

The reason: a lack of food.

When the blockade began 9th October 2023, already 54% of the population (1.2M) were in need of food assistance. Now 43 days in, this number is the entire 2.3M population. Earlier warnings from UN agencies, including the World Food Programme cautioned of the urgency of maintaining flow of food at the outset of the blockade. That need has not been met. The result is a bomb that if not contained will rapidly raise the number of casualties on an unimaginable scale.

In the first six weeks we saw a total of 465 trucks carrying food or nutrition supplies have made their way into the Gaza Strip. It is important to recognize that even a truck load of 20 tons of calorie-rich staple foods (such as wheat flour), only represents 73 M (million) kcals. The trucks to date loaded this way would represent minimum energy requirements for around 15M people, less than 7 days in total for the total population. In reality, these 465 trucks carried less, 8 were for nutrition supplies such as infant formula, and the remaining 457, due to the food mix, only contained energy requirements for roughly 9M people, 4 days worth in total.

Stocks obviously play a critical role in estimating the shortfall. The minimum energy requirements for the Gaza population is 2215 kcals per day based on age and sex structure, which means a total of approximately 5 billion calories per day is required to minimally sustain the population. On 19th of October the existing stocks of staple foods were estimated at less than 24 days total for the Gazan population. These stocks effectively ran out on 13th November.

This means currently the population is now depending entirely on daily food flows and effective distribution of that food. On the 16th of November the WFP issued a warning that the inflow represents only 7% of the daily needs of the population. This number is critical. Since then the number of food trucks entering Gaza has been disrupted further. The shortfall has not gone away.

Effective distribution, access and utilization of food is critical. This is one key reason why entry of adequate fuel into Gaza is essential in addition to food supplies, alongside the essential role in maintaining and running communications networks and health care facilities.

While the ability to survive without food differs by a number of factors, and with adequate water someone healthy may survive up to 4–8 weeks, people in Gaza have limited supplies of water, and high risk of disease from exposure to unclean water, crowded living conditions, as well as high prevalence of existing malnutrition particularly in children. It is highly unlikely that under these conditions many will be able to survive without food for more than 6 weeks. A complete unequal distribution of available inflows would result in a population the size of almost the entire Gaza Strip, 2.1 million people, dead by the New Year.

However, even with all fuel needs met, and completely equal distribution of current food inflows, you have a best case of 2.3M missing 93% of their minimum daily energy requirements. These are conditions of mass starvation. Additional weeks of survival would be added over the worst-case scenario of unequal distribution, but how many remains unclear.

The reality will most likely sit somewhere in between these two extreme scenarios. And the outcome in either case, is unthinkable. Restricting movement of food into Gaza is a weapon of war, and if not stopped will result in a fallout much greater than anything you have seen reported by journalists thus far in the region. A famine not based on the unavailability of aid, or willingness to give, but on deliberate restriction of food to civilians, women and children.

I don’t think many people in the West understand what food deprivation looks like. You are talking about many people requiring additional assistance to live as the weeks go on, as their bodily functions wane, and their organs begin to fail. The dwindling health care facilities and resources in the Gaza Strip are not equipped to deal with the level of stress that is to come over the coming weeks.

What is critically required is the passing of at least 115 trucks every day, based on current caloric loading. This is 10 times higher than are currently being permitted by the Israeli government, and fifty percent more than the pre-war food inflows. And that does not speak to the additional truckloads for clean water, infant formula, fuel, and other supplies. Without this there is no chance of staving off hunger and starvation for the people of the Gaza Strip. Regardless of your stance on a ceasefire, continued restriction of food access to this region is poised to rapidly lead to the largest humanitarian disaster of the century.

Even when food reaches, these populations will feel the impacts for years to come — restricting food intake especially in children can have a range of negative physical and mental health impacts that can last a lifetime. It is important to note, the requests from UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations for food aid entry are based on basic survival requirements, not diets rich in nutrients required for full potential development.

The USA in its recent statement on its position to support Israel mentioned the Holocaust in reference to the current invasion. But let us not forget how starvation was the primary strategy used by the Nazi’s in their attempts to eliminate Jews from the face of the planet. Over 4 million deaths have been attributed to the Nazi “Hunger Plan” of WWII.

So, what do we need? The people of the Gaza Strip are already in a food deprived state of hunger, and conditions are looking bleaker as fuel, water and medical supplies continue to be limited and winter sets in. We urgently need to increase food shipments by an order of magnitude to avoid a famine. Military attacks continue to dominate headlines but the real silent killer, if no action is taken by the international community, will be the attrition of the State of Palestine through mass starvation.

If we do not act today, we will be remembered into eternity as the world that sat back and watched as one nation destroyed another through the most inhumane and degrading means possible. If we put a stop to this now, we instead will be remembered as the world that stood up for human rights, helpless women, children and innocent civilians caught in the path of relentless war mongering. The world that called off a famine before it was too late.


  1. Analyses were conducted by The Better Planet Laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder, using a range of data from UN agencies, government sources and logistics trackers. Through a process of triangulation, bottom up and top down estimates, we were able to correct errors, including those in the mainstream press. All numbers in this document were fact checked by three independent researchers, including Ginni Braich and Naia Ormaza-Zulueta.
  2. Caloric contents of food types were obtained from the USDA Food Central database. Food aid convoys into the Gaza Strip to date have contained a mix of items which has included wheat flour, pasta, canned beans, canned tomato paste, canned tuna and fortified biscuits, amongst others.
  3. Population data from UNDP was to determine the population composition and calculate a Minimum Dietary Energy Requirement (MDER) for Gaza in 2023 based on weighted averages of the minimums of the energy requirements ranges of each sex and age class, using the population size in each class as weights.