Former Shortland Street star begins hunger strike over Israel-Gaza war

Former Shortland Street star Will Alexander has gone on hunger strike in protest over the Israel-Gaza war.

In a video posted online on Sunday, Alexander, who appeared in 36 episodes of the New Zealand soap, said his move had come as he didn't "know how to live in a world in which children are killed in such horrific numbers and so blatantly against international law with the active support of the New Zealand Government."

Alexander, a self-declared member of the Palestinian Solidarity Network Aotearoa, said in a statement accompanying the video that at yesterday's Christchurch rally in support of Palestine, he started his hunger strike and vowed to continue until the Government met three demands. 

"I am now in my second day of this zero-calorie hunger strike and have no intention of stopping until my demands are met," he said.

Those demands included "the withdrawal of New Zealand troops from the Red Sea". Six Defence Force personnel were deployed in January to protect shipping lanes under attack by anti-Israel Houthi militants.

The actor's second demand of the Government is to reinstate and then double humanitarian funding for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Funding was paused in January amid allegations some staff were involved in the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.

And he called on NZ company Rakon "to stop supplying components for weapons used by Israel."

He said in the video that "if these demands were not met, I may soon be dead like thousands in Palestine and Israel", vowing he would "continue until the Government stops supporting Israel's genocide".

Rakon does produce technology that's used in the defence sector, including radar and navigation, but a spokesperson told Newshub the company does not design or manufacture weapons, nor does it supply any products to Israel for military end-use.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said on Monday he thought "it's a real shame".

"There is absolutely no need for anybody to be on a hunger strike in New Zealand," he said.

"What I'd say to you is I'm very proud of the way our Government has been supporting peace and efforts in the region and I think it's a good opportunity for us to say I think we've had a clear and consistent and reasonable and sensible position around the Israel-Gaza conflict."

On Sunday (NZT), Reuters reported Israeli troops and tanks had pushed into parts of a congested northern Gaza Strip district that they had previously skirted in the more than seven-month-old war, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians.

Israel's forces also took over some ground in Rafah, a southern city next to the Egyptian border that is packed with displaced people and where the launch this month of a long-threatened incursion to crush hold-outs of Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas has alarmed Cairo and Washington.

The military also announced the recovery of the body of a man who was among more than 250 hostages seized by Hamas in a cross-border rampage on October 7 that triggered the war.