The unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip has already reached appalling proportions, and not enough is being done in the world's power centres to avert an unprecedented catastrophe. Humanitarian aid supplies remain in limbo, as concerns rise about the rapidly worsening conditions for the population stuck in the besieged enclave. As I write these words, CNN is reporting that the critical Rafah Crossing is no longer expected to open on Friday (Oct. 20) to allow for a first convoy of aid.
Israeli authorities halted the flow of food, water, electricity and fuel to the territory earlier this month, in retaliation for a wave of attacks by Hamas on Israeli towns near Gaza on Oct. 7. For 13 days, Israeli airstrikes have pummelled the Gaza Strip, levelling buildings and damaging infrastructure. More than 1 million Palestinians - roughly half of the territory's population - are estimated to have left their homes to seek shelter in central or southern Gaza, according to the United Nations. Palestinian officials say that Israeli airstrikes have destroyed more than 4,800 residential buildings in Gaza and damaged more than 120,000 housing units.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) released a statement Wednesday (Oct. 18) urging the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation "to firmly and unconditionally support the humanitarian efforts to safeguard civilians in Gaza." UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini evoked the "harrowing images" from the Al-Ahli Hospital, where nearly 500 people were killed in a blast the previous night, to highlight the plight of the civilians who remain in Gaza. Another air strike struck an UNRWA school sheltering 4,000 displaced people the same day, killing at least six people. In total, over 4200 people have already been killed, including 14 UNRWA staff.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire", but his words seem destined to fall on deaf ears. Speaking in Beijing just hours after the bombing of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, Guterres said that Hamas "attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people". Yet that would seem to be the fate of these forsaken people, as Israel remains steadfast on achieving its stated goal of destroying Hamas, for which it has been preparing a ground invasion. But even as it prepares for this invasion, which has faced various delays already, it has resorted to a relentless bombing campaign from the air.
Just in the first 6 days, Israel dropped over 6000 bombs in tiny Gaza - after which no more updates have been provided by the Israeli Air Force. That was already more than the US dropped in most years all over Afghanistan - the highest they dropped in a year was 7400. NATO dropped a total of 7600 bombs through the length of its engagement in Libya (total). From 2015-2019, the highest that the anti-ISIS coalition dropped in a whole month was 5075, in August 2017, in Syria and Iraq. We're witnessing a massacre take place before our eyes - we must not be helpless to stop it.
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