Israel-Hamas War Live Updates: Famine Has Begun in Northern Gaza, U.S. Official Says

Samantha Power, the director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, has said that a famine is underway in northern Gaza, which has been devastated by six months of Israeli military operations and is the part of the territory most cut off from aid.

Northern Gaza, which was the first part of the territory that Israeli forces invaded last October, has been heavily damaged by the war and is far from the two open border crossings in the south through which nearly all aid is arriving.

Aid agencies say that it has become all but impossible to deliver relief supplies to the north amid continuing attacks. UNICEF said on Wednesday that one of its vehicles waiting to enter northern Gaza had been “hit by live ammunition,” and that it had raised the matter with the Israeli authorities. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to questions about the report.

Ms. Power’s comments came during congressional testimony on Wednesday, when she was asked by Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, about news reports that staff members from her agency had sent a cable to the National Security Council that said famine had begun in parts of the Gaza Strip. The cable was first reported by HuffPost.

“Do you think it is plausible or likely that parts of Gaza, and in particular northern Gaza, are already experiencing famine?” Mr. Castro asked.

Ms. Power replied that that appeared to be the case, and cited an assessment by the global Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative, whose methodology she described as sound. She did not specify what assessment she was referring to. Last month, the initiative said in a report that the food shortage in Gaza had become so severe that “famine is imminent” for the northern part of the enclave.

“That is their assessment, and we believe that assessment is credible,” Ms. Power said.

“So famine is already occurring there?” Mr. Castro replied.

“That is — yes,” Ms. Power said.

She said later in her testimony that the rate of severe malnutrition among Gazan children had become “markedly worse” since Oct. 7, when a Hamas-led terrorist attack prompted Israel to launch its military offensive in Gaza.

“In northern Gaza, the rate of malnutrition prior to Oct. 7 was almost zero, and it is now one in three kids,” she said. She added: “In terms of actual severe acute malnutrition for under-5s, that rate was 16 percent in January and became 30 percent in February. We’re awaiting the March numbers, but we expect it to continue.”

Ms. Power urged Congress to “press our Israeli partners to actually follow through with the commitments they have made” to allow more humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip.

She also said that the United States had seen no evidence from its partner organizations that Hamas was seizing food aid on a significant scale. Israel has accused Hamas of stealing aid meant for Gazan civilians, a claim that Hamas officials have denied.

In February, the U.S. special envoy for humanitarian issues in the Middle East, David Satterfield, also said Israel had failed to provide evidence that Hamas was stealing aid shipments.

“We are not seeing Hamas dictating where food is provided,” Ms. Power said on Wednesday. “I can assure you that if the government of Israel saw Hamas doing that,” she added, “we would be hearing about it.”

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