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Gazans Turn To Mulberry Leaves To Survive


Palestinians in Gaza are eating whatever they can find to avoid death from starvation.

Like many others there, Ahmed Al-Shanbari and three of his sons risk their lives to pick mulberry leaves to eat. And even these are not easy to find. They have to struggle through rubble and buildings shattered by Gaza’s war, to feed a family of eight.

This is a common sight across the enclave as Palestinians face a hunger crisis.

Nearly 2.3 million people here live in one of the world’s most densely populated places facing shortage of food, water, medicine and fuel.

“It is scary to walk when the bombing is still happening,” said Al-Shanbari, who like many Gazans risks Israeli bombardment in the search for food.

Ahmed’s wife Fatima cleans the leaves and boils them over a makeshift stove.

“Nothing in it is tolerable, neither its taste nor its colour,” she said.

Fatima stuffs the leaves with rice and spices, hoping to get her children to tolerate the sour taste. Yet the bitterness remains.

The mulberry leaves are animal’s food, she says. “But what can we do? Ever since the war started, we did not taste anything, we’re living on the few things we find,” said Fatima.

The war began when militants from the Palestinian militant group Hamas burst across the Gaza border and attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

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Nine months on, Gaza health authorities say at least 38,000 Palestinians have been killed.

In a July 9 statement, a group of independent human rights experts mandated by the United Nations said that famine has spread throughout the enclave.

The experts said that the recent deaths of more Palestinian children from starvation despite medical treatment in central Gaza, leaves no doubt that famine has spread across the entire Gaza strip.

“Fayez Ataya, who was barely six months old, died on 30 May 2024 and 13-year-old Abdulqader Al-Serhi died on 1 June 2024 at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah. Nine-year-old Ahmad Abu Reida died on 3 June 2024 in the tent sheltering his displaced family in Al-Mawasi, Khan Younis. All three children died from malnutrition and lack of access to adequate healthcare,” the experts said.

The UN experts added, “We declare that Israel’s intentional and targeted starvation campaign against the Palestinian people is a form of genocidal violence and has resulted in famine across all of Gaza. We call upon the international community to prioritise the delivery of humanitarian aid by land by any means necessary, end Israel’s siege, and establish a ceasefire.”

Israel’s diplomatic mission in Geneva said the statement amounted to “misinformation”.

Israel has continuously scaled up its coordination and assistance in the delivery of humanitarian aid across the Gaza Strip, recently connecting its power line to the Gaza water desalination plant,” it added.

At least 33 children have died of malnutrition, mostly in northern areas which had until recently faced the brunt of the Israeli military campaign, according to Gaza health authorities.

Gaza remains at high risk of famine as the war continues and aid access is restricted, said a U.N.-backed global monitor called the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), last month. More than 495,000 people are facing the most severe, or “catastrophic”, level of food insecurity, the IPC said.

(With Inputs From Reuters)