~ 31 October 2023 ~
In twenty-four days of war between Israel and Hamas, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is dire. There is no food, no clean water, no medical supplies, no fuel. Six hospitals have been forced to close due to fuel scarcity. More than 8,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed in Gaza. Nearly 40 percent – more than 3,600 of them, are children. A child is killed every 8 minutes. The UN says that 492 children either die or are severely injured every day. At least 1.4 million people have been internally displaced. Nearly 600,000 are sheltering in UNWRA refugee camps. And today, the IDF targeted the Jabalya refugee camp, a UNRWA camp.
There are two paths in the Middle East. One path is for greater stability in which Israel works to get along with its neighbors and strive for peace. The other is a path that includes the chaos of conflict. And somewhere between the two paths rests the fate of Palestinians and Gaza. Hamas launched a brutal attack against Israel… and Israel responded with devastating airstrikes. Both sides appear to be determined to punish Gaza to death; even if they have to set the Geneva Convention on fire to do so.
Supernova – Day of Terror
On 7 October, about three miles from the Gaza border on the Israel side, youth from all over the world danced in the Negev Desert at the Supernova Music Festival. But the celebration turned into terror when Hamas (designated a terrorist group) led a brutal attack, killing 260 youths and taking at least 150 hostages. Hamas went into Israeli communities bordering Gaza, and for more than seven hours, burned homes, pillaged property, and murdered as many as 1,000 Israeli civilians, many of whom were children, and abducted 100 more hostages.
Through family statements, we have learned that the captives include a 9-month-old infant, many elderly, women and children, people with special needs, multi-nationals, and military personnel. Many of the hostages require medications or dietary restrictions. The International Committee of the Red Cross has opened dialogue with Hamas and has implored the captors to allow the ICRC to conduct a wellness check on the hostages, as well as bring in life-saving medications, and allow communication with families.
Nothing can justify acts of terror, torture, killing, maiming, and abductions of civilians. Israel certainly has every right to defend itself. In response, Israel declared war on Hamas. And for more than three weeks, the IDF has decimated Gaza, killing civilians in its path. As Gazans flee for their lives, trying to escape the indiscriminate airstrikes, missiles have struck health facilities, schools, mosques, muti-storied residential towers, civilian communities, markets, and refugee camps.
Satellite imagery suggests that after less than three weeks of war about 61 percent of all the buildings in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged. At least 200,000 people will have no home to return to when the fighting stops. These attacks are in violation of international humanitarian law. The IDF has now begun a full ground siege of the Gaza Strip which will likely cause massive civilian casualties. – casualties that Israel says are “acceptable.”
Israel issued warnings for Palestinians, as well as multi-nationals, to flee from north Gaza to the south. They dropped notices from the air and made calls to hospitals. The demands to leave did not take into consideration the people who simply could not leave – people without transportation, people in hospitals, the disabled, and the elderly. Under these conditions, it is impossible to move people on life support, on ventilators, and in incubators.
Promises were made to the people who fled south. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent several days in the Middle East meeting with the leaders of Arab nations trying to work out agreements that would arrange safety for the Palestinians – who are trapped in this through no fault of their own – and bring in much-needed humanitarian relief. Arrangements were made for multinationals, including nearly 600 US citizens, to leave via the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.
However, the IDF bombed the Rafah crossing road, preventing evacuees from leaving, and delaying any aid from coming in. Further, Israel has said that it will not allow humanitarian aid into Gaza until Hamas released the hostages. The Palestinians are suffering punitive damages because a terrorist group they have no control over attacked Israel.
In the meantime, there are more than 200 semi-trucks filled with humanitarian aid, medical supplies, and fuel, waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing at the Gaza border. Since the first 20 trucks passed on Saturday, 21 October, a limited number, around 97 trucks in total, have been allowed to pass but no fuel. The need is so extreme that the UN says it will take “100 trucks per day” to meet the humanitarian crisis.
Jason Nazari, the Director of Security and Logistics with TGR’s Middle East office is currently in Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza. Jason has spent the majority of his time there trying to help find shelter, water, food, and medical treatment for hundreds of thousands of people in south Gaza after the IDF ordered 1.1 million civilians to evacuate from the north to the south. He said that “overwhelming need” is an understatement.
Jason and his team survived airstrikes at the Rafah border crossing. He said that there is no consideration for international humanitarian law. Hamas is behaving the way a terrorist group is expected to behave, but Israel is striking at everything with impunity, with no care for civilian life. They are not even trying to avoid civilian casualties.
Fate of Palestinians
Palestinians are frustrated as Israel continues to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem; boxing in the people of Gaza with a punitive blockade, imposing an oppressive rule on millions of Palestinians, reflective of apartheid. Of concern is the question that IF Palestinians were allowed to leave Gaza, would Israel allow them to return… ever? A common thread in Israel’s behavior, including PM Netanyahu’s own words to the UNGA, indicates that it intends to reduce the Palestinian population to zero. Israel wants to claim the territory.
Arab nations in the region share equal concern over Palestinian reduction. Many believe that Israel is attempting to make refugees of the entire Palestinian population, pushing them into neighboring countries. Arab nations have drawn a hard line, especially Jordan and Egypt, saying that they will not allow Israel to create a humanitarian crisis and then force its crisis on them when it does not have to be this way. Israel could choose to agree to a Two State Solution in which Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in peace.
The grievances of the Palestinian people and the legitimate security concerns of Israel are both relevant. In Gaza, the entire population has lost everything in an instant. The same population has had no voice in government for 16 years and has been subjected to the Hamas dictatorship. There is a consensus that Hamas will have to be removed from power for there to be peace in Israel and Palestine. However, Hamas is not the only hindrance to peace. To continue to bombard civilian centers – schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings – will eventually strip any sense of global sympathy or empathy for Israel. Taking the moral high ground only works when you stay on the high ground and remain above reproach.
Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan of the International Criminal Court issued a statement on 13 October that the court has jurisdiction and can investigate and prosecute war crimes committed in Gaza… and it should. Yes, investigating Israel is controversial. Any questions regarding Israel will likely be returned with labels of being antisemitic or anti-Israel. But war crimes with impunity only beget more war crimes. Lest we forget that Russia has also been targeting civilian populations in Ukraine for more than a year, and the world has been equally vocal about its repulsion. Israel should not get a pass just because it is Israel but should be held accountable by the same standard.
As the world watches Gaza, and as it chooses sides between #standwithIsrael and #FreePalestine – keep this in mind… it is possible to stand with Israel and also hold it accountable for indiscriminate bombing campaigns, targeting civilian populations, and refusing to allow aid into Gaza – to help the 2.3 million Palestinian civilians trapped in this conflict, through no fault of their own. Stand with Israel … but be for humanity.
With gratitude… Lara
Photo Credit: TGR Photo: aid trucks wait at the Rahah Border Crossing on the Gaza – Egypt border, 22 October 2023.
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