Human rights activists are sounding the alarm over an impending humanitarian crisis in Gaza, fueled by Israel’s blockade of aid and life-saving supplies to the besieged strip.
Egypt on Monday said that Israel was not cooperating with an international aid effort agreement and that dozens of trucks carrying essential supplies like food and medicine were stuck at a northern Gaza checkpoint. The Rafah crossing from Gaza into Egypt is now inoperable because of Israeli air raids, Cairo said.
WHO said Monday that Gaza has “24 hours of water, electricity and fuel left” before a “real catastrophe” occurs.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he is working with Israeli, Egyptian, and UN officials to re-open the Rafah crossing, though no timeline has been given. Blinken also urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow for the delivery of foreign aid in order to maintain international support for Israel and prevent the conflict’s expansion to a regional war.
Some countries and advocates are accusing Israel of war crimes for its efforts to block aid to Gaza. The United Nations previously warned Israel that blocking aid in a war zone is considered collective punishment, which is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention — the international doctrine on protecting civilians during wartime. Some of Israel’s already-precarious partners in the region, such as Jordan, have called Israel’s actions a “war crime,” with Jordan’s foreign minister saying, “Why is that denying access to food and water and energy and fuel to Ukraine a war crime, and we’re not hearing the same narrative there?”
Gaza’s “entire health system has collapsed,” Lynn Hastings, the UN coordinator for humanitarian aid to Palestine, told CNN. Healthcare in Gaza was already severely impacted prior to the war, Hastings said, but that situation has worsened as hospitals are deprived of medicine, supplies, and fuel necessary to keep doors open. Israel’s evacuation order for 1.1 million Palestinians to flee south is also presenting an ethical dilemma for healthcare workers: whether or not to risk personal danger by staying in the north and taking care of patients. Hastings confirmed that Israel has resumed delivering electricity and water to Gaza, but because of such extensive infrastructure damage, the supply will be unusable for many civilians.
The European Union, conflicted over support for Israel, has ordered an independent humanitarian air bridge for Gazans, pledging nearly $80 million in aid. That service will be delivered via an EU body used to typically provide aid during natural crises, essentially circumventing red tape as bloc members battle over whether to pull or increase developmental funds to Palestine. But the success of the EU’s mission will be entirely dependent on whether the Rafah crossing can reopen, Middle East news site Al-Monitor reports.