Palestinian children battle a deadly foe in Gaza — starvation

Every morning, while the Israelis lay siege to Gaza, a battalion of Palestinian children carrying pots, plastic bottles, buckets and even empty paint cans mobilizes amid the ruins.

Their mission? Find enough food to help their families make it through another day.

“This is a typical morning for many people living in war-torn Gaza,” NBC News producer Ala’a Ibrahim narrates over footage shot last month in the southern city of Rafah. “Standing in line, with empty buckets, waiting for food.”

Local authorities say Israeli bullets and bombardments have killed more than 37,000 people since the country’s forces invaded the territory to punish Hamas for the militant group’s deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The United Nations has warned that by July more than a million Palestinians — half the population of Gaza — could face starvation if the food deliveries don’t ramp up. It has also accused Israel of using starvation as a weapon of war against Palestinian civilians, a charge the Jewish state has repeatedly denied.

Still, food has become the new gold in Gaza as Israeli blockades have slowed shipments into the territory to a trickle at the five main entrances, humanitarian groups say.

The U.S., with the cooperation of the Israelis, has built a temporary pier called JLOTS (joint logistics over the shore) to allow shipments of food and other supplies to come into Gaza by sea.

But so far, there have not been enough deliveries to keep up with the demand. And on Friday, the military had to dismantle it and move it further up the coast to the Israeli city of Ashdod because of rough weather, a U.S. defense official told NBC News.

In the hardest hit parts of northern Gaza, many residents are getting by on bread alone.

There is some food in the local markets, but a kilo of green peppers that cost about a dollar before the war sells for $90 now. A kilo of onions is up to $70, Reuters reported.

When an NBC News video crew visited Gaza last month, the Israelis had been attacking Rafah. The crew shot footage of what appeared to be destroyed U.N. vehicles. It also found footage of a family in northern Gaza using grass and wild greens to make soup.

“Instead of flour, we ate the rabbit feed and the hay meant for cows,” one little girl told NBC News, when asked to explain what life was like in northern Gaza before she and her family fled to Rafah.

Displaced Palestinian children holding pans, line up to receive food in Rafah, Gaza (AFP - Getty Images file )
Displaced Palestinian children holding pans, line up to receive food in Rafah, Gaza (AFP - Getty Images file )

In Rafah, boys and girls, some wearing pots on their heads like helmets, were filmed lining up outside a food bank and waiting for a delivery of flour. Smiling despite the devastation around then, they banged their pots together as they waited.

“Many spend their day scavenging for food,” Ibrahim says.

Amal Al-Harazin, a Palestinian mom whose family now lives in a tent in Rafah, told NBC News that every day there is also a mad scramble to fill up their jugs with water. The water runs for only about an hour a day.

“We fill water from this tap,” the young mom said, leading the crew to an outdoor faucet in a wall near her tent.

That night, Al-Harazin served her family just bread for dinner, made from flour and water — the only ingredients she had that day. She and her husband baked the bread in a crude oven using scraps of wood as fuel because they have no gas.

“Our life is just to get by because of the crossing closures,” her husband, Nahed Al-Harazin, said.