Yazan al-Kafarneh’s Death Is a Stain on Humanity

The world just watched a ten-year-old Palestinian boy, Yazan al-Kafarneh, starve to death in Gaza. Others like him have already died of hunger, and many more will if Israel does not stop its brutal starvation of Gaza’s civilian population.

Yazan al-Kafarneh suffering from malnutrition at a children's hospital in Rafah, Gaza, on March 2, 2024. (Mohammed Talatene / dpa / picture alliance via Getty Images)

Yazan al-Kafarneh, a ten-year-old Palestinian boy from Gaza, had been dying of hunger for weeks as a result of Israel’s crippling blockade and deliberate starvation of Gaza. Images and videos of Yazan, who had cerebral palsy, showed the motionless boy lying on a hospital bed with a skeletal body, sunken cheeks, bare bones, and hollowed eyes. For days his parents sat helpless by his bed and watched him fade away. His father shared an older photo of Yazan, healthy and happy, just before Israel displaced the family from Beit Hanoun in North Gaza to Rafah in the South.

Yazan succumbed to starvation yesterday morning, dying in his mother’s arms at a local hospital in Rafah. He weighed eleven pounds when he died. “Today, I lost my son due to lack of food,” his grieving father told reporters. His weeping mother added:

I lost my child today after ten days at the hospital due to malnutrition. My son’s health rapidly deteriorated and he lost weight until he became a skeleton. My son is now in heaven, but I never imagined that we would reach this stage. My message to the world is to look at Gaza’s children and see how their lives have changed.

The world has watched Yazan die in real time. So far, nearly twenty Palestinian children and newborns have perished of starvation because of Israel’s inhumane blockade of Gaza — and more such deaths are imminent. Last month, the United Nations warned of an “explosion” in child deaths due to Israel’s starvation of civilians. For weeks, aid groups such as Human Rights Watch have been warning that Israel is “using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the occupied Gaza Strip.”

The starvation of Gaza is a crime against humanity. In the trembling words of Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour:

Look at our children. Look at Yazan. Look what agony they are enduring. Dozens more children that have died of malnutrition have been identified, and many more have died and are dying in darkness and destitution. This has to stop. For God’s sake, this has to stop.

Over the past five months, Israel has imposed a total blockade on the already besieged strip, depriving over two million people of food, water, energy, and medicine. Israel continues to willfully impede relief supplies that are indispensable to the survival of Palestinians in Gaza, where over seven hundred thousand people in the North are facing starvation. Thus far, Israel has killed at least thirty thousand Palestinians in Gaza, while wounding nearly seventy-two thousand others. About 85 percent of Gaza’s population has been displaced.

Israel’s deliberate starvation of Palestinians like Yazan al-Kafarneh makes a brutal mockery of international appeals to allow aid to the besieged enclave. Last month, Mahmoud Fattouh, a two-month-old Palestinian boy, died from starvation in northern Gaza, having gone days without milk. Footage shows the emaciated infant gasping for breath in a hospital bed. A paramedic who rushed the boy to the hospital said:

We saw a woman carrying her baby, screaming for help. Her pale baby seemed to be taking his last breath. We rushed him to hospital, and he was found to be suffering acute malnutrition. Medical staff rushed him into the ICU. The baby has not been fed any milk for days, as baby milk is totally absent in Gaza.

Israel’s inhumane starvation of Gaza has spared no one: not children, newborns, women, nor elderly people. Today Abdul Rahman al-Dahdouh, an elderly Palestinian man, died due to severe dehydration and malnutrition, as Israel continues to prevent food convoys from reaching northern parts of Gaza, forcing children to walk miles in search of food and water for their families.

People in Gaza are looking down into the abyss. Last week, Israel massacred Palestinians scrambling to collect flour from aid trucks on al-Rasheed Street in Gaza City. On Monday, Al Jazeera reported that Israeli soldiers again opened fire on a crowd of hungry people in Gaza City, this time at the al-Kuwait roundabout.

Ten-year-old Palestinian child Yazan al-Kafarneh, who died from severe hunger amid famine due to Israel’s ongoing crippling siege on Gaza. (Rabie Abu Noqaira / Anadolu via Getty Images)

Western governments, led by the Biden administration, are complicit in Gaza’s humanitarian catastrophe. Embarking on political theatrics, the United States airdropped food in Gaza over the weekend — barely the equivalent of two trucks. Instead of demanding an end to the siege and a permanent cease-fire, the United States has chosen to act helpless before its genocidal partner, while refusing to halt its massive military aid and arms shipments to Israel.

A recent video featuring Joe Biden indifferently licking ice cream while addressing the plight of Palestinian children has removed the last shred of dignity from the US administration.