Israel-Hamas war in Gaza hits 5 months as humanitarian crisis rages

Five months after a stunningly brutal attack on Israel sparked the devastating siege of Gaza, the number of displaced people is growing as videos emerge almost daily from the embattled enclave showing the growing destruction.

More than 1,500 Hamas-led militants stormed across the fortified border on October 7, killing nearly 1,200 people in Israel before retreating into Gaza with more than 240 hostages in tow. Within hours of the attack, Israel unleashed an aerial bombardment on Gaza, and the ground invasion began on October 27 – resulting in a staggering humanitarian crisis in the ensuing months that has become increasingly dire by the day.

Today, more than 30,000 Palestinians are dead, tens of thousands more are injured, hundreds of thousands are struggling to avoid starvation, and 1.7 million have been driven from their homes. Talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire have been unsuccessful and the Israeli army continues to bomb the enclave.

Images of the suffering have been seen around the world, resulting in international protests. The US is the largest aid provider to Gaza, sending more than $180 million in humanitarian aid since the war began. But the few hospitals that can still provide care are overwhelmed. The few aid trucks that get through are swamped by desperate families at risk of starvation.

The UN Relief and Works Agency says 17,000 children have been orphaned and in northern Gaza one in six children under the age of two is acutely malnourished. UNICEF Regional Director Adele Khodr said the demand for nutritious food, safe water and medical services is becoming increasingly severe as humanitarian organizations struggle to function in the war zone. People are hungry, exhausted and traumatized, Khodr said.

“The infant mortality we feared is here and is likely to increase rapidly unless the war ends and the obstacles to humanitarian assistance are resolved immediately,” Khodr said. “We need reliable, multiple access points that allow us to bring in aid from all possible border crossings… without denials, delays and barriers to entry.”

With truck convoys unable to meet demand, the US Department of Defense and the Jordanian Royal Air Force have worked together to fly 70,000 meals to Gaza in recent days. It’s not nearly enough.

The Biden administration, Egypt and Qatar are mediating talks aimed at resolving the crisis. The latest proposal calls for a six-week ceasefire, the release of sick, injured, elderly and female hostages, and a large-scale increase in crucial humanitarian aid, the White House said.

“Responding to the humanitarian crisis and the needs of the Palestinian people has been a priority since day one,” White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby said Monday. But the US call for an immediate ceasefire has been rejected at the UN Security Council, with officials saying such a resolution would be futile and could disrupt efforts to reach a negotiated deal.

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‘Western hypocrisy is difficult to understand’

Dr. Mehran Kamrava, a professor of government at Qatar’s Georgetown University, said both sides were guilty of crimes against humanity. But the Israeli response goes far too far, he said.

“For millions of people around the world, the West has lost its moral footing,” Kamrava said. “Western hypocrisy, which loudly proclaims the virtues of human rights but ignores the deaths of thousands of Palestinians in the most gruesome ways, is difficult to understand. How could the United States, that self-proclaimed bastion of peace around the world, repeatedly veto the United Nations?” ceasefire resolutions to stop the war?”

Palestinians queue for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on February 16, 2024.

Israel and Hamas disagree over ceasefire proposals

Kirby says Israel has agreed to a ceasefire and “it is now up to Hamas to do the same.” However, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan is pushing for the Israeli army to withdraw from Gaza and for displaced Palestinians to be allowed to return to their homes. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also expressing concerns and refusing to send a delegation to the Cairo talks until Hamas reports on the hostages, including how many are still alive and their conditions.

Hamas has said the hostages are being held by multiple militant groups – the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Mujahideen Brigades and the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades are among those claiming custody – across Gaza and that a ceasefire necessary to trace the capture. down all the hostages. The United States has been labeling Hamas as a terrorist organization for years.

Zev Faintuch, a senior intelligence analyst at the security firm Global Guardian, says Israel will not be deterred from crushing Hamas and hunting down Hamas leaders.

“No outside pressure will stop Israel from getting the job done – that is, eradicating Hamas’s infrastructure, reducing its combat capabilities and laying the foundation for a Hamas-free future Gaza,” he said.

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Americans were politically divided over ending military aid to Israel

According to a poll, 52% of Americans believe the US should halt arms shipments to Israel until the military withdraws from Gaza, while 27% disagree and 21% are unsure, according to a new YouGov survey commissioned by the Center for Economic and Policy. Research. However, the poll shows a partisan divide: 62% of President Joe Biden’s supporters support halting the shipments, while only 30% of Donald Trump’s supporters want the shipments halted.

Will Hamas decide to compromise?

Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official and author of “Inside The Middle East: Entering A New Era,” said Hamas’s negotiating power is waning as the holy month of Ramadan approaches. Netanyahu’s resolve shows no signs of ending the fighting until Hamas is broken and the hostages returned, Melamed said.

Hamas, he said, will have to make compromises. The final deal will likely provide a temporary pause, but the war will not end and Israel will refocus its military sights on the busy city of Rafah.

“The deal is unlikely to be perfect for Israel, as it will undoubtedly have to free some terrorists with blood on their hands,” he said.

In the long term, Hamas will face “raging” criticism in the Arab world and will be weakened, Melamed said. He envisions a revived Palestinian Authority that Biden and the West have called for, with Hamas most likely playing a role.

This footage from an AFPTV video shows Palestinians running towards parachutes attached to food parcels dropped from US planes onto a beach in the Gaza Strip on March 2, 2024.

The Hamas attack was among the deadliest in the world

According to the Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies, the Hamas attack was the third-deadliest terrorist attack since data collection began in 1970. The deadliest was al-Qaeda’s attack on the US on September 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 people were killed, followed by an Islamic State attack in Tikrit, Iraq, in 2014 that killed 1,700 people.

On October 7, Hamas-led militants killed nearly 1,200 people after crashing through a 40-mile-long border wall equipped with machine gun turrets and observation towers, cameras, radars, barbed wire and an underground concrete barrier to frustrate tunneling. Hamas struck on a Saturday morning after the end of Sukkot, a weeklong celebration to commemorate the harvest season and the time Jews lived in the desert after being freed from slavery in Egypt.

The militants used drones to drop explosives on observation towers, blew holes in the border fence with explosives and bulldozers to open holes large enough for vehicles to drive through. Several military outposts were hit first, delaying the defensive response, and communities, kibbutzim and a major music festival were raided in the deadly disasters.

UN envoy Pramila Patten said this week that there is evidence that the militants raped women and committed “sexualized torture” during the attack, including some of the hostages.

Dozens of militants were killed then, and Israel says it has killed more than 10,000 since then. More than 240 Israeli soldiers were also killed in the ground assault, and more than 100 hostages remain prisoners of Hamas and other militant groups.

The Israeli government blames the number of civilian casualties in Gaza on Hamas’s efforts to hide among civilians whom they use as human shields. Netanyahu has vowed to keep fighting until Hamas and its leaders are crushed.

“Netanyahu’s brutal refusal to stop the war will leave scars in the collective memory of Israelis for years to come,” Kamrava said. “President Biden will go down in history as Netanyahu’s unwitting enabler in one of the worst episodes of mass killings of the 21st century.”

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