Delivering Lifesaving Aid into Gaza

Delivering lifesaving aid into Gaza

Lara Kajs | 27 June 2024 |

Displacement, desperation, overcrowding, and the breakdown of law and order have impacted humanitarian operations and increased the risk to aid workers. But despite the challenges, humanitarian workers continue delivering lifesaving aid into Gaza, even under dangerous conditions and circumstances.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, approximately 190 UN staff and at least 500 medical personnel have been killed in Gaza. In March, 112 civilians waiting in line for flour were killed when the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) fired on them. Israel said it was a mistake and that it would investigate.

A month later, in April, seven World Central Kitchen aid workers were killed when their convoy was targeted by Israeli airstrikes. Despite the fact the group followed the rules and requirements that Israel set forth for food delivery, and conducted the humanitarian mission in clearly marked vehicles, they were still targeted. Seven people were killed who were simply feeding starving civilians in Gaza. Israel again claimed it was a mistake and apologized for the deaths of the WCK workers.

In June, an Israeli airstrike on a UN-run school, that served as a protective shelter for displaced civilians killed 200 people – 14 of whom were children – and injured scores more. The school was hit multiple times starting in the late evening of 5 June and continuing into the early morning hours of 6 June. At least 6,000 civilians were sheltering in the school. As the world issued a demand that Israel be held accountable, Israel once again said the attack was a mistake and that it would investigate.

Making the excuse of “it was a mistake” is something Israel habitually uses, but not before it blames Hamas or another armed group. Oftentimes a denial is issued, and then when it becomes clear they are the guilty party, they claim it was a mistake. At this time, Israel has not taken responsibility or reprimanded any IDF personnel for “mistakenly” killing humanitarian workers, medical staff, or civilians, even with documented evidence proving culpability.

Indiscriminate bombing of schools, camps housing refugees, hospitals, displaced persons waiting for food, and humanitarian aid workers doing their jobs delivering much-needed relief, cannot be tolerated. Israel wants support for its mission, but in the process, it is behaving without any regard for international humanitarian and human rights law.

Blockading Humanitarian Aid

This brings us to the thousands of tons of humanitarian aid sitting in Egypt, Jordan, and Cyprus, waiting to be delivered to millions of Palestinians in Gaza. Depending on who you ask, the purpose of the delay may be attributed to war, logistical anomalies, the destruction of roads and warehouses, and concern for the protection of humanitarian workers.

However, a larger hurdle to get over is that Israel has made it impossible for aid organizations to meet the criteria to gain access for delivery, turning back trucks meant for Gaza, citing security concerns. Most of the time, permission to distribute aid is denied. In June, more than half of the permission requests to deliver aid in northern Gaza were denied. This means that even though the aid is ready and available to send, Israel will not permit delivery. Another chief concern is that there is insufficient fuel for aid trucks to enter the enclave, deliver aid, and make it back out. But even when aid makes it in, constant bombing, shelling, and destruction make distributing supplies extremely dangerous for humanitarian workers, and civilians.

Israel’s blockade of humanitarian relief has left many critics – including the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court – accusing the Israelis of using starvation as a weapon of war against Palestinians. The notion that obliterating the Palestinian population of Gaza to get to Hamas is not only monstrous… it’s considered collective punishment and is against international humanitarian and human rights law.

Israel argues that the restrictions are to prevent Hamas from hiding behind or with humanitarian groups and from intercepting the aid. US officials and aid groups agree that Hamas has intercepted some shipments, but in reality, very few of them. Israel monitors aid organizations’ activities and signs off on specific routes to ensure they are conducting humanitarian missions and not covert operations with Hamas.

The US has been airdropping aid, and they built a floating pier off the coast of Gaza. However, the floating pier broke apart in heavy seas and remains ineffective. The intentions were good, no doubt, however, the bigger question is why the US is not using its power to encourage Israel to participate in a ceasefire and allow aid into Gaza.

Humanitarian Crisis

Living conditions in Gaza worsen daily. Repeated forced displacement increases health risks. The ground invasion of northern Gaza forced nearly 1 million people to flee south. The ground invasion of Rafah forced more than 800,000 people to flee again. Some two-thirds of the population of Gaza now live in an area measuring one-fifth the size of the Gaza Strip.

There is one toilet per every 4,000 people. Without fuel, sewage treatment facilities and waste collection services cannot operate, resulting in untreated sewage flowing between tents and trash piling up. Amid these conditions, diseases are spreading. There has been an increase in the number of diarrhea, hepatitis A, and cholera cases.

There are 17 hospitals in the whole of Gaza operating, and they are only partially functioning. Al Aqsa in Deir Al Balar cares for 5 times the number of patients of its occupancy rating, most with critical injuries. In Rafah, there are no hospitals, which leaves roughly 1 million people with no healthcare. At least 17,000 patients require urgent care abroad. However, medical evacuations have been completely shut down. Hospitals do not have the fuel to keep lifesaving equipment, such as oxygen stations operating.

Unless immediate medical supplies, fuel, food, and clean drinking water are allowed into Gaza, on a massive and consistent scale, many more people in Gaza will die. There needs to be an immediate and permanent ceasefire, and there needs to be peace.

Photo credit: UN Women and the Egyptian Red Crescent deliver humanitarian aid to women and children in Gaza by UN Women Arab States. Licensed under CC BY NC ND 2.0